Panaracer Gravel King 32mm Tires: Quick Review


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Gravel King

The “Gravel King” 32mm tires are currently the biggest version of this tire available.

Panaracer Gravel King Tires: Quick Review- In the world of bicycles, only one component has more influence over your ride than any other. More than a frame, or fork, or a saddle, or a component drive train group. That component is tires. It is also the only component that touches the road. Yes, your tires are super important, and they engender a lot of passionate discussion as a result. What one likes another may pan as the worst tires ever. I suppose that is why we have so many tire choices! This is my opinion of the Panaracer “Gravel King” tires from an informed, experiential point of view; however, I will also try to give some alternative thoughts as this article progresses. You’ll see why in a bit here……

Specifications: Panaracer makes several very nice tires under their own brand name and under private label for a few others. Some of these tires, the Pasela, the Bruce Gordon Rock & Road, and the recently reviewed Soma Cazadero happen to be excellent gravel road tires. So when I saw that Panaracer had labeled a sub-35mm tire as “Gravel King”, I had to do a double take. 32mm? Really? Yes, only a 32mm tire. Okay, so the rest of the spec list does impress- 126TPI folding bead, a nice tread pattern, and a claimed weight of 320 grams. Besides the anemic casing size, the Gravel King looks good on paper. The tires tested actually came well under the claimed weight at 310 grams and 290 grams respectively.

Gravel King

The Gravel King is definitely not a “king” on the sizing scale. You’ll only get a 32mm tire here.

At The Finish: Gravel can vary widely from region to region. I’ve been all over the Mid-West and seen it first hand. The tires one chooses for rolling on crushed rock roads should reflect the specific type of gravel in your region. In the Kansas Flint Hills, I might never run a typical gravel tire, for instance, since the flint and rough nature of the roads there calls out for a beefy, big tire. Almost a pure mountain bike type tire. Conversely, in areas of Southeastern Minnesota, you can get away with very skinny tires because the gravel is fine and the roads are typically pretty smooth. A 35mm tire is really almost overkill there. I point this all out to say that due to the Gravel King’s narrow size, low volume, and light weight, it is easily overwhelmed by the deep, chunky limestone roads of Iowa. It just doesn’t work at all here.

On a recent ride, I was using the Gravel King tires while a riding partner was on 40mm wide tires. When we hit particularly rough patches of gravel, it was no contest. I was fighting to keep the bike in line while he walked away from me. A simple switch on the same Twin Six Standard Rando bike I used that day to wider tires made a huge improvement, and it was painfully apparent that these 32mm tires are just not cutting it here. That said, they were supple, rolled fantastically well on smoother gravel sections, and were really easy to spin up due to their light weight.

To my mind, this tire is really best on minimally sized gravel, smooth dirt, and rough pavement. If that describes what you see most of the time on your back road outings, you should look at this tire. Everyone else should look elsewhere for more volume and width. Unless Panaracer sees fit to expand the size range up through 40mm, I cannot recommend this tire to very many riders of gravel. That’s really disappointing when you consider how well this tire works, and when you compare this to the other tires Panaracer makes that are bigger and far out shine this pretender to the throne.

Note: Panaracer does make a 38mm tire called the Comet, which is very reasonably priced and looks great for most gravel. Unfortunately, it isn’t built on as nearly as nice of a casing as the “Gravel King” is.

The Panaracer Gravel King tires were spec’ed on the Twin Six Standard Rando bike we were sent to review and test. Neither Twin Six nor Panaracer has paid or bribed us for this review and we always will strive to offer our honest opinions throughout our reviews.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum

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21 Responses to Panaracer Gravel King 32mm Tires: Quick Review

  1. Jeff Zell June 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    Hey Ted, great write up, thanks! It was really nice to find this. Look for a 700c x 41 version of the Gravelking later this year.

    • Guitar Ted June 12, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

      Hey Jeff, thanks for the comment. A 41mm Gravel King would truly be a “Garvel King” of a tire. Thanks for the tip off.

      • Jeff Zell June 15, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

        Ted, just want to go on record here that I typed in 41 when it should be 40c. Not intentional, juts poor typing and hitting reply too fast!

        • Jeff Zell June 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

          Still need to check my spelling!

          • Guitar Ted June 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

            Thanks Jeff! 40…..41…..What’s a millimeter between friends? :>)

  2. Bob Cummings June 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Hey Ted. Great to meet you at DK. The first thing I look for when seeing your review is how you had the tires set up. Did you have them set up tubeless or with tubes and what PSI? Finding the tires “working” pressure is going to make a big impact on how it rides and handles. On the DK200 route there were more flats than ever. Wet conditions actually increase tire cuts as the water acts as a lubricant.
    I think you will find that there were more flats per number of riders still in the event than ever.

    Comparing a 40c to a 32c is a bit apples and oranges. It all depends on what “tool” for the job you are looking for. If your priority is comfort, then bigger is better. The 32GK is aimed at a balance of all three factors. Speed, ride, and durability are its strong points. The unique tread pattern and compound also offer the most amazing grip too.

