Panaracer Gravel King SK 40 Tires: At The Finish

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After trying these tires on three different bikes over a period of three months on every surface imaginable, it is time to give the final verdict on how they performed. The last update on the Gravel King 40 tires is HERE in case you missed it. This post will be a wrap up on these big gravel tires and will feature the Gravel King on the HED Ardennes+ wheel set.

Gravel King
The Gravel King 40mm tires on the HED Ardennes+ wheels.

After running the Gravel Kings on the Project Wide Gravel Wheels featuring the WTB KOM i25 rims, I moved the tires over to a more “mainstream” wheel choice in the HED Ardennes+ wheels. Keep in mind that the HED Belgium+ is the same rim that the Ardennes+ wheels use. The Gravel Kings were quite voluminous on the KOM i25 rims, but moving over to the HED rims did little to dent the big, wide profile of these tires as the measurements at any pressure I used were all over 40mm on these rims. So, if you have a cyclo cross bike that doesn’t have a lot of room for tires over 35mm or so, you may want to look at this model in the 35mm size. There is also a treaded “SK” version of the Gravel King in a 32mm size.

Gravel King
The Gravel King 40 SK is a big, voluminous tire.

After patching the big cut in the Gravel King I suffered earlier in the test, I was surprised to find that the tubeless performance did not suffer at all. Air retention is still very good, and ride quality did not suffer at all. I did get another puncture, but the Caffelatex sealant I was using sealed the puncture with no issue. I feel pretty confident in both the tire and the sealant which seem to be a good combination. Looking back on the way these tires mount, hold air, and perform as tubeless, I would be hard pressed to say anything negative about them.

Ride quality is really good as well. The very surprising thing I found with these big tires was that the range of usable air pressures was quite a bit wider than it is with many of the other tires I have tested. The Gravel Kind 40 SK was happy at 45 psi on harder surfaces and ran really smoothly with a lot of speed on rougher, loose gravel at 35psi. The narrower HED rims did not seem to matter much in this regard either.

Speed was very good for a tire this large with the type of tread it has. I felt it was every bit as fast as the recently tested Clement MSO 36mm tires, but the heavier weight of the Gravel King was noticeable on climbs and quick accelerations over that of the Clement. That said, a more fair comparison would be with the Gravel King 35 SK, which would then put both tires on an even playing field. In the end, what I found was that you really don’t give much away by having the bigger Gravel King as long as it fits in between your stays.Gravel King

At The Finish:

This is the tire with the potential to go to just about any gravel event and do well. It probably is overkill for many places that don’t have the loose, deeper gravel that many Midwestern states do, but there is the 35mm and 32mm sizes of the Gravel King SK to choose from if that is the case where you live. The tire performs well in speed, ride comfort, and as a tubeless tire. The puncture protection is there, but it can be defeated if you hit a sharp enough object. The 40mm tire is quite competitive weight-wise with other true 40mm tires, and in fact, this tire is bigger than 40mm in reality. That may be its biggest fault, (no pun intended) since it may be too big for many cyclo cross bikes or other gravel oriented bikes with less clearance for bigger tires like these. Another negative is that the Gravel King really doesn’t fare as well as a “rougher stuff”, mountain bike-ish trail tire since the tread blocks are smaller and so tightly spaced. This also hinders the performance in wetter situations where the tire tread picks up soil and packs it on instead of sloughing it away. Stay on drier roads and this tire shines like no other.

I would be leaving these tires on until I wore them out if not for other test tires coming in, they are that good. By the way, wear has been normal on these so far. No undue wear from paved riding, or chunking off of the tread in loose gravel. Overall, these might be some of the best gravel road tires that have come through here yet.

NOTE: The Panaracer Gravel King SK 40mm tires were purchased by Guitar Ted for this test/review. Panaracer did not request, pay for, or bribe us for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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30 thoughts on “Panaracer Gravel King SK 40 Tires: At The Finish

  1. I liked ’em alot too. Too bad they didn’t fit well on my frame-even tho it was custom.

  2. Hmm……I think I will actually be finding out. My best guess now is that the 35mm tire will actually end up being more like a 38mm wide tire on that rim. If I am right, it will be perfect for what I have in mind. Stay tuned…..

    1. Yes, I thought so as well, but there are two reasons that they don’t do a whole lot. One is that they fall down around the curvature of the casing so far that they do not come into contact with the surfaces I typically rode them on at all. Secondly, because of that curvature and how the longitudinal blocks are based on the casing, they are at a poor angle to do much of anything as far as cornering or lateral stability goes.

      A wider rim may cause this to be less of an issue, but even on my KOM i25’s (25mm inner width) I did not see much benefit from this tread feature.

  3. Have been using my Gravel King 40’s set-up on my Hed Belgium Plus rims and loving the ride, now I’ve set them up on my Easton Heist27 rims and put them on my Gen1 Fargo and they’re even better! The wider rim improves their profile and ride quality, 27mm internal rim width seems just about perfect for these tires.

    1. I have gravelking 40’s on Velocity Blunt SS rims (26.6mm internal) and it’s a great combo for me. Love the volume.

  4. I’ve got Gravel Kings on two different bikes – one set tubed, one running tubeless, which are the 40mm. Both are a great ride, but the tread… somewhat ironically, the tread “loves” gravel. So when you are on a bike path with that hard-packed gravel surface, the tread picks up tiny chips and flings them by the hundreds against the inside of your fenders. It’s like being followed by a tiny machine-gunner

  5. I’m in a pickle between the Gravel King SK in 35 and the Clement X’Plor MSO in 32. I’m looking for a gravel oriented tire that can handle some rough stuff along the northshore of MN, but also double as a workhorse commuter tire for daily use.

