ROAD.CC9 OUT OF 10
Japanese tyre company Panaracer has been quick to offer a range of gravel-specific tyres, becoming a significant player in the burgeoning market. Measuring 43mm wide, these GravelKing SK tyres are tubeless compatible and feature a tread pattern that excels both on and off road, with a tough carcass that can withstand some abuse.
The GravelKing comes in a variety of widths and tread patterns, but this SK is probably the pick of the range for the latest generation of adventure bikes like the Kinesis Tripster AT, Mason Bokeh or Open UP. As well as the 43mm tested here, the same tread pattern is offered on 26, 32 and 35mm width options if your frame doesn't offer enough clearance.
Underneath the tread is an anti-flat casing and AX Alpha Cord, which provides the tyre with the toughness and durability it surely needs for riding in the rough and potentially a long way from home. It certainly displayed a reassuring toughness during my varied and demanding testing.
I didn't suffer any punctures, but that is as much down to luck as anything, plus the tubeless sealant sloshing around inside the tyres. Reassuringly, the tyres are showing no signs of cuts or slices from impacts with sharp rocks after several months of testing.
The tyres are tubeless and installation was a doddle. I mounted them to a set of Reynolds ATR carbon clincher tubeless wheels and the tyres inflated first time with a regular track pump. They've retained air pressure very well and don't require constant topping up. I'd go as far as saying that tubeless is essential with an adventure bike, both for massively reducing the risk of a flat tyre and allowing you to safely run the low pressures that are needed for riding off-road.
The tread pattern comprises a wide central row of small square knobs flanked by longer blocks on the shoulder. It's a close-packed tread pattern and low profile, and provides the GravelKing SK with good zip on smooth stuff. On tarmac, the tyre rolls well and there's very little noise; they're certainly much quieter than Schwalbe G-Ones.
The ZSG Natural Compound helps to deliver good grip on most surfaces that I encountered during the extensive test, and wear rate has been really good, noticeably better wearing than the Hutchinson Overide tyres I recently tested.
Head into the woods and there's ample grip in the loose. On dry sandy trails and gravel fireroads, the tyre is fast in a straight line, and those longer shoulder blocks deliver good traction when you lean the bike over into corners. It's possible to get the tyres sliding if you push too hard on loose terrain, but the tyre does behave predictably when you do reach the limits and slides are as controllable as you can hope for them to be.
It's not designed for mud – you'll want the new GravelKing Mud for winter conditions – but it's surprisingly adept when the trail is damp and sloppy. Conditions for the recent Grinduro meant the trails were very muddy but the tyres coped well, and were impressive when they managed to find traction on slippery climbs and muddy rutted descents. A delicate application of power and precise weight transfer is required in such tricky situations, too, along with a fair dose of skill and luck.
This ability to tackle both road and off-road terrain in all its varieties is the GravelKing SK's biggest appeal. The large volume provides ample comfort to smooth out the roughest roads and tracks, and run at about 35psi (depending on the terrain and rider weight), there's a nice floaty sensation to the tyres. That's also helped by the high-quality casing which provides a reassuringly supple feeling, offering good feedback from the surface rolling under the tyre.
There's a growing choice of gravel and adventure bike tyres and plenty of options to suit different courses, surfaces and requirements. The GravelKing SK strikes a really good balance if you want a tyre that works well on mixed terrain, being fast on the smooth and grippy on the loose. Add in its toughness and tubeless compatibility, and the optional brown sidewall that looks ace, and you have a highly commendable tyre.
The 497g weight is on a par with other similar width gravel tyres, and the £40 price makes them competitive with their key rivals in this segment, the Schwalbes and Hutchinsons I've already mentioned, and Veetire's Rails too. They're available with this fetching brown sidewall, or a plain black if you prefer.
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Panaracer says: "Looking for a tire that's more aggressive than the mixte-tread GravelKing? The GravelKing Sk might just be the tire you need for the more hardcore roads. Aggressive knobs, ZSG Natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker and AX-α special low rolling resistance casing make the Gravelking a go-anywhere tire. And tubeless compatible up to 60 PSI.
"Built to go fast, far and withstand even the harshest of terrain, the Panaracer Gravel King SK Clincher Tyre features aggressive knobs, a natural rubber compound and a puncture protection breaker that keeps you rolling fast, not rolling flat."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Panaracer also says:
Bring it On! The GravelKing does it all! Low profile tread patterns means this King is quick and comfortable on and off road.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose Excels in all sorts of terrain and conditions; really deep mud is its only limitation.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product Easy tubeless installation, fast-rolling, grippy, tough and durable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product Isn't really anything to dislike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score There's a growing choice of gravel bike tyres and Panaracer has hit out early with a good range. The GravelKing SK has all the right attributes to make it the perfect option.
Overall rating: /10