Panaracer Gravel King 40mm Tires: Quick Review

Editor’s Note: Our contributor from SoCal weighs in on another tubeless gravel tire choice, the Panaracer Gravel King 40mm width tires.
Gravel king
The Gravel King in a 40mm size is new for 2016
Panaracer Gravel King 40mm Tires: by Grannygear
gravel tires
The Panaracer Gravel King- now in a 40mm width and tubeless ready- on Grannygear’s Warbird

While I really liked the Panaracer Comets that I reviewed here , I was looking to try a tire that went tubeless well and if it was a bit faster rolling on smooth surfaces, then that would be good too.  I did not want to give up any tire volume and it if possible keeping traction at a decent level for all our rough dirt roads would be appreciated.

I found all that in the new Panaracer Gravel Kings in the 40c size. Mounted on a set of FSA Afterburner wheels, they have been a small but worthwhile improvement over the Comets in nearly every way but one.
I weighed them at 477g/488g each, which compares to the 478g/467g Comets in the same size (although the Comets are stamped 38c, they are 40s).  With a 120TPI casing and a tubeless rated bead, they are a notch up in tire construction over the Comets.  MSPR is $54.95.  The tread is milder looking consisting of five tightly packed rows of tiny, square knobs with some long, nearly solid ridges of rubber on each side.  Frankly, I was a bit skeptical about how that was going to work. From Jeff Zell, Panaracer Global Go-To Guy, regarding the rubber compound used on the Gravel Kings:
“The ZSG compound is one of the key reasons this tire performs so well. We developed ZSG to resist changes in temperature and weather so the compound remains the same. Hot or cold, wet or dry. This gives the tire an advantage over traditional compounds that soften up when hot, or harden when cold. The tire stays true to the intent. ZSG is also much more durable and longer lasting than standard compounds.”
GRAVEL KING 2I ran them tubed at first so I could compare them to the outgoing Comets.  Right away I noticed that they rolled out very smoothly, and at 35psi were very quiet as compared to the Comets.  They felt really fast.  So far so good.  On the dirt, i expected them to be a bit less grippy than the Comets and that is true, but not by much.  I notice it mostly when I get out of the saddle and climb something steep.  Then I have to work a bit harder to keep hooked up with the Gravel Kings.  However, cornering on dirt, sand, crossing cuts at an angle…that all is quite good and I have found my trust in the tire coming up the more I ride them.


Lastly I took them tubeless on the aforementioned FSA Afterburner wheels (thoughts on those coming soon). They set up easily with a hand pump and never weeped one bit.  I kept the tire pressures at 35psi.  I cannot really say if I can tell the difference in the ride quality running tubeless…maybe…but for me it was to avoid pinching and thorn flats.


I have done multi-mile climbs over dirt passes, pinned them through 30mph corners on road rides, and even set a PR on Strava on one rolling canyon road during a 50 mile combined-surface loop ride.  It is a great tire for where I live and how I use my Warbird.  Mud…well, no idea but I would think likely not so hot. If I was in the dirt more than the pavement or I was on single tracks, etc, I would run the Comets (as long as tubeless was not a priority) as they have more ultimate grip in the dirt (and likely are cheaper too).  But for now, this is my go-to gravel tire for So Cal use.  I am very pleased.


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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14 thoughts on “Panaracer Gravel King 40mm Tires: Quick Review

  1. Not having ridden the tires, I’ve only been able to imagine that the cornering “ribs” on the GravelKings would do a good job of holding a line on sketchier gravel by forming a sort of sideways paddle. Does that seem like a fair assessment?

  2. Well, in the dirt at least, this seems to be true. I have come into ruts at an angle and had the GKs hang on and get me right on out of them without diving for the ditch. Surprised me, actually. We have a lot of sand/loose rock over hardpack dirt here in So Cal, and while that is not the same as loose gravel, it is a challenging surface for a tire to deal with.


  3. I’m pleased with mine having ridden them on a couple gravel races on mostly dry, hero gravel. Having ridden behind some people that were also using them I now call them Gravel Slings. They have a knack at picking up the smaller stones and grit slinging it backward into any wheels suckers face.

  4. I find this tyre to be rather interesting. Like a Happy Medium with a longer lasting (looking) center tread.

    BTW, Kenda now lists the 40mm Happy Medium in a tubeless version. I’ve found the original tubed version to be one of my favorite gravel tyres, with a wide flat center shape and the side knobs offering surprising traction when surfaces get soft. A mud tyre it’s not, but it does better in slop than any semi-slick or file tread I’ve ridden.

    I think it would be interesting to compare these two.

    1. I have ridden the folding version, and it was an impressive tire. Now that a tubeless ready version has been introduced, it is a tire that is on our radar for review. This might be something that doesn’t happen for a bit, as many of us are staring at Winter straight in the face, and we have a few other tires cued up ahead of it, but we definitely are looking at putting that tire through its paces soon. Thanks!

  5. @grannygear……curious as to where you ride. I ride on Dirt Mulholland a lot, Westridge which is really good gravel, and some Single track around the Santa Monica Mountains. Do you know those areas and do you think the Panaracer would be a good match. I would really like to try some larger tires, currently riding Maxxis Mudwrestlers 32, which I think are good on the loose stuff but really slow on the road!

    1. Stay tuned for our full Gravel King 40mm review coming this Spring where we will draw a few comparisons between the Gravel Grinder and others. Keep in mind that the Gravel King can be run tubeless with Panaracer’s blessing while the Gravel Grinder is not blessed so.

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