Panaracer Gravel King SK+ 650B Tires: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
The Gravel King line of tires from Panaracer needs no introductions. The range has been around for several years now and has several variants. It is a popular tread for many riders all over the world. So, why bother looking at these? Well, for one thing, they are 650B (27.5 to you mountain bikers, but not really.) which brings a bit of a different flavor. These also are the puncture protected versions, the “Protite Sheild+”, which was introduced at Sea Otter in 2019.
What It Is: Here’s what Panaracer USA says about these tires on the webpage for the Gravel King SK+ tires:
“The strongest version of GravelKing SK now has even better puncture resistance, with the use of ProTite Shield Plus for withstanding tough conditions. Developed with ZSG compound to enhance durability and wear resistance. Lightweight, ultra-thin ‘Ax-Alpha Cord’ has been used to make it even lighter in weight.“
There are several sizes of the Gravel King SK+ tires in the range. We happen to have the 650B X 48mm versions. Interestingly, Panaracer uses a “27.5 X 1.90″ designation on their hot patch. That’s unusual for a gravel tire and not quite right. The actual diameter is somewhat shy of 27” in reality. The tires we have are the black wall versions, but Panaracer lists a skin wall version as well. None of the funky colors as with other Gravel King variants here though, which you don’t get with the SK+. Just plain black tread.
The tread pattern should be fairly familiar to most riders, as it has been around for a awhile, but one thing I noted is that with these wider casings, the tread pattern gets ‘magnified’ a bit over that of a standard 38-43mm Gravel King. The tires we have to test are weighing in at 600/585 grams. The Gravel King SK+ tires retail at $54.99 USD.
First Impressions: I have reviewed the Gravel King SK tires in 700c form, but that’s been a while ago now. More recently, Grannygear took a look at the same tires as well here. We liked the ‘standard issue casing’ and the 700c sizes very much. However; we have not been on this newer puncture protected casing, which is different in that it is a bead-to-bead puncture protection versus the standard Gravel King SK’s protection which is under the tread area only. And obviously, these are 650B versions, which will have a bit different feel and characteristics versus the 700c versions.
In the hand the casings felt like what I would have guessed for a bead-to-bead puncture protected tire, and that is stiff. The weights for these tires are claimed to be lighter due to the materials Panaracer uses, and in reality they seem to be spot on there. The test tires weighed in at the same weight as our favorite 650B tires to this point, the IRC Boken Plus, which we reviewed here. So far so good.
Mounting these up on the Irwin Cycling Aon GX 35 wheels proved to be a difficult task, but again, par for the course with stiff side walls which result from a puncture protection casing. Getting the casing to sit straight on the rims was a bit of a chore, but when that was done the Gravel King SK+ tires aired up with a floor pump. Air retention, so far, seems to be very good.
Test rides revealed that I probably need to adjust a bit downward from my initial high-30’s psi pressure settings. Not too surprising there given that these tires have that full, bead-to-bead protection belt which is going to stiffen up the casing. I’ll make some further adjustments down in air pressure to find a suitably smooth ride and see if that impacts the Gravel King’s fast roll. I’ll also be taking these out on crushed rock roads soon and in my next update I will have some sharper impressions on how these 650B tires stack up against the other offerings out there.
So Far… As for now, I can say that the Gravel King SK’s have stretched a bit and measure out at 49.4mm on my 24mm internal width rims. I’ll have to check these again when I file my “Checkpoint” update in about a month here. So far, air retention is good. Also, that familiar fast roll a Gravel King SK is known for is there. That’s good, and also noteworthy is that- for whatever reason- these Gravel King SK’s don’t seem to be ‘gravel flingers’ like the narrower ones are. But let’s see what I find out when I hit the chunky goodness here and I’ll verify that- or not. Stay tuned….
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.