Reviews

The Best Gravel Bike Tires (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Make your ride that much smoother with these top-rated gravel bike tires

Entering our 7th season of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and with millions of YouTube and Facebook followers, The Drive is a leading authority of all things automotive.

The Drive on NBC The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON January 13, 2021

For die-hard bike racers, road bikes conquer the pavement, and for backcountry biking, mountain bikes are the king of the hill. For most of us, though, we are somewhere in between. Maybe you’ve got a mountain bike that’s a bit too rough for smooth city streets, or maybe you’re seriously interested in trekking bikes. Whatever the case may be, gravel bike tires present the perfect compromise between trail and asphalt tires to scratch that itch we all seem to have. Want to commute with your bike over sidewalks and walking trails? The perfect set of gravel tires are just waiting for you to call their name. Check them out, give them a try, and you may just be surprised at what you find. The improved traction alone is enough to make them a worthy investment for any serious bike rider. It makes your ride safer and altogether more enjoyable — so long as you find the right ones. To help you pick out the best gravel bike tires, we’ve listed the top options along with some tips and tricks on identifying the right set for your ride.

Best Overall
Continental Contact Plus
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Offering a distinct tread and an effective wiring system, these tires are a quality choice overall. Made of sturdy material, they are built to last.

Pros
Pros
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Solid black provides a sleek look
  • Reflex wire is sturdy and reliable
Cons
Cons
  • Puncture protection only works well on gravel roads
  • Only available between 24 and 28 inches
Best Overall
Continental Contact Plus
Best Value
Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Affordably priced and available in multiple sizes, these tires are constructed out of high-grade, dense rubber material.

Pros
Pros
  • Strong tires that don’t take on damage easily
  • Includes strong steel beading
  • Comes in several sizes
Cons
Cons
  • Grooves can get small pebbles stuck
  • Tread is relatively basic in design
  • Flat-resistance wears down with time
Best Value
Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire
Honorable Mention
Panaracer GravelKing Folding Tire
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Coming in a compact format, these folding tires are reinforced with Kevlar for added strength. They feature a sidewall for added durability.

Pros
Pros
  • Lightweight and easy to install
  • Can handle pressures between 55 and 75 pounds per square inch
  • Available in many sizes
Cons
Cons
  • Lacks complete puncture resistance
  • Incurs damage due to limited tread
  • Can be hard to put on rims
Honorable Mention
Panaracer GravelKing Folding Tire
Gravel Bike Tires Close Up
Amazon

Why Trust Us


All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Benefits of Gravel Bike Tires

  • Enable you to ride on multiple surfaces. The hybrid nature of gravel bike tires makes them inherently versatile. You can use them for a lot of different sports and purposes and ride them on gravel, mountain trails, and concrete, thanks to the unique design. 
  • Work in all sorts of weather. Gravel bike tires are some of the most versatile options on the market. The tread balanced with the tires’ surface area makes these safe options regardless of the weather conditions. 
  • Slow natural wear and tear. When you use a mountain bike tire on pavement, the tread will wear down more quickly. Conversely, a road bike tire will get punctured on a trail quickly. Gravel bike tires wear down more slowly than other tires used on multiple terrains. 
  • Come in multiple styles. Since gravel bike tires refer to the blend of road and mountain designs, you can get these tires in all different sizes and types. This lends riders the opportunity to customize their bike to maximize function and durability.

Types of Gravel Bike Tires

Road-Style Gravel Tires

When it comes to any kind of crossover, like with gravel tires, the design will often favor a certain style. Gravel tires are essentially a mix of the features on both a road and a mountain bike tire. This type of gravel tire has less of a groove. It is less likely to get caught up in pebbles. It lets you move more smoothly since there is limited friction between the tire and the ground. These are suited for those who deal mostly with pavement and only hit the trails sometimes. 

Mountain-Style Gravel Tires

This type of tire is ideal for those who focus mainly on trail riding. The difference is noticeable through the extra tread. Though the hybrid nature of gravel tires makes them less likely to have deep grooves, mountain-style tires have a much more noticeable tread than other types. You can get this type of tire in any size. Keep in mind that the nature of these tires is to wear down more quickly when used on pavement, and the transition to concrete can be difficult. 

Hybrid Tires

Tires of this sort are those evenly balanced between the virtues or road and mountain bikes. It is usually marked by a low tread that is consistent across the tire. It provides a reasonable level of friction when used on pavement without slowing down. The evenness of the tread limits the wear and tear. When used on trails, the grooves offer a good grip on the ground including roots and muddy terrain. 

