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Advantages and disadvantages of slick tires on gravel bikes

Slick tires are the standard for road bikes on paved roads. We have summarized the advantages and disadvantages of daring to install slick tires on gravel bikes, which are often equipped with knobbed gravel tires.

Modified at: 2023.11.6Posted at: 2022.9.1

What is a slick tire?

Gravel bikes are often equipped with tires that have uneven surfaces called “knobs” on the tires, but slick tires have no knobs or even grooves on the tires.

Slick tires can grip the road surface better on uneven surfaces, and pedaling can be converted into propulsive force more efficiently.

For this reason, slick tires are the main choice for road bikes that are mainly ridden on paved roads.

Advantages of slick tires on gravel bikes

Gravel bikes are designed to be ridden on gravel, but they are also "road bikes. The difference between a gravel bike and a road bike is, in large part, the difference in tires, so installing slick tires makes it almost a road bike.

On paved roads with less uneven surfaces, slick tires feel lighter and go faster, so if you only ride on paved roads, there is a lot of merit in switching to slick tires.

However, slick tires do not necessarily mean that you need to choose road tires. There are models of gravel tires that are designed for easy riding on paved roads. For example, Panaracer’s Gravel King is a gravel tire but designed to look like a slick tire.

Disadvantages of slick tires on gravel bikes

Slick tires have no knobs or grooves, so they have less road catching ability on rough terrain, especially on muddy roads where you can slip a little bit. This is not a problem if you drive 100% of the time on paved roads, but when you see a gravel that looks good and want to go in, slick tires leave you feeling uneasy.

Another disadvantage is that slick tires are not very large in tire size.

Many gravel tires are available in 40C, 50C, and other fat tire lineups, and many people choose gravel bikes because "I can enjoy fat tires even though it is a road bike.

Slick tires are mostly available in sizes up to about 32C, and the lineup of tires as thick as 40C is extremely small.

However, if you mainly ride on paved roads, there is not much advantage to using thicker tires, so it is possible to use thinner tires with slick tires.

Get two sets of wheels and enjoy both slick and gravel!

A gravel bike can be a gravel bike with gravel tires and a road bike with slick or other road tires, so to speak.

Recently, the range of tire sizes that can be used with gravel bikes has been expanding, especially for disc road bikes, but it is only gravel bikes that can enjoy thicker tires such as 45C.

The lineup of low-priced wheels for gravel bikes is also increasing, so we recommend using different wheels for “everyday” and “off-duty” use.

If you have two sets of wheels, you can easily enjoy both road and gravel riding by using slick tires of 28C for daily use (mainly city riding) and tubeless fat gravel tires for enjoying unpaved roads on your days off.

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