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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a few gravel events coming up and I've been researching and racking my brain for weeks trying to figure out what tires to run for them, definitely suffering from analysis paralysis. I have a very meager power output so I am putting an emphasis on fast rolling. My bike is a cutthroat so I can fit pretty much any size of tire. The first event is more than 50% gravel with quite a few super chunk sections (like between a grade 4 and 5 on cyclingtips.com's gravel scale) with embedded rock under the surface and often half-brick sized rocks sitting in the road. Obviously a course like this would prioritize a treadier, high volume tire. I have pre-ridden last years course with 38mm gravel king slicks and while I survived without any punctures, it was a very bumpy and harsh ride and took my full attention to pick a safe line. I think I would ideally want something around 48-50mm for this stuff but there aren't many tires in this size zone. It doesn't help that there are so many conflicting reviews of gravel tires.

The next event is about 75% gravel but much smoother overall. It does have one section of pretty rough stuff but I think I would be ok sacrificing some volume/ruggedness for extra speed everywhere else. Something like the specialized pathfinder pro is pretty intriguing to me for this route.

I would love to be able to do these both with the same tire but I'm wondering how much I'd be leaving on the table.

I only have experience with two gravel tires so far; the previously mentioned 38mm GK slicks and the 2.2 terravail sparwoods that came on my bike. These tires are pretty much polar opposites from each other, one light, fast, and flimsy, the other slow, burly, and bomproof with a weight to match.

Tires I've been considering:
conti raceking protection
vittoria terreno (in the 2.1 size which seems really hard to find right now)
gravel kings
specialized pathfinder pro
maxxis ramblers

I'm sure there are others that are well worth considering too.
 

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For bigger volume tires I am a big fan of the Conti Race King Protection. These tires are FAST, faster than most gravel tires and really fly on pavement for a knobby tire (check out Bicycle Rolling Resistance | Rolling Resistance Tests to confirm this). The only downside is they are on the heavy side due to all the puncture protection. I actually have the Race King Shieldwall 29 x 2.0 tires on my Warbird right now. They are not as fast as the Protection, but they are still very fast. And the puncture protection is amazing. On my first ride with them I got a nail stuck in the tread that was unable to puncture through the casing. The best thing is they were only $35 per tire.
 

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For the last few months I’ve had a 2.2 race king protection on the back and 2.25 nobby nic SpdGrp on the front. I did the 350 mile Oregon trail grinder with this set up and thought it was a perfect mix of comfort, rolling resistance, and traction. The speedking is fast, I’ll give it that. I wouldn’t use it as a front tire. Nobby nic up front for going fast downhill as it’s way more predictable and rolls good. 20 psi front 22 rear.
The other bike has tried and true 700x45 maxxis ramblers. The g-ones were fast but wear out quick. There’s too much vertical here to like them. Maybe if I lived in the Midwest.
 

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For bigger volume tires I am a big fan of the Conti Race King Protection. These tires are FAST, faster than most gravel tires and really fly on pavement for a knobby tire (check out Bicycle Rolling Resistance | Rolling Resistance Tests to confirm this). The only downside is they are on the heavy side due to all the puncture protection. I actually have the Race King Shieldwall 29 x 2.0 tires on my Warbird right now. They are not as fast as the Protection, but they are still very fast. And the puncture protection is amazing. On my first ride with them I got a nail stuck in the tread that was unable to puncture through the casing. The best thing is they were only $35 per tire.
Those were good and we wore a set about bare but not in same league as Rene Hearse knobby in 55 and 48 mm. Donnelley MSOs are also fast bigger tires but heavy. Having tried a few this family remains among those #1 fans of that Hearse tire with different names for each size. The Rene Hearse knobby tires don't pack up like RaceKings or MSOs. They aren't sticky rubber like some but sure are amazing for the total of all they can do and very predictable in loose gravel.

