Top Five Gravel Tires: 2019

Top Five Gravel Tires: 2019- by Guitar Ted

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Tires. The thing that arouses more conversations and downright passionate feelings than anything else here on Riding Gravel. We see it on our forums, we see it from the hits on our Facebook page, and we see it on post views here when we do reviews. You folks love to check out tires and talk about them too.

Image of a tire on a gravel road
Top Five Gravel Tires- Rolling into 2019, these are Guitar Ted’s Favorite treads.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post here concerning my top five favorite tires for gravel. These were my choices for tires, as I had been asked about my personal top five by one of you readers out there. Well, now one of you readers has asked for an update on that post, and I thought that was a great idea. So, in no particular order, here are my current Top Five Gravel Tires going into 2019.

WTB Resolute in SoCal
Grannygear happens to like the Reso a lot as well.

WTB Resolute 700 X 42mm:

The WTB Resolute was also on the list previously and still holds up as one of the tires I turn to for a “do it all” choice. It has a great ride characteristic, handles dirt and mud well, and rolls uncannily fast on harder surfaces. The tubeless nature of this tire is very good, and matched up with WTB rims, the set up is flawless and easy to accomplish.

Of course, I am a sucker for a skin wall tire and the Resolute just looks great with its tan side wall. The over all casing shape is quite voluminous as well, no doubt adding to the cushy nature of this tire. I will say that it does tend to run a bit wider than advertised, especially tubeless on a wider rim, so be aware of that if room is tight on your rig. Another ding on this tire is that it does not feature any extra puncture protection belt, so if you live in an area prone to side wall cuts and punctures, this may not be your best choice.

WTB gathered a lot of feedback in the production of this tire from riding where I live in the Mid-West, so it would stand to reason that the tire would do well here where I live. That said, Grannygear also uses these tires in SoCal and they have done him well there. In my opinion, they still stand as the best riding tire, with decent wear over time, and handle most conditions better than many tires. Sure, there are faster tires, tires with more grip, and all, but the Resolute does most things very well. It could be the only tire I’d ever need.

Vittoria Terreno Dry 700 X 40mm:

Vittoria Terreno Dry tire
The Terreno Dry is an uncanny tire in many ways.

Right at the time I was writing the last Top Five Gravel Tires list, I was testing the Terreno Dry from Vittoria. It would have made the list then had the review not still been in progress. This is a tire I regretted having to take off to run another tire review, and it is a tire I miss having on my bike.

The Terreno Dry is such a great all around performer that it is almost my all-time favorite tire for gravel. The only thing holding me back from saying it is my favorite is that it is a heavier tire. The samples I tested were just over or just under 500 grams. But that said, the sidewalls were beefier than the Resolutes are, the casing seemed to be more robust, and the tubeless air retention is amongst the best I have tested.

While the Terreno Dry is heavier than the Resolute, it does everything the Resolute does, and it performs in situations where traction is at a premium in a way that will make you do a double take. It does things a tire with little tread shouldn’t do, and it even sheds mud fairly well. Why? Well, Vittoria has exclusive rights currently to use Graphene in its tread compound, and this material has interesting characteristics which translate into a tire that does things many tires cannot do. Plus, reports are that it wears really well.

Vittoria has made the “Dry” pattern in a wider version that they are calling “Terreno XC” and it comes in a 29″ X 2.1″ width now with a slightly wider 2.25″ version coming later in the year. We at Riding Gravel already have one set being tested and another set on the way. Stay tuned for that review coming soon.

Donnelly X’Plor MSO 700 X 40mm:

Donnelly X'Plor MSO tire
This tire is perhaps the most ridden gravel tire ever.

If there were a gravel tire that could be called a “classic”, it would be the Donnelly MSO 700 X 40mm tire. This is a tire that was one of the very first dedicated to gravel designs available. The tread pattern has withstood the test of time, and now it is tubeless ready as well as available in a skin wall version.

In fact, the MSO is such a classic, it may be the most ridden gravel tire ever. It has been a staple OEM tire for years and several versions of the MSO have appeared as stock on many a gravel bike. Keep in mind that at one time the company was called “Clement”, so that may help you see what I am saying here. But why do I like this tire?

Well, it rolls fast, it rides very well, it does tubeless like it should, and it is a tire that holds up reasonably well to wear. It maybe doesn’t handle some things well, like mud, or really loose terrain, but on gravel proper, the MSO is one of my top choices for riding. It also comes in many sizes, and the 50mm version of this tire is pretty nice also. One of my favorites at that size. Grannygear tested the 650B X 50mm version of the MSO and really liked it. So, it is a tread pattern that is available in many sizes and works a trick in all of them. You really cannot go wrong here.

