If you ever try riding off-road with a pair of slick bicycle tires, you’ll know just how important it is to use the right tires for the terrain. When it comes to gravel, you’ll not only want to choose the right tires for your road surface, but you’ll also want to consider tubeless gravel tires. Tubeless tires will make your adventure faster, more fun, and a lot more comfortable.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best tubeless gravel tires. We’ll also talk about the differences between tubeless and tubed wheel setups. First, though, let’s take a look at the benefits of riding on tubeless tires for gravel.
Benefits of Tubeless Tires for Gravel Bikes
Tubeless gravel tires will give you a number of advantages when you’re off-road, riding gravel, or on mixed terrain.
First, tubeless tires can provide more comfort they can be run at lower pressures than tubed tires. A tire inflated to a lower pressure conforms to the terrain and absorbs some of the bumps and vibrations from the road surface. It also means you’ll go a little faster over rough terrain since the tires can roll over rocks rather than bounce off of them.
Tubeless tires can also provide a better grip on loose gravel since a lower pressure means more contact surface area with the ground. This means higher rolling resistance and slower speeds on paved roads, but it actually makes your ride faster off-road since your tire acts as a shock absorber and doesn’t bounce on bumps.
Tubeless gravel tires will also help prevent puncture and pinch flats, especially when cornering. In fact, if you get a small puncture, you might not even realize it because the sealant inside the tire could fix it before you even notice.
On the other hand, you certainly can ride gravel on tires with tubes, but beware that
- You’ll need to run them at a higher tire pressure to avoid pinch flats
- this means a stiffer ride and
- less traction on loose gravel
However, tubed tires are a little easier to set up than tubeless tires are. They’re a little less expensive, and they require less maintenance.
Regardless of whether you run tubed or tubeless, you’ll want to carry a spare tube with you if you get a puncture that your sealant can’t fix. You can simply install a tube while on the road, even in a tubeless tire. Sure, the sealant might be a little bit messy, but if you have a large puncture, it’s still better to stick a tube on your tubeless tire than have to hike-a-bike all the way back to your home or car.
6 Best Tubeless Tires for Gravel Bikes
To help you find the best tire for your gravel ride, we’ve come up with a list of 6 of the best tubeless gravel tires. Most of them come in a variety of sizes, so make sure the tire you choose fits your specific bike. For example, many road bikes might only be able to manage a 25mm wide tire, while gravel bikes can often accommodate a much wider tire.
You should be able to look in your bike’s manual or online at the bike specs to see the widest tire your bike can accommodate.
1. Best All-Rounder: Panaracer Gravel King SKs
Gravel King SK tires are a great all-rounder tire for dirt, rough pavement, and dryer gravel conditions. These tires are comfortable, giving you a nice plush ride over rough roads because they absorb a lot of vibration and chatter.
However, they aren’t exceptionally good at cornering or deep gravel, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing your tires.
But if you want a good all-around tire that can take you on most adventures, you might want to look into Gravel Kings.
- 650b x1.75
- 650b x 2.1
- 320g – 562g, depending on size
2. Best for Speed on Mixed Terrain – Continental Terra Speed
If you are looking for a speedy gravel tire, you’ll want to consider the Continental Terra Speed. It’s all in the name, really. The Terra Speed is a fast tire for mixed terrain, including light trails and tarmac. Keep in mind that this tire probably isn’t as grippy as tires with a deeper tread.
Probably the best gravel tire when it comes to speed. If your ride involves a lot of paved sections with some off-road segments, this tire is hard to beat.
The Continental Terra Speed is easy to mount on tubeless rims and is also long-wearing, so you’ll get plenty of use out of it. It’s lightweight and, well, fast, making it a great choice for light gravel racing. However, if you’re looking at rough rocks and roots or mud, you’ll probably want something wider.
3. Best for loose, rocky roads – Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite Tires
Schwalbe Ultrabites are hands down the most aggressive gravel tire that Schwalbe makes. Stiff sidewalls make them easier to set up tubeless and offer pinch protection when cornering even if you decide to use them with inner tubes.
Due to the knobby tread pattern and the mountain bike-type tire compound that makes up the tire, these tires will give you lots of grip on those loose rocky roads. They roll surprisingly fast on paved roads, too, albeit a little bit slower than a standard road tire.
These wider tires are great for gravel climbing but not so great for any off-camber mud, and they’re definitely too wide for a standard cyclocross race. But you’ll love the grip and enhanced breaking when it comes to loose gravel, dirt roads, and gnarly climbs. Bonus, they’re available with tan sidewalls for a classic look.
4. Best for mud – Teravail Rutland Gravel Bike Tire
If you want a tire for slogging through the mud, you might want to consider the Teravail Rutland Gravel Bike tire. The tread pattern gives you lots and lots of grip, even in the mud, and offers good cornering and braking.
Even with the extra tread, the Teravail loses little speed on the tarmac, making it a nice choice for mixed terrain as well as mud. In addition, these tires are tough against punctures and are available with both black and tan sidewalls.
5. Best Puncture Protection – Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M
The Pirelli Cinturato has it all: lots of grip, fast-rolling speed, and especially impressive puncture resistance. These sturdy tires will give you a great ride even at low pressures. Reinforced sidewalls offer excellent pinch protection and protect the rims of your wheels.
They offer lots of grip over all types of surfaces, but they can be challenging to set up tubeless. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort for the confident ride. Available in both black and tan sidewalls.
6. Best for Gravel Grinders: MaxxisRambler Gravel Tire
If you want high performance for your off-road adventures, you might want to go with a Maxxis Rambler Gravel tire. Maxxis Ramblers are a true gravel tire, so don’t try to get by with riding them on more mountain bike-specific terrain. Where they excel is hard-pack gravel, hilly gravel races, and steep dirt descents. You’ll get plenty of bite when cornering, too.
These tires offer an outstanding balance of puncture protection, durability, grip, and speed, making them an excellent choice for those gravel grinders where you could any and all types of surfaces.
Final Thoughts On the Best Tubeless Gravel Tires
If you want to ride on gravel, you’ll be happiest if you choose the tire that most closely matches the terrain you’ll be riding. If you’re going to be riding mixed terrain, look for a good all-rounder. If you’re going to be racing gravel grinders, look for a fast all-rounder. If you’re going to be riding in loose gravel or big rocks, look for the widest, plushest tire you can find. And better yet, tubeless gravel tires will give you the most comfort and pinch protection for your ride.