Top Five Gravel Tires

Top Five Gravel Tires- 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. In fact, I was asked about which tires were my all-time favorites by a Riding Gravel reader. So, I thought that posting that up for you all to see might be, (well, I’m pretty confident it will be), interesting.

Top Five Tires
When the tires are hitting the road, I am having fun. Here are my favorite tires to do that with.

But before I get to the tires, I have a few things I need to get set straight.

  • 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.

Okay, hopefully that is all understood going in. I will list each tire with a brief reason or three why I like them so much. These are listed in no particular order but should reflect a wide variety of tires. Now with no further adieu, let’s get to the list!


The Terrene Tires Elwood model comes in a 700 X 40 and 650B X 47 size. 

Terrene Elwood: The Terrene brand is new to the scene but they brought out a great tire right out of the gate for gravel riders in the Elwood. You can check out my review of the tire here. I have ridden both the 700c and 650B versions of this tire and I am leaning toward the 650B version as being my favorite.

Either in Light or Tough casings, the Terrene set up tubeless very easily for me, held air well enough, but most importantly, the ride quality was top notch. I also appreciated the grip the center tread gave me without costing me in higher rolling resistance while the stabilizing side knobs kept the bike pointed straight in the deeper gravel.

But what I always think about when I think about the Elwood is how darn luxurious the casings feel and how smooth the ride is. I like most 650B tires I’ve tried, but this one just edges out the competition for me. The 700c tire is great, don’t get me wrong, but other tires on this list do things slightly better in that format, in my opinion, so the 700c Elwood is getting honorable mention status here.

Improvements? Maybe Terrene could offer the tire as a 700c X 50mm size, but otherwise this one is a fine choice for 650B wheels.

HonaliTerrene Honali: As long as I am talking about Terrene Tires I may as well add in my favorite “big” tire right now which is the Terrene Honali. You can check out my review here. The Honali is a touring tire, according to Terrene, but the tread, which is inspired by dual sport motorcycle tires, works really well on gravel as well.

In fact, they work on even the gnarliest gravel like what you can find in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  I put in a century ride on these tires on the Flint Hills worst gravel and they survived with nary a scratch. Like the Elwoods, the tubeless performance is top notch and the fast roll on pavement is welcome after your gravel ride is over and you are headed home.

These are not the tire for going on single track, and so maybe these wouldn’t be on the list for a 29″er conversion to a gravel bike. They are a great tire for something like my generation one Fargo- A bike which is very well suited to doing pavement and gravel type excursions. That’s why I am drawn to this tire for that bike. It just seems like a perfect fit.

WTB Resolute
The 42mm Resolute on my Raleigh Tamland. This tire actually measures out to close to 45mm in reality!

WTB Resolute: This tire is a surprisingly great tire. You can read my review here. The Resolute doesn’t appear at first glance to be a fast rolling tire for paved or harder surfaces, but it is really quite fast. It reminded me straight away of the WTB Nineline, a tire that performed way above its pay grade for a mountain bike tire. The tread patterns seem to be similar here. But the Resolute does have a few tricks up its sleeve that the Nineline doesn’t have.

The Resolute does have great roll over abilities on loose gravel, so your bike stays stable. The tire also sheds off packed up mud pretty well. Finally, it has decent enough grip on dirt and does okay on single track. All that adds up to a drop bar bike tire that helps you cover a lot of ground and does it all really well. Essentially, you get this one tire and leave it on for everything.

I also like the rust colored “skin wall” look which I find appealing. The volume of this tire is on the larger side. It measures out to a 45mm tire for me, instead of the listed 42mm. That volume and the casing construction give this tire a really sweet ride. I like that as well.

Clement MSO
The Donnelly 36mm MSO

Donnelly MSO 36mm Tubeless Tire: In the category of sub-40mm tires I am quite fond of the Donnelly (formerly Clement) MSO 36mm tubeless tires. You can see my review on this tire here . The MSO tread pattern is one of the first specifically designed for gravel travel and it still is one of the best. The trouble was that it was not produced in a tubeless format until the 36mm MSO was released. Now I can have all that fast rolling, gravel eating design and roll without tubes. Nice!

I like this tread design for the aforementioned speed but it does have some grippy characteristics which help on dry dirt and over loose over hard packed roads, like maybe a sandy minimum maintenance road, for instance. They have a lighter weight than the bigger volume tires but the MSO tread helps the 36mm version perform more like a 40mm-42mm tire. I should also mention that this tire did end up measuring out at 38mm for me, but that is still smaller than a 40mm tire.

Gravel King
The Gravel King SK 40mm tire

Panaracer Gravel King SK 40 Tires: Another one of my all-time favorite tires is the Gravel King SK in the 40mm size. You can see the review for this tire here. This is another tire that has a big volume, nice riding casing, but it rolls over loose gravel really calmly and with speed.

