The Gravelking. Maybe the name alone gives you confidence in what this tire was born to do. Or for the marketing skeptics, perhaps a reason to doubt its claim to the throne. This summer I logged about 400 miles on a pair of Gravelkings, riding a variety of terrain and weather conditions in California, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho and have arrived at a few conclusions on when to pledge thyself to the self-described King of Gravel.

Employee Rating:

4.5star

When I built my Kona Sutra LTD earlier this year, I mounted up a worn but acceptable set of WTB Nano’s that I had stored in my garage.  They had been a reliable choice in the past, and an easy way to get the bike rolling for a test ride.  I don’t have much to complain about when it comes to the Nano. There’s a reason you’ll find those tires on bikes all across the adventure cycling genre. A few months in, the wear was getting to the point of replacement, and I opted to try something new, the Gravelking SK 700x40c.  I was intrigued by the unique tread pattern and knew from past experiences with Panaracer tires, that the casing was sure to be as supple and smooth rolling as any out there.

At the time, I was gearing up to ride Rebecca’s Private Idaho in Idaho (see our RPI post, for a recap of the event) and thought there would be no better way to see if the Gravelking could live up to its name than to put it through a proper gauntlet of remote gravel roads.

I opted for the 700x40mm version of the tire. I’m a sucker for wide tires. Nothing in the bike nerd world gives me more joy than maxing out the clearance on my frame with the fattest tire I can find. In this case, I actual still have some room, but I’ll let it slide this time.  Speaking of wide, I’m running Industry Nine Trail S wheels on my Kona, and the 24.5mm internal rim width helped plump the Gravelkings out to a husky 45mm. The wide tire and rim combo is dynamite.

Product Design and Build Quality

Panaracer has been evolving bike tire construction for over 50 years, and I could feel the commitment to quality and precision as soon as I removed the Gravelking from its packaging. Their soft, yet sturdy construction is apparent at first glance and didn’t take much wrestling to mount them onto my rims. These tires run as straight as can be. There is no noticeable side-to-side wobble or inconsistency in construction.  That’s not always the case. I’ve had a handful of negative experiences with tire wobble in the 32mm+ road tire category, and the accuracy of the Gravelking was a relief.

Gravelking SK Tread Detail

The 40mm tire measures 45mm on my rim (24.5mm internal rim width).

Gravelking SK Side Profile

Side Profile

“Panaracer has been evolving bike tire construction for over 50 years, and I could feel the commitment to quality and precision as soon as I removed the Gravelking from its packaging.”

 

Panaracer Gravelking SK

Specs:

  • 700C x 32, 35, 0r 40mm
  • Tubeless compatible
  • 126 TPI Advanced Extra Alpha Casing
  • Bead-to-bead anti-flat protective belt
  • Folding bead
  • Weight: 32c – 320g, 35c – 380g, 40c – 490g

Features

  • ZSG natural rubber compound
  • Supple, smooth ride that absorbs the bumpy stuff
  • Simple tubeless setup
  • Fast rolling tread patten that rolls quickly on the road but has enough bite to inspire confidence off road
Not really a mud tire, but the GK can hold it's own it it's width alone.
Gravelking sans-mud

Side profile sans-mud

Performance and Ride Impressions

I used a Topeak Joe Blow Mountain Pump that pushes a good amount of pressure and the Gravelkings held air after just a few pumps. A few more pumps and the tire bead snapped into place with a reassuring pop at around 30 PSI. I added sealant, did the normal shake and spin, and left the tires to settle overnight. I have had zero issues with air pressure loss for the duration of my time with the tires (about 3 months).

I typically run 35-40 psi of pressure in these tires, and could probably go a bit lower safely because of the support of the wide rim I’m using, but I find my personal sweet spot to be right around 40 psi. As with most gravel tires, the cushion of low pressures is your friend. There’s really no benefit in riding a 40mm tire if you plan on pumping it up to the rock hard norm of a 25c road slick.

On the road, the the Gravelking is fast and smooth. Off-pavement, the ride is predictable, well-cushioned, and (in my opinion) eats up vibrations and bumps exactly the way you want a gravel tire to. This is by no means a tire meant for aggressively attacking singletrack or technical terrain, but then again, you’re probably not planning on hucking off rock drops on your gravel bike.  Same goes for mud. This isn’t a great mud tire, but in wet conditions with minimal sludge, I haven’t had any problems.

The Final Spin

All in all, the Gravelking has proven to be a worthy contender in the gravel tire category. It guided me safely through Rebecca’s Private Idaho, hasn’t given me any reason to question my initial positive impression of build quality, and has been a pleasure to ride across a variety of terrain. All of this, is further backed up by it’s very reasonable price point.  I am a little weary about how the sidewalls might hold up to punctures over time, but then again, I made it up and down a 10 mile flint littered climb in Idaho that was rumored to eat tires for lunch with no problems whatsoever. I don’t really have the authority to crown kings, but my impression is that the Gravelking’s practical price point, reliable performance, and high quality construction make it a tire that the masses can get behind.

My Kona Sutra LTD equipped with Panaracer Gravelking SK 700x40c tires and Industry Nine Trail S wheels.
My Kona Sutra LTD equipped with Panaracer Gravelking SK 700x40c tires and Industry Nine Trail S wheels.

Recommended rider:

An excellent choice for the performance minded gravel / mixed-terrain enthusiast. The Gravelkings excel in dry to damp conditions on a variety of surfaces from smooth pavement to chunky singletrack and gravel roads. If you find yourself riding often in muddy conditions, you would probably be better off choosing a tire with a more aggressive tread and better mud-shedding abilities.

What we loved:

  • Smooth ride
  • Stability at a wide range of pressures
  • Affordable price-point
  • Tubeless compatibility
  • Speed on paved surfaces

What we didn’t like:

  • Wears quicker than some tires in this category, but the trade-off for weight and supple ride is worth it
  • Questionable performance in muddy conditions

Find Your Next Gravel Tire

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