Gravel tire suggestions (narrow)

Looking to get out on my local rail trail again this year to help with training. I only own a road bike, and the maximum tire size i can fit on there is 700x28.
I was planning to just put gatorskin hardshells on there, because i dont care about performance while training, but then while my finger was hovering over the order button, thought “i dont know anything about gravel” started looking around, got confused, and thought some of you might be able to help me out.

The rail trail I’m on is the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). Trail is primarily crushed limestone, very little mud even when raining.

Last year i used my gp5000’s 700x25, they were fine, comfort wise, i enjoyed being out there for 4-8 hour days. deep sections of gravel they obviously struggle. but its rare to come across those.

The GAP is primarily crushed limestone i believe, Had some issues with noticing slices in the side wall and tread of the tire over 500-800 miles. Large enough to make me concerned the tube was going to flat. This might also be made worse by having to pump up 25 width tires to 100-110 PSI to avoid pinch flatting. Even when its been raining, ive had very few issues with traction, but obviously its better to be prepared with something with more tread, than not, so i thought maybe Gatorskins aren’t my best option, but i’m not sure what i should be looking at, that would hopefully also provide some good protection from slices from the sharper objects i find.

any wisdom would be appreciated

that size the only thing i know of off the top of my head is Panaracer makes their gravel king in a 700x26 or 700x28 version tubed only. I haven’t used it before but the reviews seem to be really good on it. Check it out.

They also make the SK Plus tubed in a 700x28. this tire has more tread on it.

Mike

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I have similar problem like you. I have a road bike ('17 Roubaix) with a max clearance of 32". This is definitely max clearance. I mean, if I encounter mud, I am stopping.

Anyhow, I wanted a gravel tire mainly for training or to get on our limestone trails. I ended up going with the 700x32 Gravelking Tubeless. They work great. They do pick up a lot of little rock and fling them to the downtube, so I covered it with 3M helicopter tape.

Anyhow, like the previous post said, Gravelking 700x28 might be the best choice for you here.

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I’ve used Hutchinson Sector 32s Tubeless in the past. Worked well for road + gravel. I’ve since gone to bigger tires as I’ve started riding more gravel (my Trek Domane can take max 37/35 F/R).

The sectors also come in 28s.

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I should’ve added - run tubeless. Prevents pinch flats, and also flats from any thorns or sharp pointy stones. Bring a tube with you for just-in-case repairs.

Same boat here using a road bike for everything. I’ve used IRC formula pro x-guard in 28mm, run tubeless, for a while now and they are solid. File tread, sidewall reinforcement - they have been very durable. WAY better than gatorskins. And not that slow, even run at 70-80 psi for 160lb rider.

I did some TT splits on them vs GP5000 also tubeless. Gp5000 also included 42 mm aero rims - was worth about 15W total over the IRCs on non aero matched alloy rims. That is a very fair price in watts for the added protection and size of the IRCs. The tires themselves are probably only 2/3 of that difference.

Jenson and eBay have them. IRC even makes a 28mm gravel tire with tread bit doesn’t sound like you need that.

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i like the look of IRC’s stuff. Would there be much purpose of looking into any of their options with tread? Their marbella for instance. I dont need it most of the time. But if was going to run into some mud, or deeper gravel, would it do me much good, or since 28’s are so skinny, does it not matter particularly much, and may as well have something smooth like the Formula pro

The Panaracer Gravel King 28s are awesome all around tires. I run them for everything on my Tarmac SL6 and have no plans of changing anytime soon.

They’re durable enough that I don’t sweat bombing down rough gravel and I’ve raced gravel and ridden plenty of singletrack on them as well. The best part is that they’re really a very supple and quick road tire. They’re not Vittoria Corsas, but I’d just as soon ride my Gravel Kings as Conti GPs any day.

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I am a fair weather rider so hard to say how the formula pros would do in mud… I did notice the marabellas as well and that is a pretty unique tire in the market for that tire width!

Gravel Kings are well regarded but no 28mm tubeless last I checked, else I would have just gotten them. Had good experiences with panaracer Evo A tubeless for thousands of flat free miles and nice grip.

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I’ve been running Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season Tubeless tire and it has fared pretty well on gravel. You won’t be able to get up a super steep loose gravel climb but you can cruise along on pretty well if it isn’t to sketchy.

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So, update…

I went with the gravel king panaracer 28c tires. I just got one to start, to see how it was. Liked it fine, but it was identical to my 25c continental, which was a little annoying. Figured they just ran smaller, different manufactures and all. So i ordered a pair of 32c tires. massive difference between the 28s and 32s, i didn’t think they’d fit at all, but I was thrilled that they went on, they barely fit, but they fit without rubbing anywhere. took them for a spin around the block to make sure under real world forces there was still no rubbing. Success!

The weather’s been pretty brutal so they just sat on the wheel for the past month. Fast forward to this morning. First beautiful day that my schedule’s allowed me to take advantage of.
I popped the wheel on, aaannnndddd now it doesn’t fit…
the ‘barely fit’ margin i had before is apparently the exact amount that that type of rubber stretches while sitting on a wheel. What’s infuriating, is the only place that its rubbing is on ring that connects the front derailleur to the seat tube. if that connection point could just be moved up or down 6 inches, it’d be fine. It still doesn’t rub anywhere else.

Idk.

any creative solutions appreciated. Or tires that that are between panaracer’s 28’s and 32’s, that’d be perfect.

i’m infuriated at the moment. at least i still have the 28 that’s actually closer to a 25. I was really looking forward to being able run a lower pressure on the trail.

at some point i might have to break down and actually buy a real gravel bike…

What pressure are you running? I noticed on some tyres in the past they’d rub on the brake bridge at a certain pressure, and not at a lower pressure. Not that I’d recommend it either way, having seen someone break a collarbone when a small stone jammed between the rear tyre and the frame on a bike with tight clearance…

Gp4000 28mm i think would be exactly the size you’re looking for. They measure out to like 30mm.

Though if it were me…since you’re running tubeless…get a 28mm pair of GP5000TL, run them at like 50-60psi.

IMO the concern about pinch flats is wildly overrated. I’ve (jntentionally) run 28mm tires at 55-65 psi on roads. Bad roads…hit potholes, etc. no pinch flats. In my experience…unless you neglect to air up tires regularly and are running like 20-30psi under what you meant to…you have to REALLY hit something to get a pinch flat. Like a '$&)" me, what what THAT?!" Kind of occurance.

For what it’s worth, last year I ran 28mm gp4000s on a lot of crushed limestone paths at 55psi, and they were perfect. I was 195 lbs at the time. I think dedicated gravel tires are only necessary if the gravel is rough enough to have rocks big enough to cut a sidewall, or comfort is so bad because of gravel makeup you need pressure below 50-60 psi to smooth out the roughness.

Crushed limestone really is awfully close to pavement. I run about 10psi less than what I would on the road, and it seems to cancel out the extra buzz you would normally feel on a limestone path.

I’m also searching for a narrow gravel tire for my road bike. I guess the limiting factor will be the ultegra 6800 rim brake. Do you have rim or disc brakes?

I think 28 could be too big for me (?). So I was looking at the

  • Panaracer GravelKing SK 26-622 (favorite if it can fit…don’t know what the SK version adds to size…but looks best as gravel tire)
  • Panaracer GravelKing 26-622
  • or Challeng Strada Race 25-622

Would be happy to hear if anyone used these (or other gravel tires) with (ultegra) rim brakes?