Speed is really where this tire shines. It is still the benchmark tire for fast roll which I gauge all others against. The tread pattern works great on anything that is dry, be it pavement to dirt and, of course, its namesake gravel terrain. The casing has puncture protection, but that doesn’t seem to inhibit the rolling speed or the ride quality.

I was dismayed when I sliced the casing on one of these right in the middle of the tire when I hit a piece of a shattered liquor bottle. Thankfully the Gravel King accepted a Remo patch and has performed tubeless duties since then with seemingly no ill effects to the tire. Sealant seems to play well with this tire and a puncture I incurred later was sealed up well. So, in every facet this tire seems to have passed the tests and remains one of my favorite tires to this day.

NOTE: These tires were chosen as my “Top Five” based solely upon my own preferences and do not reflect anyone else’s perspectives. None of the choices were influenced by payments, favors, or suggestions by the brands represented here. All opinions reflect my 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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19 thoughts on “Top Five Gravel Tires

  1. Gotta add my two cents for the compass Snoqualamie Pass 700×44. I have tasted the supple life and am not sure I can go back. The width handles all but the most miserable road conditions and is lighter than any other tire I own. I was worried about flats but it really has not been a big deal. Started to wear down a rear then swapped it with the front and no flats since.

    1. Having swapped my stock wheels out (shod with Resolutes) for my preferred combo of Cliffhangers and Snoqualmies tubeless… I’m kinda kicking myself for not keeping the Resolutes on.

      Three punctures/tears in three weeks. None of which Stan’s managed to seal. All while commuting on pavement. A patch or two later and I can keep going, but what the heck? Ran Barlow pass for years tubed and not a single flat.

      I think I’ll be swapping in the Resolutes tubeless for this weekends big ride. The Compass is just too thin to be reliable tubeless on the mean streets on Chicagoland.

  2. When I requested this post I was hoping it would help me justify a 50c Cazadero purchase.

    It didn’t, but I’m going to buy them anyway.

    1. Okay, just to make it totally clear, these five tires are my favorites right now. If a tire isn’t on the list, it isn’t one of my favorite five tires currently, for whatever reason.

      That should clear up any “what about this such-and-such” tire questions.

  3. I have several hundred miles on a set of 650B/47 Elwood lights with about 13,000′ of climbing in the Cherokee National Forest. They’ve been on pavement, gravel, sand (Dirty Pecan 100), clay, even a bit of mud. The tires roll great, corner great, descend awesome. I’m ~140lb, running them tubeless with 25 frt/ 28 rear.

  4. I have the MSO tires on my Willard, came stock (Clement). They roll nicely but seem to be really flat-prone. I’ve had more flats with this tire than any other I’ve used in recent memory. I’m a luddite who has not yet gone tubeless, for the record. Anyway, in my experience, they aren’t very puncture resistant at all, and I’m not a very demanding rider…mainly riding rail trails like the MO RIT, Katy, Chief Standing Bear Trail, and Prairie Spirit Trail.

  5. Nice list!

    Which of the five do you find most cut/puncture resistant?

    I have been been using the Panaracers as well, but after 2 cuts (one from glass and the other from a sharp rock), I think it’s time to experiment with another brand.

    I was also using the 28c (road) versions of the Gravel Kings, and while they were supply and rolled great, they did cut fairly easily as well, unfortunately.


  6. Hey Ted-

    Thanks for this article…Interesting reading!

    Quick question: if pavement and smoother dirt roads are a priority, should I prefer the Elwood or the Resolute? Or no difference on that terrain? Will still have some nasty stuff to ride through, so can’t use a smooth tire.


  7. Hi! I’m trying to find new tires for my Salsa Cutthroat… Right now, I have a pair of Schalbe thunder burt 2.25 (about 57mm) (x700) and really like the bike. I don’t dislike the tires, especially on gravel and dirt but I would like to try some tires that would be a little faster on pavement (and less noisy) as I usually have to do more paved road than gravel or dirt every time I ride around here ( about 1/3 and 2/3)… I’m still debating about reducing width (maybe to 47-45) but would like to keep the plush feeling of the wide tires (for my 230 pounds+bike and gears)…After reading a couple of your reviews, I’m leaning toward the Honali 50 or the Gravel King that is now avalaible in 50mm too… Or maybe a Gravel King upfront and an Honali at the back??? What are your thoughts?

    1. @Marc- Honestly, either would be an awesome tire. The Honali likely would be quieter, and have the option of the heavy duty puncture protection system. The Gravel King SK version would have a lighter weight and a bit faster roll, but wouldn’t be so quiet, although, really, you’re splitting hairs at that point.

      I’ve not tried the wide Gravel Kings in 700c, but that is a tire on my radar at the moment.

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