    Keep in mind, I am speaking from a “racers” viewpoint. I live in KS on the edge of the flint hills only 25 miles from the course the DK runs on and do thousands of miles racing, riding, and testing every year. I put over 1k on the GK leading up to DK this year.

    Out of 14 team tires set up tubeless with Orange Seal ranging from 46-50psi depending on rider, we only had one tire that needed attention. That happened having to cross over the treacherous center gravel on a very rough down hill avoiding another stopped rider. My DK bike is still in the garage unridden since DK and I looked it today and the tires were still ready to ride without adding air.

    Yes, Panaracer is the official tire of our team but keep this in mind. I thoroughly tested them before ever considering them. We actually were not interested in a tire sponsor because we did not want to limit our options. I am completely sold on the GK line. DK is the ultimate testing ground for a tire and if it performs there, it can perform anywhere.

    I will agree with you that the GK32 is going to be a bit small for most people’s purpose but here is the good news. There is a 35c, 38c, and a 40c on the way! I hope I didn’t let the cat out of the bag on that ;). In my opinion, this will completely cover all gravel needs and be THE go to tire from hardcore racer to leisure tour rider.

    • Guitar Ted June 12, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

      Thanks Bob-

      My viewpoint, (admittedly, from the back half of the pack), was that there were very few flat tires compared to years I have done the event in the past. I saw only a few instances of flat tires. One before we left Emporia (!!!), one after a nasty bridge crossing where a tandem blew off both tubeless tires, (!!!!), and one other lone cross bike ride. So, there were so few I can actually recount every one I saw. There have been years where I have seen a dozen riders fixing flats after a single water crossing. So, as you can see, I did not witness flat tire carnage like I have in the past there. That’s my observation…….

      I received the tires seated tubeless on Stan’s rims, but for the purposes of weighing the tires, I took off the Gravel Kings, installed tubes, and rode them that way. I would submit that the performance of these 32mm tires was not at all hindered by having tubes. The problem was not that at all.

      As I stated in my post above, you have to pick tires suitable for your terrain and purposes. If you (as you say) don’t want to get beat up, have a bike swapping ends, (as mine was in our gravel conditions, clearly outlined above), or wish to just have a capable tire no matter where you ride, this small, lower volume tire just is not good. As you say, you are looking at this from a “racers” viewpoint, but that isn’t the majority of riders viewpoint. Not that racing needs are not important, or valid, but at the writing of this review, it was not known to me that Panaracer was going to “expand” the range, (pun intended), so in my view, it was a shortsighted and limited product introduction. I am sure that makes sense to most folks reading this review.

      Thanks for your comments, and hopefully our paths will cross someday again.

  3. Nathan Wadsworth June 12, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Ted,

    I rode the Gravel King 32 mm this year during the DK 200. It was recommended to me by Bob Cummings and it worked really well through out the course. I appreciate the tires’ ability to climb up steep and un-even terrain without slipping. During one particularly steep hill, I was unable to clip in to my left pedal due to excessive mud from hiking the bike a few miles before. I didn’t realize that my foot wasn’t clipped in all the way until I got out of the saddle to climb. My left foot came un-clipped and I just about fell on the jagged flint rock, but was able to apply pressure and muscle up the hill. I believe the excellent grip on the GK’s allowed me to get to the top without stopping to walk or falling. In fact, I was able to climb all of the hills at the DK 200 without having to stop or walk my bike to the top. I also appreciate how fast the tire rolls over smoother hard packed gravel. They are also very fast on paved roads. I really like these tires and intend to keep training and racing on them.

  4. Dex June 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

    I can understand the frustration of running 32mm tires in chunky gravel and I would also agree that if 32mm was the only option going forward the gravel king line would certainly have an inherent weakness, but it looks like they’ve heading in the right direction with the other size options. My personal experience with the 32mm has been rather positive and I have a unique perspective in that I rode the same set of tires in two of the toughest rides in the country, the SPY Belgium Waffle Ride in San Diego and a month later in the DK200. The SPY ride was 142 mile of mostly pavement with about 30 miles of sand/gravel thrown in and over 11,000ft of climbing. I’m from the midwest and I didn’t know what to expect from the dirt sections and I went with the Gravel King 32 for it’s rolling efficiency and handling capabilities. It went toe to toe with 28mm road bike slick tires and handled the dirt sections rather easily. Bombing down canyon roads on my cross bike with it’s shorter wheelbase nearly gave me a heart attack but the tires held the road confidently.( I rode tubeless )

    I’ve trained out in the Flint Hills and knew what I was up against. I was nervous as anyone about running 32mm on that course. Would it be so uncomfortable that I would wear myself down or would it suffer the fate of so many riders in the top 100 riding aggressively for a personal best?….I rode carefully but still bottomed out hard a few times hearing the rim hit and dreading the fate of having to throw in a tube. By the way, I did ride them tubeless at 40psi of pressure for my weight. The tires were flawless with zero flats and I did opt to ride the mud sections when I could because the tires allowed me too and I went for it. So the final question I asked myself when I got towards the end was how did I feel? Was I so beat that I just wanted to get done and get it over with or could I have pushed further beyond 200 if I had too and the simple answer was yeah, I could have pushed further.