Top Brands

Continental

With roots in Germany, this business focuses on outdoor sporting equipment with a wide range of supplies. It has grown into a widely known name in the cycling industry. A leading offering is the Continental Mountain Bike ProTection Tire

Schwalbe

A part of the company Ralf Bohle GmbH, this German business is a dedicated tire supplier that focuses on smaller-scale parts. It is a leading name in bicycle and wheelchair tires. One of its top offerings is the Schwalbe Big Ben Raceguard Wired Tire.

Bell

Based out of the United States, this business was founded by Sam Waze in 1922. It is a major supplier of vehicle supplies ranging from glass products to air conditioners and tires. Among the top supplies is the Bell Comfort Cruiser Bike Tires with Flat Defense

Gravel Bike Tire Pricing

  • Under $30: Tires in this range tend to favor either mountain or road designs. Coming as a single, the tires are usually quite puncture-resistant.
  • $30 and up: In this price range, the tire is more likely to be a true hybrid, where it evenly balances both road and mountain benefits. This price represents a single tire.

Key Features

Tread 

Any tire, regardless of the terrain it functions on, requires a certain level of tread. For gravel bike tires, the demand is relatively unique. It requires a precise balance between the deep grooves of a mountain bike tire and the relative smoothness of a road bike tire. Whichever the design favors indicates the type. This feature is what offers balance and traction while you are riding. 

Pressure Threshold

This is another feature that speaks to the type of terrain for which the tire is suited. Road bikes tend to have a lower pressure to expand the surface area that reaches the ground. Mountain bike tires are quite the opposite. For this reason, gravel bike tires need to be able to accommodate a wide range of pressures. This enables you to select the correct amount of force from the tires based on the surface you are on. 

Beading

When the tire is inflated, this is the component that holds to the rim. Resultantly, it is pretty essential to the overall function. Especially if you consider how much gravel bike tires transition between terrain, the bead takes on a lot of impact. You want something that’s made out of a hardy metal; something that won’t warp or break. 

Safeguards

Finally, a tire is useless if it’s flat, regardless of the style of tire. By choosing a tire that is protected by a layer of material, you can avoid punctures. Opt for something resistant to breakage when you’re making your pick. It’s all the more important when you factor in the added exposure to risk due to the tires going over both rough terrain and pavement. 

Other Considerations

  • Size. Whenever you’re making a tire pick, the first thing to consider is compatibility. Bikes that can handle both road and off-road riding come in all sorts of styles and sizes. Accordingly, check what kind of tire your bike will fit beforehand. Consult the specs of the tires before you pull the trigger. 
  • Material. Next, you will want to stay aware of the different types of materials used in construction. For one, is the rubber synthetic or artificial? Is it combined with a different textile? Material denseness directly relates to the speed of wear and tear. Opting for something higher in quality will promote a longer shelf-life. 
  • Durability. The ability to last is a matter of more than the material. It is a reflection of the kind of ground you plan to cover. Think about what kind of ground you cover more often. Is it more off-roading in rough weather or do you spend more time commuting? Depending on the utility, you will want something with more (or less) tread. Road-favoring bikes will need less tread than others. 
  • Maintenance. Think about how much upkeep it is going to require. There are different issues you could face. The less prominent the tread, the more likely you will puncture it and need a patch (and a tire pump). The deeper the tread, the more vulnerable it is to getting caked with mud and requiring frequent cleanings. Consider which is easiest when making your decision.

Best Gravel Bike Tires Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Continental Contact Plus

Time to take the road less traveled on the way to work. With a pair of Continental Contact Plus tires, this morning’s neighborhood-trail commute is a total breeze. This city and trekking tire is available in 24-, 26-, 27-, and 28-inch diameters and were designed with gravel tracks in mind. With a highly-reflective sidewall for easy visibility and EXTRA Puncture Belt protection, safety is a top priority in this 180-TPI design. Thanks to Continental’s SafetyPlus Breaker construction, this tire features high elasticity, cut resistance, and puncture resistance to maximize durability. Additionally, this wire-beaded e50 tire is rated for use with electric bikes to at least 30 mph (50 km/h). For the best combination of price and performance, the Continental Contact Plus is our tire of choice.


Keep in mind that, while these tires perform consistently, the puncture protection is at its most effective when used on trails. That said, the tires move smoothly on concrete and asphalt.

