Panaracer Gravel King SK Tires: Quick Review

Panaracer Gravel King SK Tires: Quick Review – by Grannygear

When I first built up the Lynskey, I sampled two sets of Panaracer tires. They were the first gravel bike tires I had ever used. First I tried the Comet Hardpacks, and those were pretty cool with lots of grip in the dirt, but they were not tubeless and that was not good for me. The Gravel King SK’s in the 40mm size were next. Relatively new to the market, they were tubeless ready and had very high volume, being over 40mms wide when mounted. I remember them being fast rolling and nice riding, but then other tires came along as testing duties called to me.

Gravel King SK’s on Grannygear’s Lynskey GR-250

A while ago I was thinking about the SK’s again as I had noticed a ‘new’ 43mm size in the line as well as a 38mm version. I was intrigued. It was time for a refresher on the Gravel King SK’s. From the Panaracer website:

“Looking for a tire that’s more aggressive than the mixte-tread GravelKing? The GravelKing Sk might just be the tire you need for the more hardcore roads. Aggressive knobs, ZSG Natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker and AX-α special low rolling resistance casing make the Gravelking a go-anywhere tire. And tubeless compatible up to 60 PSI!”

Detail of the Gravel King SK tread

Now keep in mind that there are several tires with the Gravel King moniker, but some are more like slicks or are not tubeless. There is even an SK + with a beefed up casing for flat protection. We have the more ‘normal’ casing in tubeless and in both the sidewall colors. I have a set of the 43mm ones and a set of the 38mm ones. The 43’s are not a bigger version of the 40’s I tried before, but the new numbers reflect a correction in the labeling for the sake of accuracy. That makes it good for the rider as they can more accurately predict the fit to their bike’s frame. Basically the 40mm version was always bigger than 40mms, so why not just put that in print? Exactly. Well done, Panaracer. I weighed the 43’s at 503g/492g and the 38’s at 404g/407g. After a few weeks of being mounted tubeless, the 43mm version measured exactly 43mms wide at the sides of the casing. It has very little knobs as such, so the sidewalls are just about as wide as the tread.

The tread pattern is made of center rows of small blocks, 5 across in the 43mm version, that become two nearly continuous, long sections of tread at the very sidewall. It looks like it would be fast rolling. It is. It just rolls like there is no tomorrow and on smooth sections of pavement they make this high pitched ‘jet aircraft at altitude’ noise. Whiiiirrrrrr!!!. Very cool. Transitions to cornering are smooth and predictable. I can’t imagine anyone thinking these are not fast rolling enough on the tarmac unless your riding is biased >70% road.

SoCal dirt tested and approved.

In the dirt I have been surprised at how tenacious they are. We have pretty dry conditions now, with little rain this winter. It’s been a dry So Cal spring. After using the WTB Ventures, which were like Velcro in the dirt but draggy on pavement, I re-mounted my stand-by WTB Resolutes, which are about the same size as the GK SK’s. I wanted to compare the SK’s to a tire I prized for its all-round-ness for So Cal use. I have to say that, except for traction in the most loose of conditions and perhaps over deep sand, the Panaracer Gravel King SK’s are a notch above the Resolutes.

On the road, they roll as well, likely better. I kind of expected that. But I was not expecting how much traction they would give off road, even on hard pack. Where the Resolutes can feel a bit ‘loose’ on hard dirt with a light overburden, the SK’s feel very hooked up. Not quite as stuck as the WTB Ventures, but not far off. Out of the saddle pitches where I was weight forward and driving, I had to try really hard to get the rear tire to break traction.

I ran them at no more than 40 psi and even down to 30 psi just to see how that was. It’s a big volume tire and that gives one a lot of grace as far as dropping air pressures and keeping the rims off the rocks. The ride is supple feeling and cracks in the road, potholes, etc, are muted. I did notice they are not quite as steady in deeper gravel or sand as the Resolute, but it is pretty close. Mud of course is an unknown for me, but I would not expect anything special there and I do not see this as a hardcore bike-packing tire, etc. They do offer the Plus casing with added protection, so if an aggressive tread is not called for, then that + version of the SK could be a great tire to point towards the horizon. (Editor’s Note: The Gravel King SK was tested here in Iowa and I can confirm that it does not have the best performance in mud. Here the Resolute is a bit better as well, using Grannygear’s ‘control tire’ as reference.)

The WTB Resolute (L) compares equally well with the Gravel King SK, with the SK’s getting the nod in overall speed.

The 38’s, as you would expect, are a narrower version of the 43’s. The tread is the same basic design, but they omit two rows of square center knobs to bring things in a bit. I measured them at 39.5 mms wide on a 21mm internal width rim and although my time was brief on these, they basically mimic the performance of the 43’s, spinning up a bit faster but giving up some off-road performance in looser conditions (less flotation). A fattish 38mm tire like these is a very compelling tire size for a lot of gravel riders out there. Is a 40mm wide tire the ‘perfect’ gravel bike tire size? Quite possibly.

At The Finish: This is a very, very, good tire for the way I use a gravel bike.  We are just a couple of years into the gravel scene where tires and what not have become specific to the genre, but even so the title of ‘classic’ can be used here I think. And the fact that the SKs have stood the test of time and still pretty much rock, shows that someone got it right from the beginning. The even more classic WTB Nano seems to be talked about in reverent tones, but I have found that tire to be pretty awful actually, doggy on pavement and odd feeling off road.
So some old stuff is just that…old.  There are golden oldies and moldy oldies.  The GK SKs are gold.
Note: Panaracer sent over the Gravel King SK tires for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.

Author: Grannygear

Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for in his spare time.

