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 tires to suit the myriad surfaces you may encounter when you leave the tarmac.
What to look for in a gravel tire
When choosing gravel tires, reflect on where you’ll be riding. Consider how much time will you 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 tires? These are just a few of the possibilities.
We’ve included a ratio of how these gravel tires stack up on pavement, gravel and singletrack to help you see how various options will perform over a wide range of conditions.
Best gravel tires
Maxxis Rambler EXO TR
- £46.99 / $49.99 / AU$79.99
- Sizes available: 700x40 (tested)
- Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 20 / 60 / 20
- Weight: 375g
The Rambler is Maxxis’ first foray into gravel tires and the company’s depth of tire 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.
Specialized Trigger Pro
- £40 / $55 / AU$60
- Sizes available: 700x38 (tested)
- Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 40 / 60 / 0
- Weight: 488g
The Specialized Trigger Pro isn’t among the newest gravel tires 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 tire should be. It’s fast with a reasonable amount of grip for the task at hand and a reassuring level of flat protection.
- £39.99 / $49.99 / AU$68.99
- Sizes available: 700x42 (tested), 650x42
- Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 20 / 50 / 30
- Weight: 450g
WTB has been on a roll developing really good gravel and all-road tires. The WTB Resolute builds on the success of the popular Horizon and Byway tires with a more aggressive tread pattern.
The Resolute is positioned as WTB’s all-condition gravel tire. 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 tire. 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 tire that’s going to be ridden far away from tarmac on gravel and even singletrack, the Resolute is a great option.
Kenda Flintridge Pro
- £37.99 / $54.95
- Sizes available: 700x45, 700x40 (tested), 700x35, 650x45
- Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 10 / 50 / 40
- Weight: 512g
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 tire 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 tires in this test.
If you need a lot of flat protection for chunky gravel roads, the Flintridge is a good option.
- £45 / $65 / AU$85
- Sizes available: 700x40 (tested), 650x47
- Pavement / Gravel / Singletrack ratio: 30 / 50 / 20
- Weight: 435g
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 treads rolls with haste and without much hum on pavement and hardpacked dirt.
You have to be deliberate about leaning these tires 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 tires 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.