Best Value
Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire

Schwinn is a common sight on countless American streets and trails, and the Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire is no stranger to these paths either. This affordable tire was designed with trick bikes in mind, but it easily adapts to gravel trails and hybrid bikes for a durable, reliable tire. Thanks for the Kevlar bead, this tire effectively combines high strength and longevity with a lighter weight than steel-beaded tires. While only available for 28-inch bikes, the combination road and trail tread perform well in most situations thanks to its aggressive, water-channeling design. Of course, a flat-resistant tire is a major bonus, and this option fails to disappoint. In the end, the Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire easily provides the best bang for the buck.


Though well-priced these bikes don’t have as strong of a tread as some other models do. As a result, small pebbles common to trails can get stuck in the divots. 

Best Premium
Serfas Drifter

Looking for the perfect balance between high traction and low rolling resistance? The Serfas Drifter is it. Available in 26-inch, 27.5-inch, 28-inch, and 29-inch models, this lightweight design shines best when mated with mountain, and hybrid comfort bikes. This wire-beaded tire’s Dual Density Tread excels at providing better feel and durability thanks to its durable “hard” rubber interior and its softer, grippier exterior, and its integrated Flat Protection System utilizes a thin ballistic nylon weave sandwiched between the tire’s casing and tread for ultimate performance and protection. The inverted tread effectively decreases rolling resistance for a quieter, smoother ride, and the pressures range of 45 to 65 PSI makes the Serfas Drifter an adaptable option for all kinds of trail road conditions.


It is worth noting that, while these tires are effective when they fit, the size only goes to 28 inches. Be sure that your bike is compatible before making your selection.

Best For Trails
Schwalbe Marathon PlusTour

For those spending more time off the road than on it, the Schwalbe Marathon PlusTour is an excellent tire option for those wanting performance without chunky mountain bike-tire drag. This wire-beaded tire may be had in 26-inch, 28-inch, and 29-inch diameters. The heavy-duty nylon trekking construction integrates a Smart Guard layer for puncture protection, an aggressive tread, and a 30 PSI tire pressure minimum for an excellent showing on any rough city trail. Maxing out at 70 PSI, this tire also features a reflective sidewall and excellent shock absorption for a well-mannered experience on the pavement. Though somewhat heavy, this tough tire can handle just about anything, and the perfect everyday commuter ought to have a pair of Schwalbe Marathon PlusTour tires for a worry-free ride.


Despite the heavy-duty performance, these are not entirely for off-roading. They are designed to be multi-functional and are made for trails, roads, and gravel alike.

Best For Pavement
Kenda K838

Some bikers rarely venture off the pavement, but with the Kenda K838, the occasional off-road adventure will be an almost forgettable experience. Designed for both hybrid road and trail bikes as well as road-tamed mountain bikes, this tire is available in a standard 26-inch size. Thanks to Kenda’s motorcycle background, this design evokes a spirit of gas-powered speed and features a stylish combination of both traction and low rolling resistance. This design promotes a riding experience that is quieter, smoother, and, some say, faster when compared to most gravel-friendly designs. While not flat-resistant, they include grooves designed to quickly channel water away from the tire’s center to minimize water-related slippage. Durable and adaptable, the Kenda K838 is a great fit for gravel-averse city riders.


Even though these tires offer a smooth experience on both trails and pavement, this does result in premature wear and tear. Stick to one type of terrain to limit these impacts.

Honorable Mention
 Gravel King SK 700 Folding Tire

If you are looking for a tire that’s easy to ride on and won’t wear down in rough conditions, try the Gravel King SK 700 Folding Tire. It comes as a single and is available in sizes ranging from 32C to 43C. Each tire is made using high-grade materials that incorporate a Kevlar bead. This folding component adds to the overall sturdiness of the tire. It prevents warping, even when you hit bumps on the way. The black tire features a prominent sidewall. Though the tires are quite lightweight, they are capable of pressures between 30 and 95 pounds per square inch. Thanks to the tread design, they are ideal for gravel roads. Avoiding wear down and without dips in the tread to take on pebbles, these are quality tires. 


It warrants a note that, though these tires are excellent for gravel roads, they are poorly suited toward other terrains. Keep to off-roading and they will give a much better riding experience.