    How would you say the difference in 3mm stacks up when on rough stuff? Another consideration is the price, GK SK’s can be had for upwards of $15-20 less per tire than the MSOs.

    1. Anthony, there is no substitute for volume when it comes to rough stuff. The volume gives you options with air pressure over a bit wider range than a skinnier tire will. On pavement, the Gravel King SK, with the puncture protection belt, is really quite a nice tire. The only negative I could think of here is that the tread on a MSO is typically a bit grippier and the GK tends to be bigger than labeled, so be aware of these things.

      1. Ted here is my question even though this is an old thread. Just bought the lighter version Raleigh to now have 2 of them in my stable. Thanks for your work on the Tamland. I now own the Roker Comp. It came with the Clement(now Donlley) MSO 40 MM tubeless. I am trying to set up my bike for the Bootlegger 100 which I hear has some really sketchy descents. Which tire has more grip the MSO or the GK SK? I see lots of riders like the SK for this ride so not sure which tire to use.

        1. @Larry Brenize- Thanks for the words about the Tamland. One of my favorite bikes, still……

          As you can see just above your post, the MSO is maybe just a bit grippier than the GK-SK, but I wouldn’t call either a very stable tire for sketchy descents.

          You could err on the side of grip, (WTB Nano 40, Maxxis Rampage), or you might think about a set of WTB Resolutes, which would be better, or the just tested Vittoria Terreno Dry tires, which have pretty good grip considering how they look. Both the WTB Reso and the Vittoria roll quite well.

          Other than the “sketchy descent” part, I would stick with the MSO’s, but there are better tires these days for grip.

  6. Just installed a pair of 40mm SK tubeless on a pair of DT R460db rims, by far the easyets tubeless ive ever tried (seated easiely and where airtight without sealent using a SKS rennekompressor).

    havent run the offroad – yet just cumuting on tarmac, pavemet with wett leaves, cobbles, and a few hundred meeters at the time on fine dust/gravel.

    Wett grib seems awsome at approx 40psi (im 85kg ex bike and backpack)
    Rolling resistance is way lower than expected – however i do feel the added wind resistance and weight when accelerating and a loss in pure rolling resistsnace – when comparing hem to my Compass 35mm Extralight (tubeless as well, but a lot more difficult to mount and keep airtigh).
    Suprised that im unable to feeel any vibrations or hear any sound from the knobs on the SK.

    As expected The Compass slick pattern just skates in the woods after the scandinavian autum/winter allrainy days has begun and local trails a full of leaves (besides thos expesive extralight’s are just too nice and fine for winther rides).. Hoping to hit the local trails next weekend on the 40mm SK’s with high expectations – they certainly feel very, very grippy.

  7. Thanks for this extensive review.

    Are there any comparisons to the Gravel Grinder Race by Challenge? I’ve been running those with Latex tubes for a couple of seasons now and am quite happy with them. Extremely supple and fast rolling.

    Would the 35mm or 40mm variant of the GK SK be a contender as far as suppleness and speed are concerned?

    Thinking about tubeless, but Challenge does advise against it.

    1. @Torsten Schenkel- The Gravel Grinder Race, being a tubed tire, lacks the pinch flat resistance of a tubeless set up and even with a latex tube, you are going to incur losses due to the friction between the tire and tube. It may not matter to you though.

      The Gravel King SK series of tires are equally as fast, but are not quite the smooth as silk type ride that you get from a nice Challenge Tire. The Gravel Grinder also is a bit more laterally stable in loose, marble-like gravel.

      That said, I would go with a tubeless tire versus a tubed one, so the Gravel King would be my pick here.

  8. @Torsten Schenkel – I ran the Gravel Grinder Race for around 1150 miles of mixed use on one bike. I initially thought I would be using that particular bike for more gravel than I ended up doing. I liked them fine on pavement, they rolled quietly and smoothly over both gravel and pavement for me, however, with their soft rubber compound, they were not a particularly long lived tire on pavement. I did do one fairly lightly loaded tour. Tires were bald in the center, though the carcass was not showing through at around 1100 miles. I had no flats with them despite glass strewn highway shoulders.

  9. has anyone around here tried the gravel king muds, yet? right now i can find them at really good prices and i wonder if they wouldn’t be better for the sometimes wet gravel roads i travel considering what’s been said about the SK’s tendency to pack up. as well, the side knobs not having much purpose. however, i have questions regarding their rolling resistance on pavement…which i do see more of. i can’t find but one real review on the GK muds and, of course, that’s one guy’s opinion/preference. i’m coming from riding knards and the rolling on pavement didn’t bother me in the slightest for the trade off of great gravel grip. the knards are just slightly to big for my new frame, though. thanks for any input. matthew

    1. btw, i’m looking at the 35’s. i’ve read they measure at about that or just slightly more…which my new frame can do just fine

  10. I have to say, this is a phenomenal page for information, all of the tires I have been trying to research and find good real-world knowledge of, are being talked about. It has been a pain trying to decide on tires and weigh pro’s and con’s because the info and opinions are spread out over so many sites.

    Thank you all that have contributed. I know the string is old but it helps!

  11. Thanks for the very thorough review. The roads where I live very from rough pavement to gravel to dirt (Humboldt County, Northern Cali). I don’t own a gravel bike per se. It is a Specialized Roubaix. But the SK 32 fit the frame nicely. They are perfect for the variable road conditions here. Low resistance on pavement and perfect for gravel and hard pack dirt. I’m really glad Panaracer went tubeless with the SKs. I tried to make the standard Gravelking tires work tubless a couple of years ago but they would lose air quickly.

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