Top Five Gravel Tires: 2019- by Guitar Ted
Tires. The thing that arouses more conversations and downright passionate feelings than anything else here on Riding Gravel. We see it on our forums, we see it from the hits on our Facebook page, and we see it on post views here when we do reviews. You folks love to check out tires and talk about them too.
A little over a year ago, I wrote a post here concerning my top five favorite tires for gravel. These were my choices for tires, as I had been asked about my personal top five by one of you readers out there. Well, now one of you readers has asked for an update on that post, and I thought that was a great idea. So, in no particular order, here are my current Top Five Gravel Tires going into 2019.
WTB Resolute 700 X 42mm:
The WTB Resolute was also on the list previously and still holds up as one of the tires I turn to for a “do it all” choice. It has a great ride characteristic, handles dirt and mud well, and rolls uncannily fast on harder surfaces. The tubeless nature of this tire is very good, and matched up with WTB rims, the set up is flawless and easy to accomplish.
Of course, I am a sucker for a skin wall tire and the Resolute just looks great with its tan side wall. The over all casing shape is quite voluminous as well, no doubt adding to the cushy nature of this tire. I will say that it does tend to run a bit wider than advertised, especially tubeless on a wider rim, so be aware of that if room is tight on your rig. Another ding on this tire is that it does not feature any extra puncture protection belt, so if you live in an area prone to side wall cuts and punctures, this may not be your best choice.
WTB gathered a lot of feedback in the production of this tire from riding where I live in the Mid-West, so it would stand to reason that the tire would do well here where I live. That said, Grannygear also uses these tires in SoCal and they have done him well there. In my opinion, they still stand as the best riding tire, with decent wear over time, and handle most conditions better than many tires. Sure, there are faster tires, tires with more grip, and all, but the Resolute does most things very well. It could be the only tire I’d ever need.
Vittoria Terreno Dry 700 X 40mm:
Right at the time I was writing the last Top Five Gravel Tires list, I was testing the Terreno Dry from Vittoria. It would have made the list then had the review not still been in progress. This is a tire I regretted having to take off to run another tire review, and it is a tire I miss having on my bike.
The Terreno Dry is such a great all around performer that it is almost my all-time favorite tire for gravel. The only thing holding me back from saying it is my favorite is that it is a heavier tire. The samples I tested were just over or just under 500 grams. But that said, the sidewalls were beefier than the Resolutes are, the casing seemed to be more robust, and the tubeless air retention is amongst the best I have tested.
While the Terreno Dry is heavier than the Resolute, it does everything the Resolute does, and it performs in situations where traction is at a premium in a way that will make you do a double take. It does things a tire with little tread shouldn’t do, and it even sheds mud fairly well. Why? Well, Vittoria has exclusive rights currently to use Graphene in its tread compound, and this material has interesting characteristics which translate into a tire that does things many tires cannot do. Plus, reports are that it wears really well.
Vittoria has made the “Dry” pattern in a wider version that they are calling “Terreno XC” and it comes in a 29″ X 2.1″ width now with a slightly wider 2.25″ version coming later in the year. We at Riding Gravel already have one set being tested and another set on the way. Stay tuned for that review coming soon.
Donnelly X’Plor MSO 700 X 40mm:
If there were a gravel tire that could be called a “classic”, it would be the Donnelly MSO 700 X 40mm tire. This is a tire that was one of the very first dedicated to gravel designs available. The tread pattern has withstood the test of time, and now it is tubeless ready as well as available in a skin wall version.
In fact, the MSO is such a classic, it may be the most ridden gravel tire ever. It has been a staple OEM tire for years and several versions of the MSO have appeared as stock on many a gravel bike. Keep in mind that at one time the company was called “Clement”, so that may help you see what I am saying here. But why do I like this tire?
Well, it rolls fast, it rides very well, it does tubeless like it should, and it is a tire that holds up reasonably well to wear. It maybe doesn’t handle some things well, like mud, or really loose terrain, but on gravel proper, the MSO is one of my top choices for riding. It also comes in many sizes, and the 50mm version of this tire is pretty nice also. One of my favorites at that size. Grannygear tested the 650B X 50mm version of the MSO and really liked it. So, it is a tread pattern that is available in many sizes and works a trick in all of them. You really cannot go wrong here.
Panaracer Gravel King SK 700 X 40mm:
Another “classic” gravel tire, the Gravel King SK was also on the list last time, and it probably won’t fall off my list as long as Panaracer keeps making it. This tire is a great dry conditions tire that rides well and is one of the fastest tires you can get.
I reviewed this tire in 2016, but since then the Gravel King SK line has expanded, much like its competitor’s MSO line, to include many sizes and widths. You will also note that the tire is no longer available in a 40mm size. That’s because back in 2016 the 40mm was really 43mm, and that is exactly what they call it now.
While this tire is really fast, it has a killer puncture protection belt that works nicely. This alone may make it a worthy tire for many gravel riders, but for me, it is a peace of mind feature. It is one of the things I am impressed with concerning this tire since it works so well and doesn’t slow the tire down one bit. Plus, you get that famous Panaracer tire ride feel. Some folks have made a tag line out of this characteristic “suppleness” that the Gravel Kings have, but all I know is that this makes the Gravel King SK a go to choice for gravel rides around here for me.
Terrene Honali 700 X 50mm:
Another tire from the list last time, and my top choice yet for a bigger 700c sized tire than typical gravel tires. While the Honali was envisioned as a touring tire, the tire works really well as an adventure tire in almost any gravel road situation, as long as it is dry.
This tire went on one of my favorite bicycles of all time- the Gen I Fargo, and it still is on that bike to this day. That should tell you something about how I like the Honali for much of my gravel and adventure type riding. It does the job really well, and that “dual sport” inspired moto tread does work for most conditions. When I reviewed this tire I was inspired by its capabilities on many types of gravel and dry dirt, and that still holds true. Plus it does really well tubeless, wears well, and rides nicely.
Now, I would like to find that tire in this size range that has a bit wider range of use, like in wetter conditions and mud, but up to now, I haven’t found that perfect all around 700 X 50mm tire. There are some good choices out there, for sure, but for now, I’m sticking to the Honali for this size.
Now for the disclaimers;
- These tires are here based upon my personal tastes and may not reflect your ideas of what a good tire is.
- I’m not ranking them. These simply are my five most favorite tires at the moment.
- This list is subject to change over the course of time.
So, that’s a wrap on my personal Top Five Gravel Tires going in to 2019. That doesn’t mean they are the best for you though. The good thing is that there are several choices these days, and hardly any of them are what I would call “bad” ones. Some are better than others, but most all are great. Check out our forums for a good overview of what many of you riders think are the best tires out there. If you don’t see a tire discussed, ask there. If you have a tire you think we should be reviewing, please leave us a comment and we will see what we can do.
As always, thanks for reading Riding Garvel.