Honorable Mention
WTB Nano Competition Tires

Do you spend a lot of time on the trails? If so, you know the importance of a tire that lasts. The WTB Nano Competition Tires are a solid option when gravel is the primary terrain. These 700 x 40C tires are extremely sturdy. They are good at working on all types of off-road materials. This is thanks to the unique tread. The tubeless tires are covered in thick rubber grooves, designed to maximize the force of friction in select places. What results is a tire that moves quickly, though doesn’t lead to slips. The ability to grip the ground is paramount when riding on trails. That’s what makes these tires so reliable. Working in both wet and dry weather, these tires are a good choice for serious riders. 


While the tires are durable, they are heavier as a result. Though only a couple hundred grams more, it can result in a bit more drag when you move.

Honorable Mention
Continental GatorSkin Bike Tires

The Continental GatorSkin Bike Tires are a good choice for those seeking out quality. These folding tires are made out of thick rubber. It is lightweight without compromising sturdiness. By incorporating sidewalls, the tires get an extra level of protection for the tires (and the rider). The tires come as a set of two boxed folded tires. Easy to set into place, the lightness of the rubber goes on easily. These tires come in a range of sizes, from 23 to 28 inches. All of the options incorporate multiple layers of textiles. Together, it keeps you comfortable while you ride. It absorbs shock well, despite going over gravel constantly. The tires are treated uniquely, giving them a particular edge when going on rough roads. 


Keep in mind that, while these tires are great for experienced riders, the smoothness of the ride can be tricky to handle for those just starting out. Practice on the tires before a long excursion. 

Honorable Mention
Bell Flat Defense Hybrid Gravel Tires

Depending on the kind of terrain you travel on, you will need a set of tires that are diverse. The Bell Flat Defense Hybrid Gravel Tires are a good choice for those riding on gravel and pavement alike. The tires are crafted to be highly durable through the material quality and general construct. By incorporating an additional layer on the interior of the tire, it adds a lot more resistance to punctures. This effect applies to travel both on pavement and asphalt. The tires come in two sizes, representing the most common bikes for hybrid travel. Each one features a carbon-based steel beading. This part further enforces the strength and makes the tires last longer. 


It’s worth noting that, despite the high functionality, these tires have two sizes: 38C and 40C. The bike needs to fit tires within that range to provide the desired effects. 

Honorable Mention
Panaracer GravelKing Folding Tire

Looking for something that’s made specifically for riding on gravel roads? Panaracer GravelKing Folding Tires are a great option. The tire comes as a standalone that’s available in multiple sizes. It is made specifically to resist damage from gravel. The tread design makes it possible to travel on other terrains, though the tires last longer on rougher areas. Weighing in at a little over 300 grams, it is lightweight and minimizes drag overall. Capable of holding onto up to 75 pounds per square inch, you can deflate it to 55 pounds per square inch if changing terrain. The sleek design allows it to fit seamlessly into any bike’s aesthetic. Fortified with Kevlar in the beading, this powerful tire is crafted to withstand the test of time. 


It’s worth noting that, though the tires can go on the concrete, the transition between the two surfaces can be tricky for some. If you stick to a single terrain, you can avoid this issue.

Tips

  • Consistently practice proper maintenance by keeping the tires clean and inflated.
  • Store the bike indoors whenever possible to prevent environmental damage. 
  • Keep the tires at the proper pressure for the terrain you’re on since most have a pressure range they can handle. 
  • As with any piece of bike gear, be sure that the tires fit with your bicycle before making your pick.
  • Be careful of the tires when transitioning terrain. It is where a lot of damage to tires occurs. 
  • Limit wear and tear by keeping the tires inflated and riding safely. 
  • Replace a worn-down tire when needed. Tires replaced together tend to have more even wear-down over time. 

FAQs

Q. What size are gravel bike tires?

Usually, gravel tires are four centimeters across. However, you can find tires ranging between 3.5 centimeters and 4.5 centimeters. 

Q. How long do gravel bike tires last?

The length for which gravel bike tires last will depend largely on how often they are used and the style of the rider. In most cases, you can get around 3,500 miles of usage.

Q. How can I choose good gravel for a bike tire?

First, find something that fits your bike. Choose something that works on multiple surfaces, with a tread that favors the type of terrain you are most likely to encounter. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re familiar with the nuances of gravel bike tires, you can pick your favorite. It might be the Continental Contact Plus or the value of the Schwinn Cruiser Bike Replacement Tire. There’s a setup for everyone. 

Have a story about gravel tires? Hit us up in the comments below. Happy riding!