Is a MTB tire the fastest and best tire for Gravel racing?

Damn, I may need to look into these.

Take a look at this article from Silca. I think it’s applicable to this discussion. Some tires test relatively much better on the drum than on real road surfaces. Real world impedance becomes a big part of overall rolling resistance, and that’s where suppleness comes in. Purely anecdotally, I feel that Contis are not supple, and I’ve always felt that they test better on BRR than they perform in real life. I think they know how to make a tire that tests fast on a drum. I’m guessing a number of pro teams agree with me. Drum tests are only part of the story, and I take my S-Works tires over my Conti tires in race situations.

Part 4B: Rolling Resistance and Impedance – SILCA


Super interesting discussion
A tyre I’d like to throw in is Challenge Getaway PRO HTLR
I’m running it f/r in 45c and on 25IW rims it stretches to 48
So far great experiences in both chunky alpine gravel and on smooth paved sections
I’m running it with Challenge sealant and no insert, but both f/r have held up super well so far
Supple, roll fast and has a great score on BRR

I also wonder why he didn’t try the 47 Pathfinder Pro. I’ve thought of trying this tire as a “compromise” between my 38mm Pathfinders and my 2.2 Race Kings. As durable as my 38s are it seems that it would be a perfect tire for Big Sugar. Anyone have any experience with the 47s they’d like to share?

I raced the Pathfinder 47s at a couple races in the flint hills this year, they seemed like a good compromise between speed and toughness. I had a couple punctures in one of the races, but never noticed until the race was over thanks to orange seal. My issue with the 47 pathfinder is that they literally weighed the same if not a few grams heavier than 2.2 contis when I swapped them out. Currently trying out the 45 mm conti terra speeds and I have been really happy with those tires so far for mixed gravel/road riding/tame singletrack.


I was looking for a new front tire to handle the trails around here (ex-swamp land, packed, and slippery, with sand pits too) Found a skin wall Michelin tire with smaller nobs and was told ‘reviewers hate that tire. No one bought many of them so we stopped carrying it’. It was cheap and looked great so I bought it, and it was the best tire for riding our crap trails. Sad that so many people trusted ‘reviewers’, and didn’t try them. I don’t know how it would have worked on the rear, but the stock Specialized front tire was pushing out on corners, slipping on the moist mess, and the Michelin just seemed to grab a lot better. HUGE difference.

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Second hand experience from my brother. Tire is fine but in certain situations like loose downhills it lacks grip.

These seems to be the fastest tires:

  1. RH Extra-light Slick 44mm

  1. Shwalbe GS Race

  1. Conti Terra

  1. Conti Race Kings

  1. Michelin Gravel Power

This is a good comp for the Rene Herse. Harder to install but just as fast with better grip and significantly better puncture protection IME. I use them as my road tires.

I’ve used a few different Michelin MTB tires and they wouldn’t be in the running if I had to pick fastest gravel tires, how’d that one end up on your list?

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Yeah, of those five you came to, two of them are non-starters for me, as the RH is just not worth the price nor fragility. And Michelin is just a no go at this point… I can’t really put a reason to it, but they’ve just never broken through with me, and there are more options than you could ever hope to get through. I put them up there with IRC, fairly or not…

The Schwalbe I’d be fine with, but if I’m okay with that slick of a center, I’m probably running a full slick. (such as the Strada Bianca in 40mm). I’ve never found the full “slick w/ shoulder knobs” to be as successful on the dirt as they look on paper.
So that leaves the two Conti’s… Both of which I have on bikes. The Terra Speed has been my go to gravel tire for two years, and the 45mm size is great, and fits in most gravel bikes. The Race King feels really similar on comparable surfaces. Both offer not a ton of traction on super technical stuff, but plenty to get up out of the saddle on steep pitches, and predictable cornering even on pretty loose stuff.

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The Terra Speed is actually the only tire I’ve ever sliced a sidewall to where it was unrepairable. They also don’t last very long whatsoever. They are fast though.

I’ve had great experience with RH tires (only ever ran the standard casing). My only gripe with RH is the amount of sealant they take. They slurp up that sealant faster than Daniel Plainview slurps up oil in There Will Be Blood.

I’ve never ran the SB. I’ve always read the horror stories of mounting them. Maybe I’ll give them a go this next season and see what happens.


We have been having discussions about this in another thread.

I would like for your considerations the Pirelli Cinturato H - it appears a lot of the fast midwest guys run these tires as all year tires.

They are another example of BRR not giving them full justice and a lot of users. Brown sidewalls just must be faster???

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Good suggestion. Wonder if it is as supple as the RH.

One of the few > 45mm

It’s interesting that they have a 50mm tire. But just on paper seems very heavy. Probably not as supple.

I honestly didn’t even know they were offering a tire that size

I’ve ran this tire. It is pretty fast, but not very supple. Not my cup o’ tea.

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I’ve gathered none of these tests are great. For example,
-BRR uses diamond plate, there’s some interaction between knobs and the bumps that will favor some tread patterns over others. You can seen this if you start looking at various similar tires. It’s unlikely these would matter off road - for example the similar Schwalbe gravel tires are all over the place.
-Schwalbe’s smooth roller, which is used in a lot of tests, gets radically different results from the BRR and Tour jigs. I’d assume surface (above) matters, but also spring rate/dampening, as Schwalbe’s is.
-Tour’s test uses a trailer type setup, which should give a more real-world result but allows more fudge in the results. It does allow multi-surface testing.
-Exact tire size matters - for example in Rene Herse’s lineup, the some of the bigger tires are way faster than the smaller tire due to versioning (scalability) of the sizing. There’s a base construction and adjustments on the build for various sizes.
-Tire diameter - Looking at the roller tests, I’d pressure overall tire diameter can mess with the result in a a few ways.

I think Tour probably gets the best result, Schwalbe gets the worst, and BRR obviously has the most coverage. Tour and BRR #s usually agree.


I’d look at the RH Hatcher Pass (700cx48) too.

Bigger than 45 for gravel is still underdeveloped but getting better. Most of the tires are slow and heavier than necessary, as I’m sure you know.

I think the Terreno Dry is a better option than the Michelin, it comes in 45/47/50/54 and the bigger sizes seem to roll better than the BRR test of the 33 would indicate. The 54 on my MTB rolls a little better than the 2.1" Thunder Burt I was using before.

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Have you run the Strava Bianca on gravel? I had them and loved how they felt and rode but would not agree with good puncture resistance - they’re rather fragile I felt.

How true to size do the larger terreno’s run? I had a the 33 on my ride bike with 21ID and it ballooned to 35.5.

Yes, just riding, not any racing with them. I have about 4k miles between two sets and have not had any punctures mostly road, some light gravel. RH Snoqualmie Pass I had 2-3 punctures in the same mileage. Both tubeless.

The 54 seems true to size, I run it on 24ID rim at @ 22f-29r psi and it is 54f-55r mm wide at that pressure.

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