5 of the Best Bicycle Tires for Gravel Riding | A Growing Trend

Gravel Tires for Cycling
Photo Credit: 
Richard Masoner

Whether you’re looking for performance gravel racing tires or something to transport you comfortably along the canal towpaths of your commute, there’s no denying that gravel roads and paths provide a unique form of riding for which not every bicycle tire is suitable.

That being said, finding the best bicycle tires for gravel roads is challenging at the best of time. There just isn’t enough quality information out there yet.

The rise of tough gravel racing events in North America, which combine elements of road, mountain biking and cyclocross into long epic distances, has helped to fuel developments in the gravel tire and bike marketplace. You aren’t limited to a single choice any longer.

With over a million miles of gravel roads in the USA alone featuring very little traffic and a real sense of adventure this aspect of cycling looks like it will continue to develop, and it makes perfect sense. Riding a bicycle on gravel roads is flat out fun. Interested in hopping on this challenging new trend?

5 Of the Best Bike Tires for Gravel Roads: Reviews

To help you track down some choices that will work for this intense cycling style, we’re going to put 5 of the best gravel bike tires through their paces.

Hopefully, by the end of the article, you’ll have a few great options to choose between. Ready for a few gravel bike tire reviews? Read on!

Gravel, Mud, All-Round Performance — The Kenda Small Block 8

By putting 8 small blocks across the width of the tread Kenda have created an awesome tire which performs well in most conditions. The huge numbers of tread knobs do a great job in catching of the small pieces of rock which make up a dirt road to propel you forwards and provide stable performance in hard pack conditions.

Whilst it was designed as a fast tire for dry condition mountain biking and cyclocross, the Small Block 8 offers a lot more in terms of its flexibility by being an excellent tire to speed you across rugged roads which makes them an awesome multi-surface bicycle tire.

These Kendas are definitely worth consideration for cyclocross racers looking for a light weight, hard pack tire that will take fire roads and singletrack in its stride.

The Small Block 8 is available in a huge range of sizes for 26, 27.5 and 29 inch wheel mountain bikes, as well as 700c cyclocross and touring bikes. It’s a versatile gravel bike tire with great reviews, well worth checking out.

Clement X’PLor MSO — A High Volume Gravel Bike Tire

The X’Plor MSO is named after the airport code for Missoula, Montana, which also happens to be the home of the Adventure Cycling Association and comes in 700x 32mm and 700x 40mm sizes. The high volume 40mm MSO is a great option if your bike has available tire clearance as the extra volume will help smooth out more of rough roads and allow you to float a little better across loose scree, where a narrower tire will dig in and submerge.

The tread on the X’Plor MSO feature arguably the most tread blocks you’ll see on a bicycle tire with its aim of bridging the gap between a road specific tire and the extremity of a cyclocross tire.

With a high tread knob density in the centre of the tread it will tackle pavement with relative ease and more aggressive outer lugs it’s a mixed conditions tire which you could easily use to ride early season cyclocross, a 100 mile gravel event or trek over the high passes of the Himalayas.

Specialized Trigger Pro 2Bliss Ready — Big Volume Tubeless Compatible Gravel Tire

If you’re running a tubeless set up, or considering it for future gravel riding the Trigger Pro could be the best option for you. Designed as a dry conditions cyclocross racing tire, the Trigger Pro features a file-like central tread to enhance surface contact area in dry and wet conditions.

External high rise lugs provide predictable cornering bite under controlled braking.

The Trigger Pro is only available in a 700x 33mm format. Despite that limitation, the Trigger Pro is an excellent gravel bike tire from an excellent company.

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial HS 428 — For Touring and Trekking on Gravel

If you’re looking for a gravel cycling tire that can handle ultra long-distance touring and trekking the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial could be the right tire for you. This tire is purpose-built  to survive for mile-after-mile on cycling expeditions where the roads are likely to be unpaved. Despite that, the Mondial is designed to not sacrifice too much speed when it comes to riding on smooth tarmac surfaces too.

The Marathon Mondial features a wide, closely packed central tread to keep rolling resistance down with less tightly packed side blocks to allow some bite where required in loose or slightly muddy conditions.

Schwalbe’s Marathon range has always offered exceptional puncture resistance and durability with the Mondial featuring a double defence of Snakeskin sidewall protection and a performance engineered near impenetrable breaker strip beneath the tread. Combined these features with the extra hard Endurance compound and you have a tire which is going to fight hard against punctures. These features make the Mondial a heavy tire, but one which marries the much needed characteristics of puncture resistance and durability to the ultimate level.

Surly Knard — Comfort and Practicality on Rough Roads

Surly are a company who do things a little differently to the norm. They have built their reputation based around comfort and design. The Surly Knard tire is a do-pretty-much-anything tire which features tightly packed 4 mm, closely spaced blocked to reduce rolling resistance on the roads, whilst providing enhanced trail handling when the path takes you into the wilderness.

A 700x 41 mm size means that the Knard has enough girth to conform to the ground surface, absorb road bumps, vibrations and provide a decent sized contact area for enhanced grip characteristics on your cyclocross or touring bike.

For mountain bikers there’s the option of 26x 3.8 inch and 29x 3 inches so no matter what you’re riding you can roll over the gravel with ease.

Liam Hallam

Liam Hallam

Liam Hallam is a Nottingham UK based road racer and cyclocross enthusiast. You'll mostly find him on the tough roads of the Peak District or trails of Sherwood Forest.


mark hartney

about 3 years ago

Specialized now offers the 'Trigger' in a 38c in addition to the 33c - both are tubeless ready options. The 38c has a hitch more resilience using the 'Endurant' casing for tougher sidewalls. It's a great addition to the 33c.

Will Henry

Will Henry

about 3 years ago

Fantastic! Thanks for the update Mark!


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