Panaracer Gravel King SK 700 X 40mm:

Panaracer Gravel King SK
The Gravel King SK series comes in many sizes.

Another “classic” gravel tire, the Gravel King SK was also on the list last time, and it probably won’t fall off my list as long as Panaracer keeps making it. This tire is a great dry conditions tire that rides well and is one of the fastest tires you can get.

I reviewed this tire in 2016, but since then the Gravel King SK line has expanded, much like its competitor’s MSO line, to include many sizes and widths. You will also note that the tire is no longer available in a 40mm size. That’s because back in 2016 the 40mm was really 43mm, and that is exactly what they call it now.

While this tire is really fast, it has a killer puncture protection belt that works nicely. This alone may make it a worthy tire for many gravel riders, but for me, it is a peace of mind feature. It is one of the things I am impressed with concerning this tire since it works so well and doesn’t slow the tire down one bit. Plus, you get that famous Panaracer tire ride feel. Some folks have made a tag line out of this characteristic “suppleness” that the Gravel Kings have, but all I know is that this makes the Gravel King SK a go to choice for gravel rides around here for me.

Terrene Honali 700 X 50mm:

Terrene Tires Honali
This tire rolls really well, but does dry gravel too.

Another tire from the list last time, and my top choice yet for a bigger 700c sized tire than typical gravel tires. While the Honali was envisioned as a touring tire, the tire works really well as an adventure tire in almost any gravel road situation, as long as it is dry.

This tire went on one of my favorite bicycles of all time- the Gen I Fargo, and it still is on that bike to this day. That should tell you something about how I like the Honali for much of my gravel and adventure type riding. It does the job really well, and that “dual sport” inspired moto tread does work for most conditions. When I reviewed this tire I was inspired by its capabilities on many types of gravel and dry dirt, and that still holds true. Plus it does really well tubeless, wears well, and rides nicely.

Now, I would like to find that tire in this size range that has a bit wider range of use, like in wetter conditions and mud, but up to now, I haven’t found that perfect all around 700 X 50mm tire. There are some good choices out there, for sure, but for now, I’m sticking to the Honali for this size.

Now for the disclaimers;

  • These tires are here based upon my personal tastes and may not reflect your ideas of what a good tire is.
  • I’m not ranking them. These simply are my five most favorite tires at the moment.
  • This list is subject to change over the course of time.

So, that’s a wrap on my personal Top Five Gravel Tires going in to 2019. That doesn’t mean they are the best for you though. The good thing is that there are several choices these days, and hardly any of them are what I would call “bad” ones. Some are better than others, but most all are great. Check out our forums for a good overview of what many of you riders think are the best tires out there. If you don’t see a tire discussed, ask there. If you have a tire you think we should be reviewing, please leave us a comment and we will see what we can do.

As always, thanks for reading Riding Garvel.


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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32 thoughts on “Top Five Gravel Tires: 2019

  1. My only experience with tires on this list are my 43mm Gravel King SK (i think they’ve since rebranded it as the 40mm variant you’ve listed). I took it up on a pavement/gravel mix tour in Northern Minnesota last year and was very pleased. Not a single puncture, even when I was barreling down an old ATV trail with ruts, large stones, and loose gravel. I’ve also found that it seems like I can run this tire all the way down to 25psi (out of a max 60psi) without feeling much of a sacrifice in rolling speed at mid-range speeds. It’s kind of crazy to me, but I guess this is part of what you’ve called the “suppleness” of the tire.

  2. Thank you for the detailed reviews! The Honali is a perfect fit for my adventure bike that uses older Stans Flow EX rims. I’m riding it in gravel events but plan on riding multi-day adventures in the future. They should be great for the DK 100 in June. Thanks again for offering your advice based on experience and the love of cycling.

  3. Thanks for the update to last year’s “top five tires” post — I like having this info.

    Oh, and no, I won’t complain about your choices, suggest additions, or anything like that — I’ll just say “thanks!”

  4. How about a similar list specific for 650B ? Most of these are available in 650B however there are some tires that are 650B only that have no 700C equivalent.

    1. @Charles Dostale- First of all, a “similar list” would mean I like a lot of 650B tires in the same way I like the 700c ones I already have mentioned here. I’d have a tough time saying that. So, any list I would make would not be “same level stuff” as this one, because, as you can see, I didn’t put a single 650B tire on my list. Again- this is simply my list, you can disagree and that’s fine.