Very different animals than the bigger knobby tires, but I'm pleasantly surprised with Trek's (Bontrager) GR1 for a 40 mm fast type tire. They seem to have some got your back with little bigger edge knobs than some of the fast designs and a supple predictable casing and for less than a Rene Hearse tire.

Remember the Contis have changed over time. If you got them super cheap it could have been the older design with less space between tread blocks. I'm no way putting them down as much as one set of those Hearse knobby tires set of immediately getting them on another of our bikes vs want any other bigger gravel type or fast bigger 700c tires. The Fleecer and Oracle model Hearse tires just do not feel slow on packed and pavement like others that big and those others packed with mud faster and were not as predicable.
 

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Remember the Contis have changed over time. If you got them super cheap it could have been the older design with less space between tread blocks. I'm no way putting them down as much as one set of those Hearse knobby tires set of immediately getting them on another of our bikes vs want any other bigger gravel type or fast bigger 700c tires. The Fleecer and Oracle model Hearse tires just do not feel slow on packed and pavement like others that big and those others packed with mud faster and were not as predicable.
The Shieldwall Racekings are new for 2021. They are cheaper because they are made in China and not handmade in Germany.

A lot of people rave about Rene Herse tires. However even the toughest casing has poor puncture protection so I'm not really interested. I've read everything Jan has to say about not needing lots of puncture protection on large volume tires, unfortunately my experience does not match his opinions. BRR certainly was not very impressed with their tires.
 

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The Shieldwall Racekings are new for 2021. They are cheaper because they are made in China and not handmade in Germany.

A lot of people rave about Rene Herse tires. However even the toughest casing has poor puncture protection so I'm not really interested. I've read everything Jan has to say about not needing lots of puncture protection on large volume tires, unfortunately my experience does not match his opinions. BRR certainly was not very impressed with their tires.
I definitely wouldn't run their extra light casing, but I'm planning to give the Endurance casing Oracle Ridge tires a go at some point. I ran the Soma supple vitesse for a minute, same casing as the extra light Rene herse, and those were kinda sketchy.
 

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If you can still find the 29x2.1 thunder burts were on sale for a little under $30. So far it's been as good as the GravelKing SK+ in 43mm that came with the bike. I've underbiked it a little & it did solid in the rutted & rocky trails near me. My friend has the RH Fleecer Ridges(29x2.2) in the Endurance casing & he's had no problem with them on 80+ mile bikepacking trip on his gravel bike. He like now quiet & how well they do on the trail & road.
 

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I've been running the Ikon 2.2's on my Cutty, and they are pretty nice on the loose sections I come across, and at 20 psi they have pretty low rolling resistance. I just bought some Kenda Alluvium Pro's in 700x45 thinking the smaller tread, narrower size and lighter weight might offer some help in the speed department as well.
 

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The Shieldwall Racekings are new for 2021. They are cheaper because they are made in China and not handmade in Germany.

A lot of people rave about Rene Herse tires. However even the toughest casing has poor puncture protection so I'm not really interested. I've read everything Jan has to say about not needing lots of puncture protection on large volume tires, unfortunately my experience does not match his opinions. BRR certainly was not very impressed with their tires.
In a circle of some who have the "endurance" and "endurance plus" casings I don't yet see that not very tough reputation. Digging into some complaints I find some to be people comparing earlier light and smaller size purchases against their newer bikes with setups more appropriate for the riding where they failed.

At this point I've got enough single track, commuting, and less than ideal gravel riding on the Fleecer (55 mm) and Oracle (48 mm) endurance casing against others to be confident and keep wondering that reputation - especially the way I recently re-experienced how some scenarios just give most tires a puncture.

I do confess the RaceKings we wore out did not have a flat in their life span.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I got the RaceKings installed last night. They saved me about 350g per set over those boat anchor teravail sparwoods. My first impression just rolling around the neighborhood is that they do seem a little faster. I'll know more when I can get out for a real ride.
 
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