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How to choose gravel tires for those who just want to go fast

Gravel bikes are said to be slower than road bikes. If you want to go faster on a gravel bike! If you want to go faster on a gravel road bike, you can make it lighter and faster by simply customizing the tires.

Modified at: 2023.10.26Posted at: 2022.9.28

Why are gravel road bikes considered “slow”?

Gravel road bikes are said to be slow mainly because of their heavier bodies and larger tires.

Road bikes are in the 8 kg range for middle grade, 7 kg for top grade, and some even aim for the 6 kg range for hill climb bikes to reduce weight. On the other hand, the standard weight of a gravel road bike is around 10 kg. This makes them heavier than entry-level road bikes.

In addition, the 35C or larger tires that gravel road bikes are equipped with are heavier and have greater rolling resistance than the standard 25C tires on road bikes.

For these reasons, gravel road bikes feel slower. Conversely, although body weight cannot be easily reduced, changing the tires alone can change the ride.

Choice depends on whether you want to ride gravel or not

Gravel road bikes are sport bicycles that are designed to be ridden on gravel and other unpaved roads. However, some people may choose a gravel road bike for city riding as well as gravel riding.

Gravel road bikes are usually equipped with fat gravel tires with tire knobs, but if you are not going to ride on unpaved roads, there is little advantage to installing gravel tires.

It is true that slick tires have lower rolling resistance, although the knobs on the tires do not necessarily mean that you will not go faster at all, so it is better to make a decision based on "how much grip you will need to drive on rough roads.

If you ride mainly on paved roads, you don’t need gravel tires.

If you ride a gravel road bike but mostly ride on paved roads, it is also a good idea to abandon the gravel tire option and choose a slightly thicker road tire of about 28C.

Until a few years ago, road bike tires were usually thin tires of 700 x 23C, but nowadays 25C is the mainstream. Some people even install 28C tires on their road bikes.

This is because tire technology has improved over the years, and many products are now available with thicker 25C and 28C tires that weigh only a few dozen grams less than the 23C tires of the past.

For example, Panaracer’s Agilist, released in 2022, is very lightweight at 210 grams for a clincher 28C, and in some cases, you can reduce weight by almost 400 grams just by changing tires.

Panaracer’s Agilist is a slick tire used by professionals for racing, so you will experience a faster ride with a very low rolling resistance.

It used to be thought that the thinner the tire and the higher the pressure, the lower the rolling resistance, but recent studies have pointed out that if the ground contact area is the same whether the tire is thin or high pressure, the rolling resistance will not change that much, and gradually more and more people are riding larger tires with high grip and not too much pressure.

Therefore, even if you want to ride for speed, you can still achieve a good speed by installing thicker tires for road use.

If gravel is your main focus

If your main focus is on gravel, but you want to ride lightly and at speed on pavement as well, you have two options.

  1. run tubeless on thicker slick tires
  2. choose semi-slick tires

If you are looking for speed, you basically want to avoid block tires, so the semi-slick type is best if you are looking for speed, even if gravel is your main focus. Semi-slicks will allow you to go faster on pavement.

On the other hand, if gravel is also important but speed on paved roads cannot be discarded, it is best to operate tubeless with thicker slick tires.

On pavement, you can use high pressure to lower rolling resistance for higher speeds, and then reduce the tire pressure at the entrance to gravel to increase grip.

Although air pressure operation is troublesome, it is not the best choice to run the same air pressure on paved and unpaved roads to begin with, so why not take this opportunity to adjust the air pressure according to the road surface?

Gravel Bike Lightweighting Guide

This is a lightweighting guide for gravel bikes, which have a higher body weight than road bikes, to make them lighter and ride more like road bikes.

Gravel Bike Lightweighting Guide

This is a lightweighting guide for gravel bikes, which have a higher body weight than road bikes, to make them lighter and ride more like road bikes.

Let's master gravel tires!

Gravel tires are a characteristic of gravel bikes. One of the interesting aspects of gravel bikes is that depending on what tires are set and at what air pressure, the ride and comfort can vary greatly.

Easily convert your bicycle to gravel bike

Gravel bikes are often bought from manufacturers who sell them as "gravel bikes," but it is also possible to customize a road bike or cross bike and "gravel bike-ize" it.

Expand your gravel bike enjoyment!


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