    Part of me wanted to keep quite and have others keep riding other brands, but these tires are the best I’ve ridden and this is the first time I’ve made an effort to leave a reply for any product review. My 2 cents.

    • Guitar Ted June 15, 2015 at 6:19 am #

      Congratulations on finishing those two tough events, first of all, Dex. No small feat there.

      Having been at the DK200 four different times now, I think it is safe to say that this year’s edition was an outlier from the standpoint of conditions, (more mud and softer roads), than the other years where skinny tires (32’s would count here), weren’t a good choice. That’s my observation, and I think the stats would help bear this out.

      There is also a theme amongst those having success with the Gravel King 32’s and that is that it appears that many of the success stories are from users setting up this non-tubeless rated tire tubeless. The following is a comment left on Riding Gravel’s Facebook page where I linked this review. I post the comment in full as a counterpoint to those comments left here with positive results. Here’s the comment:

      “Ahhh… 2014 DK 200 – I suffered 7 flats with 6 tubes riding Panaracer Gravel Kings and was out at mile 93. I will say, though, I made a horrid tire choice and it was my own fault. DK is Gravel, right? Gravel kings are for Gravel, right? Only in hindsight do I see the botched tire choice. I rode them at home at the full recommended 90 PSI. More pinch flats.

      I’m done with them. I have three for sale very little use.”

  5. MG June 15, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    I have to agree with Guitar Ted. For the gravel we have here in the middle of the country, any 32c tire is a sub-optimal choice. Heck, I run 32c tires on my road bike. On gravel, I want control and rim protection. There’s a ton of fresh, chunky gravel on our roads at present. Plus, on our rural roads, a lot of the transitions to bridges are especially rough, so you’re just doing your body unnecessary damage putting up with the abuse of a 32c tire inflated to what is required for the tire itself to survive. When larger tires as good as the Rock ‘n Road (a 43c) and the Clement MSO (a 40c at the widest) exist, there’s no need to go with a smaller tire, even on smoother roads.

    All of that said, I’m very interested in trying a true 40-41c version of the tire. That could punch the ticket for me…

    Great review, my Brother.

  6. Robert Rutter June 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    I’m interested in these possibly as a dry conditions tubeless Cyclocross tire- To those of you who ran it tubeless: Which rims or rim strips did you have good success with the 32mm Gravel Kings tubeless?

    I have been riding the 28mm Gravel Kings with tubes happily on paved and dirt roads, they have been a fast and reliable tire for me. The tread pattern on the 32mm version looks good, a lot like the Schwalbe Thunder Burts, my favorite fast mountain tire…

    • Bob Cummings July 8, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

      I also am going to use the GK32 in CX dry conditions. I am running them on American Classic Argent Road Tubeless wheels. On gravel I run anywhere from 40-50psi depending on the conditions. The larger the gravel, the higher the pressure. I ran 48f/50r at DK and weigh 200lbs. For CX I plan on starting around 38psi and go up or down from there depending on grip level and terrain.

  7. Kelcey June 15, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    I started writing the GK 32’s a few months ago set up tubeless less than 50 pounds of air, I have put quite a few miles on them in the Flint Hills prior to the race I think these tires handle as well as any and better than most, they are not sketchy. And I have tried many sets of other tires including 38 and 40s
    Cannot answer any other questions about tubes, because I have never had to put one in , any of the cuts I have had have been very small and sealed up I had confidence in the tires all day long
    I think these tires are a bargain, especially since you can wear one out prior to it getting ruined from a cut, these are the first gravel tires I got the chance to wear out without ever suffering a cut to ruin one

  8. Jonathan Wait December 5, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

    I was happy to stumble upon this article. I’m a cat 2 road / cat 1 mntb racer out of Council Bluffs, Ia. I just bought a gravel bike to have a wider range of riding options. What tire recommendation would you make knowing Iowa gravel? Do you have one favorite tire for dry gravel roads? I love tubeless on both road and mntb. Thanks for any guidance, see you out there!

    • Guitar Ted December 6, 2016 at 5:59 am #

      @Jonathan Wait: Thanks for checking in. You can always search “tubeless tires” from our search box in the upper right of the header which will bring up all of the tubeless tire reviews on the site here.

      That said, it is going to depend upon what size tires that your bike can safely handle. Assuming that we’re at least talking about a cross bike, I would suggest bumping up to a 35-38mm sized tire, of which there are a few out there I can say will do what you want very well. WTB’s Riddler 37, Clement’s MSO 36, and Panaracer actually makes a Gravel King in the 35mm size now.

      Try running them at something in the 30’s to lower 40’s psi if you get them and I think you will be surprised how well they roll and how fast you’ll be able to ride.

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