Panaracer Gravel King SK+ 650B Tires: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted
Now that I have many miles of busted up pavement, fine gravel, dirt, and regular crushed rock road under the Gravel King SK+ tires, I am ready for my mid-term report. If you missed the introduction to this version of the Gravel King tire range, you can check out that here. Now I will get in to a bit of an update on the Gravel King SK+ 650B tire’s width and what I am using for air pressures now.
As you can see in that linked introduction post, the immediate size of the 650B X 48mm Gravel King SK+ on the 24mm internal width Irwin Cycling wheels was a bit over 49mm. Now with many miles on the tires I am getting a measurement just a couple hundredths off from 50mm. So, basically these ended up being 650B X 50mm tires and that at a lower pressure than I started out with.
I started out with significantly over 30psi- around 38psi, but I quickly realized that was too high. I dropped pressures until I found a sweet spot and that ended up being down in the low 20’s. The last ride I did before this post was at 22psi. So, this is probably due to the fact that the puncture protection belt is so stiff that you can get away with a lot less pressure in the tires. This is not uncommon with stiffer sidewall tires. We found similar situations with the Hutchinson Touareg and other bead-to-bead puncture protection belt tires which we have reviewed. Only the WTB SG2 tires were somewhat different in this regard. While we did have to go a bit lower than non-SG2 tires with the pressures, we did not have to go with radically different pressures, like we have with these Panaracer tires.
Ride Performance: This all affects ride feel to some degree. I never was able to completely dial out the harshness over sharper hits to the tires, but with all that volume, and with the flatter crown of the SK+ tires in 650B, I did find a great balance of stability and speed. These tires float up and over the deeper, loose crushed rock and they do not try to ‘plow’ through it, which can lead to instability. Looser, deep sand is handled with a bit more control as well, but in my opinion, there is something about a smaller diameter tire’s contact patch which still leads to some washing out versus a bigger diameter tire’s contact patch.
In terms of speed this tire is so-so. The IRC Boken 650B tires which we tested were blazingly fast, and in comparison, the Gravel King SK+ tires just do not have that sort of speed. They seem to be very average in that regard, but they do not feel ‘draggy’ or seem to hinder me in any way. Maybe in roll-out on coasting, I can feel like I need to start pedaling sooner than I might have to with other tires, but this also could be chalked up to the 650B diameter which looses momentum more quickly than the larger 700c format does. I’m not really sure about that aspect of my ride experience with the Gravel King SK+, but I am sure that they are not a super fast rolling tire.
In terms of the “SK+” part of this tire, I am impressed with its resistance to glass and sharp metal which I have hit on occasion with these tires during commutes. Coming out of Winter we seem to have a profusion of glass bits all over the bike paths here, and you know you cannot avoid every bit there is out there. The Gravel King SK+ tires seem to ward this all off like it is no big deal.
So Far… The Gravel King SK+ tires have decent roll, are seemingly quite resistant to punctures, and have copious volume for their size. In fact, you had better have room for 50mm tires on your bike if you want to try out these 650B tires. Be prepared to run lower pressures than you might think with the SK+ since the sidewalls are quite stiff. In fact, you probably will never get what you’d call a ‘supple’ ride out of these. But they do handle loose, severe conditions on gravel quite well.
Stay tuned for the “At The Finish” final installment of this review. For more on the Panaracer 650B Gravel King SK+ tires, see their webpage here.
Note: The Gravel King SK+ 650B X 48mm tires were purchased by Riding Gravel for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review. Panaracer USA has no affiliation with this review. We always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout whether or not we are provided with product or if we source it ourselves.