[ FOCUS ] Our selection of gravel bikes tires
The gravel bike is rapidly expanding, and more and more riders are interested by this disipline, as the activity on the Facebook group Gravel Bike France shows. However, this way of riding is not new, and we haven't invented anything. Before the roads were paved, they looked more than a track and cycling sometimes looked like what will then become mountain biking. The photos of the first Concours de Machines are a good testimony.
At Victoire, we were among the first French builders to offer gravel bikes, with the birth of our Versus range in 2013. We first presented a singlespeed model, with a very clean style in the spirit of our fixed gear, and quickly, we built a first Disc version for Gui. The latter was featured on the US website The Radavist.
Quickly, the market progressed with new components dedicated to gravel bikes. We have immediately adopted the Sram CX1 groupset, which is now built on most of our Versus. The simplicity and efficiency of this system had already convinced us on our MTB, so it was a natural continuity.
The technical evolution, both on road bikes and MTB, has enabled to create modern gravel bikes, fun, comfortable and performant. One of the regular question for the neophytes is about the tires. There are no ideal tires, but you can find the most adapted to your riding. Instead of presenting you an umpteenth benchmark, we will rather share with you our experience. We have been lucky to test many tires for years, and some of them have caught our attention. We present you today a selection, ranked by use, in order to identify the reference the most adapted to your riding.
Our selection of gravel bike tires
The USA are the cradle of the gravel bike, thanks to the numerous tracks that cross the continent. So it is not surprising to see a brand like WTB, that comes from MTB, offering a full range of gravel tires.
The Nano 40mm, is the first we tested. We have been riding it for a year now, and we have a good idea of its handling. We ride it during winter, and on demanding terrains. Wide with good knobs, its carcass ply is resistant. Like others gravel tires, we mount it Tubeless, to reduce the risk of punctures and decrease the pressure. For a 65kg rider, we recommand to inflate it to 2.8 bars.
The Riddler gets low knobs, with a few space between them, that provides better rolling and grip. Nevertheless, it is harder to evacuate the mud. It is an excellent tire for people looking for a versatile tire on dry terrain. However, it is limited on a more agressive terrain : it was quickly worn after the Roc d'Azur gravel stage. For a 65kg rider, we recommand to inflate it to 3 bars.
We haven't had the occasion to test the Exposure yet, but its tread design looks interesting on fast rolling terrain and for people who occasionally wants to go on unpaved roads. The center tread is almost slick, and is progressively knobby to the side. It enables to get a progressive grip on gravel corners.
Jan Heine's brand is distributed in France by 2-11 Cycles since this year, and we had the occasion to ride the Bon Jon Pass 35mm and Barlow Pass 38mm. The first are Tubeless Ready, not the second ones, but we have mounted them without tubes and did not have any issues.
Compass tires are very exclusive, both by their construction and their price. They are very light for the size, that's why we selected them on our light randonneuse of the Concours de Machines. Their casing is very light and supple, that brings a high comfort and a high rolling quality, very pleasant on long distance rides. If you take many paths, do not hesitate to mount the 38 or even 44 model. The width brings more comfort and you will be suprised by the speed you get on unpaved roads !
We rode them on the 250K of Dalsland Runt, a gravel event in Sweden, and the difference with the riders with 28 or 30 millimeters tires was impressive !
Their resistance is good for tires as exclusive, but we would advise them to smooth riders. We got one flat during the demanding gravel stage of the Concours de Machines, but the hole was filled by the sealant. We have cut the top of a Bon Jon Pass in a stony downhill, because of a mistake, and there is no doubt it would have been the same with any other tire.