      But as a person who tests and rides a LOT of tires, these are the ones that impress the most. So far…. A 650B tire still could make the list, and I am currently riding a set that very well may break in to this list next time I update it. I had a 650B tire on the list last time, by the way, the Terrene Elwood, which is still a great tire, just not as great as the ones I listed here, in my opinion.

      And I haven’t tested a lot of 650B tires, so there is that. This is probably why you aren’t going to see a list specific to that wheel size. Not until I have had a larger sample size underneath me to ride.

      Then there is the whole 650B vs 700c thing, which is another editorial for another day.

    1. @Boudin- Not close at all. But if you like them and they make you happy- ride on. If you are wondering why they didn’t come close, well, that’s a longer answer that this format isn’t correct for. They are a good tire, by the way. I have a close friend that loves his.

  5. I have experience with three of the five tires mentioned. Plus a few more that didn’t make the list. The Panaracer has been my favorite so far with the MSO and Resolute following closely behind. I just completed a 520 mile excursion to Washington, D.C. via mixed surfaces. I used Panaracer Gravel King slicks in a 32mm on my Allied Cycleworks AllRoad. We rode about every surface you can imagine including bush whacking through clear cuts, crossing creeks, etc. I didn’t experience one puncture along the way and the ride was very supple.

    1. Given that our bikes shipped with schwalbe G-One 35’s, did you miss the volume going to 32? It’s time for new tires on mine and I am tempted by the IRC Serac Sand but worried I’d be sad “downsizing”

  6. To me, the holy grail of the Gravel tire is to roll very fast on pavement and still hook up very well on dirt because that’s the way I ride Gravel. Most of my rides end up being about 50% pavement and 50% dirt. I also prefer the wider 45mm to 2.2in Gravel tires on inner width i25-28mm rims because I want to run low pressures and get a little “tire-suspension”. Thanks for putting me on to the 700×50 Terrene Honali and the 29×2.1 Vittoria Terreno!

  7. Thanks for this timely update. I recently set up the Resolutes on Mercury G1 wheels and really enjoyed the smooth ride. My other setup is the GK SK 43 which I find robust and capable.

    I’m starting in the DK 100 as my first ride in that area. I’m sorely tempted to run the Resolutes as they feel so good and they seem more of an all around tire in case of mud, but there is this worry about sidewall cuts from the flint hills gravel.

    Should I save the Resolutes for another day and run the GK SK’s at the DK?

    1. @Craig- I’ve ridden hundreds of miles in the Flint Hills and the worst places for flats are the little water crossings where the smaller rock gets washed away and the bigger, sharper rocks are there waiting to pinch flat your tires. Tubeless tires have really been great at reducing what used to be a flat tire fest back in the 00’s when we didn’t have tubeless gravel tires.

      Now, with the literally hundreds of riders around you, most of that sharp rock isn’t an issue anymore since it gets “swept” aside and if you stay in the lines people are riding, it isn’t as big of a deal as it once was in regard to flats.

      But with all that said, I would definitely choose the GK SK 43 as it has an awesome ride quality- nearly what the Resolute has- and gives you better puncture protection. Even with the lesser chances these days at the DK with regard to flatting, I’d still opt for a bit more protection than not.

      Have a great ride!

        1. Follow up: completed the DK 100 with zero tire issues from the GK SK 43! The pair I rode were not completely new and just the week before the rear tire had a minor puncture that sealed up quickly. I just topped up Orange’s endurance seal before the ride. The tires handled the range of conditions well, including some descents where I couldn’t resist letting it rip!

  8. missing the much more cheaper and great ‘MICHELIN Power Gravel 40’ !
    Absolutely great tires if you do not want the marvelous but expensive WTB Riddler.

    1. @jason- Not missing it at all. In fact, I’ve ridden that tire and we reviewed it. The wear on the Power Gravel was a bit disappointing and the casing is a bit deader feeling, in my opinion, than others. Still a really good tire, we agree. It just isn’t as good as it needed to be to make my personal favorites list.

  9. I love Gravelkings and I think they’re a banging value for the performance and how supple they are when set up tubeless. I think that suppleness comes with a downside though; when recently swapping a pair with ~500ish miles to a new wheelset, they had stretched so much that I could barely keep the bead on the rim, let alone trust them enough to set up tubeless on the new wheels.

    Kinda funky but I still love them regardless. Back on Donnelly’s for now. The 40mm Strada USH is great for mixed surface rides and they always set up so easily tubeless.

    1. @Thick Peej- That was my experience with Gravel Kings as well, but to be fair- they are not the only tires that do that. Resolutes also do this, for one, but so do many others.