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22 thoughts on “Panaracer Gravel King SK Tires: Quick Review

    1. Morten, that’s because it is the same. We decided to change the hot patch on the 40 to 43 because it was measuring out larger on so many of the newer rims used for gravel.

  1. I’ve been debating on what 650b tires to get for a 40% singletrack, 40% gravel, and 20% pave ride I’m doing in May. This was on my shortlist so I appreciate the review.

    1. Get the SK in 48/1.95 I love mine. If 80% of your writing is going to be off of pavement I don’t know that I would consider anything else honestly

  2. I love all the GKs I’ve tried – 32/38mm slicks and 650×48 SKs. The 650x48s come up big though – mine measure about 52mm on i23 rims.

    I do love that whine of the SKs at speed, especially when harmonised with my Clement/Donnelly freewheel.

  3. As measured by a calibrated, commercial grade scale:
    – Panaracer Gravelking SK 38 mm @ 425 grams
    – Panaracer Gravelking SK 43 mm @ 482 grams

    Neither roll as nice or grip as well as the Rene Herse Steilacoom or Hurricane Ridge but the standard sidewall version of the Rene Herse cannot hold up to North Georgia gravel ridden at race pace.

    I switched back to the Gravelking SK which can often be found on sale for about $30.

    If you want an ultra-fast tire for dry, hardpack or pavement then try the G-One Allaround. Not good for loose or wet though.


  4. Interesting review. I happily went through a few pairs of GK SK ‘40mm’ and then tried resolutes. I agree they are similar, but would bet on the resolute being faster. I base that purely on casing feel: to me, the resolutes have a noticeably more supple feel. I also didn’t like how the SKs would hold moist dirt/sand (not mud!) n the tread for awhile. When you take sale price into account it’s a harder call for me. Last time I went shopping the GKs were about 2/3 the price of WTBs.

  5. I’ve been using the 700×43 SK’s for a while now and they have become my favorite tire of all the Gravel tires I have tried. They are fast on pavement, great on gravel, and not totally stupid on singletrack. However, if I was riding a lot of singletrack I would switch to the 700×50 SK’s.

    I would be careful running sub 35psi pressures. I’ve tried running 30psi and I can feel the tire bottoming out on square edged hits. I weigh 165 pounds.

    I bought my SK’s for $30 each. What a bargain that a tire this cheap works so well.

  6. Has anyone tried these on Stan’s Grail rims? I am currently running Maxxis Ramblers. They are great tires, but man were they tough to get on that rim. I’ve heard that WTB tires and Stan’s rims don’t play well together, so I am hoping that the Gravel King is a different experience.

    1. I just mounted some 43 and. 38 on grail cb7 rim with no issues other than needing a compressor and soapy water to mount tubeless/get to seat.

  7. @B-Ryan – This would be a question for our forums

    If it hasn’t already been discussed there you could ask and probably find a person with direct experience with you particular components.

    I will say that it may be of use to you to know that Stan’s runs a completely different bead seat diameter on their rims than any other manufacturer of rims, (unless they adhere to Stan’s dimensions, like some Sun Ringle’ rims do). This diameter is slightly larger than what is followed by most rim manufacturers and most tubeless tire makers.

    This results in Stan’s rims not working at all, or poorly, with many tubeless tires. Stan’s rims are really designed to convert non-tubeless tires to tubeless, and in that roll they do well, although it isn’t always a good idea to set up folding bead tires tubeless for other reasons.

  8. I have the SK in 43’s mounted to a set of Stan Grail rims which came stock on my RLT 9. Love ’em but mostly because mine are the army green color. Oh, and that sound they make on smooth pavement or hard packed clay is music.
    Absolutely zero issues mounting them. Sealed right up. Tough as anything and zero issues with flats, tears, or rips and I am not nice to tires. Pressure gauges vary wildly but mine say I’m running about 19 psi when comfortable for rocky single track. Yes, I’ve bottomed out on the rims but again, zero issues with flats when there’s no tube to pinch.

  9. For the price these tires are a great mid-duty gravel tire. The only thing I don’t like about them is they pickup and then shoot out all the little tiny pebbles and they ping continuously off your downtube

  10. Hi there,
    I’m wondering if anyone could provide tyre height of 32mm gravel king slicks? i.e. radius of wheel and tyre when fitted, or alternatively distance from rim to peak of tyre?
    I have a set of 20mm internal wheels which i want to convert to commuting / dirt road /light gravel but unsure if they will fit in the dropout and at the BB.

  11. Jumping in quite late, I’ve been running 650s on one of my gravel bikes in a myriad of events (Gravel McGravel Face, AKA the 200 mile race that needs a new name, as an example) and for grins and am leaning towards an SK+ in the 650×48 size.

    I’ve run WTB tires on that bike, exclusively (and primarily because I had an account with them): Resolutes in 650×42, Byways in 650×47, Senderos in 650×47, Rangers in 27.5×2.0, and currently Ventures in 650×47. The Resolutes felt the best, all around, but are a bit narrow (Gravel McGravel Face was supposed to be muddy last year and wasn’t, but I enjoyed using those over the Byways I used the year prior). The Ventures are a real disappointment. They are definitely sluggish on tarmac. Honestly they feel like a poor compromise in all areas. They don’t hook up that well on singletrack and feel about as slow as the “mini MTB” Senderos.

    However, on my other “all-road” bike, I’ve been quite happy with GK slicks in 700×35. I can usually hold my own with pure road cyclists. Panaracer just makes high quality tires that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

  12. Do you think you can compare some of the faster race xc tires, like the Hutchinson Skeleton 29×2.15 or Conti Raceking 2.1 to a 50mm gravel tire like the SKs?

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