Our favorite Gravel Bike tires and why
The best gravel bike tires have more to do with the rider than the tire. Everyone has different preferences and there are so many different ways to set up your gravel bike, that is part of the fun. A wise person once said that your tires are the only part of your bike that touch the ground, which might just make them the most important part on your bike. Changing out tires allows you to change the whole entire feel of your bike. Sklar was able to live through the recent "gravel bike revolution". Back in the day the entire design of your bike was limited by tire choice. These days it feels like there are endless options of tubeless friendly options out there for a gravel grinding bike tire and we wanted to highlight a few of our favorites that we keep coming back to from lots and lots of riding as well as building up lots of our Super Something gravel bikes.
#1 - Our favorite all-around gravel tire - the Teravail Cannonball light & supple.
This is not a tire we expected to like. Coming from a brand brought to you by America's larges bike part distributor QBP this tire doesn't break the bank and is easy to get. We would classify this tire as a "file tread" which by looking at you can tell it is going to be pretty fast rolling. The cute little side lugs look promising for some cornering grip too with a smooth transition that means consistent grip as you lean the bike over to corner. My first ride on these tires were rolling some pavement out of town and I thought "OK, yep these roll nice and fast". The real shock came as I topped out a gravel road and popped onto a single track descent. The amount of traction these things hold is seriously impressive while not slowing you down at all. The light & supple casing really provides a nice ride and I have had great luck with the durability too even on rough and rocky roads. I would avoid the durable casing unless you are going for a real city bike or touring in super rocky terrain. There are new gravel tires coming out all the time, but for now this is my favorite one I have ever tried. Fast and smooth on pavement or hardpack with surprising traction on the loose and single.
The Cannonball comes in so many different sizes too. 700c by 35, 38, 42 and 47c! and lots of 650 sizes as well. Personally I am a fan of the 42c for almost all of my riding but the 47's are really sweet if you want the comfort of some higher volume or need the cushion for some bike packing or something like that. Great tire.
#2 - Our favorite file tread tire - the Ultradynamico Cava
A fast rolling file tread tire is a great option for your gravel bike. These tires use tiny little knobs that resemble the cutting surface of a metal file to increase traction while still getting you a fast rolling tire. There are lots of these options out there but we really like the Cava from ultradynamico because the smooth centerline keeps you rolling fast when you are travelling in a straight line and the file tread takes up the edges of the tire for a little more grip when you need it, leaning into a corner. These tires also come in a number of weights. If we are going fore a light, light bike we like the race casing a lot but find the JFF's best for every day riding. These tires will keep you rolling fast and if you are a minimalist then they will get you down any chonky trail too.
#3 - Our favorite fast gravel tire - the Rene Herse Antelope Hill
High volume tires have been around for a long time but there is no doubt that Rene Herse has played a big role in popularizing them in the modern bicycle world. I first rode their tires with the 44c snoqualmie pass and loved how fast they were. These smooth and plump tires are a testament to how far more volume can get you. Lower tire pressures mellows out most of the bumps and helps with traction while what is essentially a road tire is so light and fast. Riding a tire like this will really make you understand what people mean when they talk about rotational weight. Acceleration feels faster and your whole bike will really feel lighter in a noticeable way, if you are coming from a chunkier gravel tire that is. It is pretty cool to really feel the difference in a slick vs knobby gravel tire so clearly. The 55c Antelope ridge takes volume to another lever. Riding on a tire that is both so big and light is a unique experience. Just watch it on those corners if you are used to some side knob.
#4 - Our favorite Chonky gravel tire - the Ultradynamico MARS
When it comes to aesthetics, look no further than Ultradynamico Rubber Corp. These tires look good with their beautiful triangle-y tread pattern and they come in some cool colors the the coveted race compound grey. They are available in 700c and 650b in a 2.2 width that both jusssst squeeze into a SuperSomething frame. The ride of these tires can be a little interesting at first. Your ride fast on that center line of triangles and agressive side lugs help with cornering or deeper dirt and gravel. Once that center stripe has worn down a bit you are treated to a nice even ride. Somewhere between the Rene Herse and the more durable MTB tire, these are a true gravel tire with a lightweight road bike casing and an off-road capable tread. It's the best of both worlds, lightweight, capable and beautiful. What more could you ask for?
#5 - The classic - WTB Nano 40c
I just wanted to give a quick shoutout to a tire that changed the game, the WTB nano. When modern "gravel biking" was taking off this was the tire that charged the way. I remember riding them on my singlespeed cyclocross course down mount hough at the very first grinduro and thinking, "dang, this is a sweet tire". They roll pretty fast, they grip pretty good and they are pretty budget friendly too. They have't changed in 15 or 20 years and they are still great!
#6 The Tour Divider - Maxxis Pace 29 x 2.1
OK, so maybe this list isn't so much a comprehensive collection of our favorite gravel tires of all time, but I wanted to throw this one on there too. After much debate about which tire to take down the tour divide I settled on the Maxxis Pace. As far as mountain bike tires go, Maxxis is the only option for me. Montana is a rocky place and they have been the only tires to hold up for me over the years, not to mention they have some great tire designs. So, I felt like I could trust their sidewalls and they delivered. This XC race tire is light and fast rolling, I never felt slowed down by it. But when it came time to blast down some big passes or even big single track they performed exceedingly well. If you are looking for a higher volume all arounder or a fastish touring tire, I would make sure that this one is on your list.
Well, those are the ones that come to mind. There are a lot of good options and the best one is really the one that gets you out there and gets you home. Let us know if you think we missed any in the comments.