Panaracer Gravel King Tires: Quick Review- In the world of bicycles, only one component has more influence over your ride than any other. More than a frame, or fork, or a saddle, or a component drive train group. That component is tires. It is also the only component that touches the road. Yes, your tires are super important, and they engender a lot of passionate discussion as a result. What one likes another may pan as the worst tires ever. I suppose that is why we have so many tire choices! This is my opinion of the Panaracer “Gravel King” tires from an informed, experiential point of view; however, I will also try to give some alternative thoughts as this article progresses. You’ll see why in a bit here……
Specifications: Panaracer makes several very nice tires under their own brand name and under private label for a few others. Some of these tires, the Pasela, the Bruce Gordon Rock & Road, and the recently reviewed Soma Cazadero happen to be excellent gravel road tires. So when I saw that Panaracer had labeled a sub-35mm tire as “Gravel King”, I had to do a double take. 32mm? Really? Yes, only a 32mm tire. Okay, so the rest of the spec list does impress- 126TPI folding bead, a nice tread pattern, and a claimed weight of 320 grams. Besides the anemic casing size, the Gravel King looks good on paper. The tires tested actually came well under the claimed weight at 310 grams and 290 grams respectively.
At The Finish: Gravel can vary widely from region to region. I’ve been all over the Mid-West and seen it first hand. The tires one chooses for rolling on crushed rock roads should reflect the specific type of gravel in your region. In the Kansas Flint Hills, I might never run a typical gravel tire, for instance, since the flint and rough nature of the roads there calls out for a beefy, big tire. Almost a pure mountain bike type tire. Conversely, in areas of Southeastern Minnesota, you can get away with very skinny tires because the gravel is fine and the roads are typically pretty smooth. A 35mm tire is really almost overkill there. I point this all out to say that due to the Gravel King’s narrow size, low volume, and light weight, it is easily overwhelmed by the deep, chunky limestone roads of Iowa. It just doesn’t work at all here.
On a recent ride, I was using the Gravel King tires while a riding partner was on 40mm wide tires. When we hit particularly rough patches of gravel, it was no contest. I was fighting to keep the bike in line while he walked away from me. A simple switch on the same Twin Six Standard Rando bike I used that day to wider tires made a huge improvement, and it was painfully apparent that these 32mm tires are just not cutting it here. That said, they were supple, rolled fantastically well on smoother gravel sections, and were really easy to spin up due to their light weight.
To my mind, this tire is really best on minimally sized gravel, smooth dirt, and rough pavement. If that describes what you see most of the time on your back road outings, you should look at this tire. Everyone else should look elsewhere for more volume and width. Unless Panaracer sees fit to expand the size range up through 40mm, I cannot recommend this tire to very many riders of gravel. That’s really disappointing when you consider how well this tire works, and when you compare this to the other tires Panaracer makes that are bigger and far out shine this pretender to the throne.
Note: Panaracer does make a 38mm tire called the Comet, which is very reasonably priced and looks great for most gravel. Unfortunately, it isn’t built on as nearly as nice of a casing as the “Gravel King” is.
The Panaracer Gravel King tires were spec’ed on the Twin Six Standard Rando bike we were sent to review and test. Neither Twin Six nor Panaracer has paid or bribed us for this review and we always will strive to offer our honest opinions throughout our reviews.
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