It’s been a summer to remember, that’s for certain. I’ve been lucky enough to log over thirty-five hundred miles so far this year and a bunch of those miles have been riding a trio of gravel bike tires on a trio of gravel bikes. Here’s a bit of feedback about the Panaracer Gravel King SS, the Maxxis Rambler and the Bontrager GR2 gravel tires.
Panaracer Gravel King SS Tire 700 x 43
The Panaracer Gravel King SS Tire has become my favorite set of sneakers for gravel and mixed-surface rides over the summer. I’ve had a chance to ride a nice variety of gravel tires and for our regional fine gravel surfaces mixed with country roads, I haven’t ridden anything that I like better. Our two test tires weighed in at 494g and 505 grams.
Our local gravel is what I would call ‘civilized’ or what’s generally referred to as ‘crushed limestone’. Most of our gravel routes are rails to trails conversions. If you live in Kansas or Iowa, these might not have enough tooth to get the job done, but for Wisconsin, these things are just enough tire to deliver speed along with efficiency. The center slick part of the tread has a fine ‘wavey gravey’ pattern for butter-smooth rolling resistance. The shoulder knobs are similar the OG gravel King tread. I’ve spent a couple of the last two seasons riding a pair of the OG Gravel Kings (with tubes on a Surly Crosscheck). A totally solid performing gravel tire. When I switched to the Gravel King SS’s, it was like somebody supercharged my Gravel Kings. Through a litany of different gravel bikes and wheel configurations, I consistently chose this tire for long challenging rides. It was the tire that I popped onto my new Cutthroat as soon as I had the opportunity.
(L-R) Bontrager GR2 – 700×40, Maxxis Rambler 700×40, Panaracer Gravel King SS 700×43
Maxxis Rambler 700×40
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, Maxxis made a black-walled tire without any hi-vis yellow graphics. Ran these guys tubeless and I’d recommend this tire as a great all-around tubeless gravel tire. If I were strapping a bike to the rack for a road trip to parts unknown, where the gravel is gnasty as gnome scat, well this is what I’d mount up on Yvonn (that pink Salsa Cutthroat). An all a rounder that should give most riders a good balance between cush, traction and rolling efficiency. And in a world of tan or cinnamon sidewalls, it’s totally baller to ride something that appeals to my personal preference for black sidewalls.
Bontrager GR2 700×40
Our amigos at Bontrager sent us a pair of GR2 Team Issue gravel tires along with some of their smurfy blue tire sealant. The GR2 sports what I would call cinnamon sidewalls. You and Bontrager might say ‘brownwalls?’ Cinnamon is one of my favorite flavors of tree bark and the GR2’s felt right at home on our gentlemen’s grade of fine limestone gravel. I plan to rock one of these cats up front with a Rambler (above) out back someplace exotic like Minnesota or Northern Iowa where the gravel is ground a little more coarse than our local stuff.
These guys are plenty toothy yet roll fast enough to be a great choice for all-around multi-surface explorations on the ole’hybrid velocipede – aka ‘gravel bike’, groadie, drop bar-hybrid, G-Bike, groove noodle, grav-whip or gnomecycle. These guys weighed in at 428g and 424g. I ran them with tubes and then tubeless on a Surly Crosscheck and on the Framed Basswood that we reviewed this summer. Bontrager tires have consistently performed very well in our fat and plus-bike testing. The GR2’s follow the same pathway to success. I can’t wait to get out and ride a gravel metric with these pimp’n sneakers mounted tubeless on a certain hot-pink Salsa Cutthroat named after Miss Yvonne from PeeWee’s Playhouse and Yvonn Chouinard, founder of Patagonia.
And the Winner of the Gnomie for Best Gravel Tire of the Summer ’20
Well that wraps up a summer of gravel and dirt funski’s. All three of the tires that I highlighted are solid choices, but the winner chosen by (yours truly) with a focus on the local type of gravel that we have in Wisconsin is the Panaracer Gravel King SS tires. (insert applause)