If you’re looking for a list of the best gravel bike tyres then here it is. We’ve tested a wide array of gravel bike tyres over the years but these are the ones that truly impressed our test team.
As a cycling genre, “gravel” covers a broad range of possible ride experiences. Hardpacked dirt roads may be as smooth as pavement, rocky roads may have embedded rocks or loose gravel, and some so-called gravel rides may take cyclists onto stretches of singletrack.
There’s a lot of terrain out there and many different tyres to suit the myriad surfaces you may encounter when you leave the tarmac.
What to look for in a gravel tyre
When choosing gravel tyres, reflect on where you’ll be riding. Consider how much time you will spend on pavement versus gravel or dirt.
Think about how smooth or rough your roads are and what “gravel” means in your neck of the woods. Smooth and fast? Rough and rutted? Rocky roads that shred fragile tyres? These are just a few of the possibilities.
We’ve included a ratio of how these gravel tyres stack up on pavement, gravel and singletrack to help you see how various options will perform over a wide range of conditions.
The best tyres for gravel riding in 2020
Maxxis Rambler EXO TR tyre
The Maxxis Rambler Russell Eich / Immediate Media
- £46.99 / $49.99 / AU$79.99
Sizes available: 700×40 (tested)
Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 20 / 60 / 20
Highs: Lightweight, supple casing
The Rambler is Maxxis’ first foray into gravel tyres and the company’s depth of tyre knowledge is readily apparent. This gravel tread is quick and considerably lighter than many of its competitors.
The Rambler’s low profile blocks are packed tightly down the center to keep them rolling swiftly with slightly larger intermediate and shoulder knobs for cornering.
The 120tpi EXO casing is very supple and rolls over uneven roads with ease. While the stated width is 40mm, the actual measurement on our test rims was less than the published width, which makes this a good option for riders who use a cyclocross bike or gravel bike with limited clearance.
The Rambler is best suited to smoother dirt and gravel roads. The low profile knobs perform well on hardpack and sand over hardpacked roads.
Latest deals for the Maxxis Rambler EXO TR
Specialized Trigger Pro tyre
The Specialized Trigger Pro Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
Sizes available: 700×38 (tested)
Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 40 / 60 / 0
Highs: Fast rolling, very durable
Lows: Slightly undersized, flat protection adds weight
The Specialized Trigger Pro isn’t among the newest gravel tyres on the market, but it is a tried and true option for fast and rough gravel racing.
In fact, it was developed with input from multiple-time Dirty Kanza 200 winners Dan Hughes and Rebecca Rusch.
As one can plainly see from the tread, the Trigger Pro favors speed over traction. The raised center strip makes these treads fast and silent on pavement.
On hardpacked dirt, the diamond-shaped knobs, which increase in size as they move toward the edges, do a commendable job of easing the rider into predictable transitions to the edge knobs.
The Specialized Trigger Pro is nearly everything a gravel race tyre should be. It’s fast with a reasonable amount of grip for the task at hand and a reassuring level of flat protection.
Latest deals for the Specialized Trigger Pro
WTB Resolute tyre
The WTB Resolute Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
- £39.99 / $49.99 / AU$68.99
Sizes available: 700×42 (tested), 650×42
Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 20 / 50 / 30
Highs: Excellent grip, great ride quality
Lows: Wider than published width, won’t play well with all frames
WTB has been on a roll developing really good gravel and all-road tyres. The WTB Resolute builds on the success of the popular Horizon and Byway tyres with a more aggressive tread pattern.
The Resolute is positioned as WTB’s all-condition gravel tyre. The tread pattern features small, square knobs that are tightly spaced through the center to minimize rolling resistance with wide-set intermediate and sturdy side knobs to provide plenty of grip on loose and rocky terrain.
The Resolute is a pure gravel tyre. It suffers from a bit of drag and hum on pavement but performs incredibly well on gravel and dirt.
If you’re looking for a tyre that’s going to be ridden far away from tarmac on gravel and even singletrack, the Resolute is a great option.
Latest deals for the WTB Resolute
Kenda Flintridge Pro tyre
Kenda’s Flintridge Pro Russell Eich / Immediate Media
Sizes available: 700×45, 700×40 (tested), 700×35, 650×45
Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 10 / 50 / 40
Highs: Durable, good volume
Lows: Heavy, stiff casing
Kenda’s Flintridge Pro seeks to balance speed and puncture protection on any number of varying road conditions.
The tread design uses nearly every tool in the box with slender rectangles down the middle, double rows of tiny transition blocks with plenty of siping and arched knobs. This is a dry condition tyre that’s slow on pavement but performs well on sandy and rocky roads.
Kenda’s SCT (Sidewall Casing Technology) reinforces the sidewalls against cuts and abrasions but also results in a stiffer ride than some of the more supple tyres in this test.
If you need a lot of flat protection for chunky gravel roads, the Flintridge is a good option.
Latest deals for the Kenda Flintridge Pro
Terrene Elwood tyre
The Terrene Elwood Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
Sizes available: 700×40 (tested), 650×47
Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 30 / 50 / 20
Highs: Fast rolling, excellent ride quality, durable
Lows: The larger than stated width may pose clearance issues for some bikes
The Terrene Elwood’s center knobs look like interlocking tank treads. All the edges of these blocks are angled. This design makes it easy for debris to be evacuated from between these tightly-packed blocks, reducing the risk of sharp rocks working their way through the casing and causing a flat.
This nearly continuous center tread rolls with haste and without much hum on pavement and hardpacked dirt.
You have to be deliberate about leaning these tyres over to fully engage the large edge knobs, as the small transition knobs feel vague when gradually leaning into turns. This was more noticeable on singletrack than on gravel and dirt roads.
There are plenty of gravel tyres on the market with 120tpi casings, but few feel as smooth as these. The Elwoods glide over bumps and ruts, transmitting less road chatter and vibration while also being quite durable.
Donnelly X’Plor MSO tyre
The Donnelly X’Plor MSO is a great tubeless option for those who frequently ride on mixed terrain Immediate Media
- £38 /$72
Sizes available: 700×40 (tested) or 32/36/40/50. 650b: 42/50
Highs: Easy to install, quick rolling and excellent puncture resistance
Lows: Weighty, stiff sidewalls
The X’Plor MSOs from Donnelly make for an easy tubeless installation thanks to their stiff sidewalls but it’s their rare balance of speed, grip and puncture resistance that really impresses.
They’re designed to be used on a wide variety of terrain and so if your gravel rides consist of a true mix of on- and off-road, in the city and out in the country, then you shouldn’t be looking past these.
Unlike some, the Donnellys size up generously. In fact, on our 23mm wide internal rims the X’Plor MSO tyres plump up a little over a millimetre beyond the 40mm figure on their sidewalls.
They’re not the lightest option though, and their tough casings mean they aren’t class leading in terms of comfort.