      If you like having a consistent fit from one wheel to the next, and you don’t mind a true 40mm width, the Maxxis Rambler with its carbon reinforced bead is the one to look at. They do not stretch, in my experience.

    2. I had a similar experience, but it came in handy:
      I bought the GravelKing 700×43, tried to mount it on my Bontrager wheelset. Couldn’t get it to seat, the shoulders on that rim are big. I put it on an older wheel and rode it a while , then when I swapped it back, it seated and installed beautifully on my Bontrager wheel.

  10. Given your experience with the Boken Plus, how does the Boken 700×40 stack up against this group?

    1. @Stud Beefpile- It stacks up well, but if the wear of the Boken’s compound is headed in the direction we think it is, it will fall short on that note and would not make this list. That said, it has some fast, smooth characteristics which are pretty cool.

  11. Would there be any tire 650b or 27.5″ from 47mm to 2.25″ which shares many characteristics with the Resolute? I like the idea that is rolls well on pavement, clears mud fairly, and so is very all-round. If it could be even slightly tougher that would be an extra bonus. Would you suggest looking at well rolling narrow/medium XC tires, or more like the resolute? Anything that comes to mind?

    1. @peter van’t Westende- That’s a good question. I cannot think of anything that would fit your criteria. However; there may be an answer from someone in our forums. Please check that out.

  12. Love resolutes and nanos

    just tried GK SK 38mm and was very impressed – even shed mud better than expected!

  13. How do the Maxxis Ramblers stack up in your opinion. I have been riding the MSO’s and love them but am thinking about switching to the Ramblers just out of sheer curiosity. They seem to have a little more aggressive tread pattern which I find interesting for the steeper stuff here in southern California.

    1. @Kerry Langsdale- The Rambler is an interesting tire. One of the, if not the very lightest 40mm options available. However, it can be a beast to get mounted, and if it fits really tightly on the rim going on, you may have difficulty field servicing it- if that should ever be necessary- because the carbon reinforced bead that Maxxis uses will not stretch.

      I also wasn’t wowed by its ride quality. It is a fantastic tire on the right rim, but since the mounting can be REALLY finicky and since the ride quality isn’t top notch, it doesn’t make my list.

  14. I’ve always loved the Challenge Gravel Grinder 38s, now tubeless. Not saying they should be in your top 5 – awesome list and might try one of those next! The challenge tires roll great, but perhaps don’t have a ton of life and are slightly undersized. I ride pavement and gravel, tire does well.

    1. @Jake- That Gravel Grinder model was fantastic in the days before tubeless tires were a thing for gravel. I ran those and liked them quite a lot. That’s one model of tire I think warrants a revisit in the review process here.

      Backstory: Before my Riding Gravel days I ran a site called “Gravel Grinder News”. I was reviewing some tires from Challenge including the Gravel Grinder, which had just been introduced at the time. The Challenge marketing people at that time approached me to make sure I was okay with the name, because they didn’t want any conflicts with me and my “Gravel Grinder News” site. We both agreed to “live and let live” on a handshake agreement. (Literally, a handshake, by the way) Neither one of us had any issues, Challenge was just being pro-active about this.

      Of course, I was flattered Challenge would even think about that, but in today’s litigious times, I suppose one could never be too careful.

  15. I wanted to try the GK’s however, mounting them on WTB KOM rims was a major chore and required two levers, along with a lot of cursing. If they were that much trouble at home during initial mounting, the thought of having to remount one on a ride was cause enough for me to return them to an LBS. What a nightmare…

    Been running the Maxxis Velocita AR’s and they’re okay – just feel they aren’t knobby enough for me. Too bad Conti doesn’t offer their Race Kings in a 700×40 or 42. Love the 29×2.25’s on my El Mar.

  16. Maybe I have a bad tyre but I’m giving up on my Gravelking SK tyres in 650b after just 1,000kms. The front has been flawless and never even loses pressure but the rear seems to have zero puncture protection. I ride in the UK in an area with a lot of flint and the rear punctures pretty much every ride. Sometimes the sealant does its job with me barely noticing, other times sealant sprays up my back and eventually the hole seals so I can get home (Orange sealant). I ride maybe 50-60% road and 40-50% off road. Interestingly the punctures have all been on tarmac. I’ve patched 5 holes in that rear tyre from the inside and I can see at least a dozen smaller holes filled with sealant. I’m fed up with it now. Have just ordered some 650b Terreno Dry tyres and Stans sealant – I hope for better luck!

  17. Im signed up to the DK200 this year, currently running Soma Cazadero 700 x 50 – do you think I should stick with these – I have no experience of using them on Kansas gravel, just what we get over here in the uk which i think is a little tamer….

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