Optimal Tire Capacity for Gravel?

So a little back story. Current riding a Canyon Grizl 2x and really enjoy it. For tires, Ive ridden the Maxxis Rambler 45c and GravelKing SK 43c.

In the near future I would like to sell the Grizl and build a one quiver bike, like for example the Open UP.

My only concern/thought is comparing the tire width capacities. Earlier in the gravel days there was a push to get wider and wider. Ive found that I may prefer to settle on something around the 38/42c tire size in 700c.

If I got with a frame that restricts me to 40c (ive ridden an open up with 43c GK SKs with no problem) am I missing out on anything for the future? Most of my riding is more gravel race focused, some chunky/sharp gravel on the weekends. Open UP? Open WIDE? Or something completely different??

Thank you!

First, if you haven’t already, be sure the geometry works for you. The Grizl and U.P. have some pretty significant differences and the U.P. is much more race bike.

I personally prefer wider tires on my gravel bikes, but I’m also in it for the experience and not for podiums, so I prefer comfort over speed. A narrower tire is going to be faster, but lose some of the cushioning. If you combine the two (more aggressive geometry and narrower tires), you’re going to be much more of a race fit on the Open. If that’s your goal, go for it!

I think the question you need to ask yourself is “do my current tires fit my riding needs / goals?” That question also needs to be matched with any potential events / rides you may want to do in the future.

It sounds like what you have is well suited to your riding…but if you think you may want to venture into more technical / single track-ish type of riding, then you may need to adjust and have the capability for wider tires.

ETA - there is no “optimal” tire capacity for gravel. There is optimal for your riding conditions, but because gravel riding crosses such a huge spectrum of conditions, there is no single “optimal” choice.


Exactly this. Even if my local gravel doesn’t demand it I wouldn’t get a bike with less than 45mm or so of clearance. There are so many great options out there and you never know when you might get the urge to enter the Unbound lottery (or something similar that wants bigger rubber).


I certainly see that perspective…some folks say to just go with 650b when you really need wider tires.

I don’t foresee bike packing or mountain biking single track in the future…

Can you recommend a good tool to compare geometry of different frames?

I don’t think so…but I don’t know what your plans are.

I can only speak from my POV…and I’ve raced numerous gravel races and have been competitive on both 32’s, 38’s and 45’s, they all work, the larger tires likely surrender some speed and aerodynamics on fast sections, but make up for it in the rough sections with their volume. In my region most gravel tends to be friendly, so I find that a 35-38 around 40 psi is ideal. But, I certainly have no issues running my Specialized Roubaix Pro’s on most gravel. I also tend to think people can over-think tire selection.

FWIW, I took GravelKing 43’s (measured 45mm) off my bike because they are heavy, and will size down to a 35 or 38.

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Where are you located? 40c is fine for most stuff; 43-50mm is only advantageous if you’re on soft soil (sand) or non-groomed bumpy trails (true trails in the woods).

Why can’t the Grizl be the everything bike? Maybe you just want something else - thats fine, but there’s nothing the Open is going to do radically better. The Open will let you put the bars a bit lower, but aside from that, they’re pretty close.

I ride a lot out in central Tennessee. Some gravel is near perfect (sort of like a road) and sometimes (but less common) you’ll get a washed out road or sharp gravel.

I certainly want to do something like unbound in the future but again would likely run 40s/43s in a more endurance casing.

Might just be the n+1 effect…more like the n=1 haha.

Just slap some road bike tires on Grizl - you’d need them for the new setup anyway.

The biggest difference here is that the Grizl uses a longer top tube, shorter stem to push the front tire out a bit (to clear your feet with a big tire). The biggest impact would be that you’d be an inch further back when you’re drafting someone.

I don’t think the Open would be any more aero. I don’t think it’d take taller gearing either.

Anyway… the Open Wide would be more of the same. I don’t think you’re going to find a bike that’ll take a 43c+ tire (which you probably want for Unbound) that’s going to be radically different than the Grizl. The Grizl is going to ride better and is built better than the Open.

Go to their websites. I did this morning and both Canyon and Open show their geo tables. Tl;dr - the Open is more aggressive, more of a racing position, with tighter geometry that will feel faster, but also more jittery. Think of it as the difference between a racing road bike and an endurance road bike…or an XC vs Enduro mtb.

I recommend using 99 Spokes to compare geometry differences.