Review: Panaracer Gravelking SK 35mm and 40mm Tires

Panaracer Gravelking SK's in 700c x 40mm - before the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200.
Panaracer Gravelking SK’s in 700c x 40mm – before the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200.

“Formed in 1953, Panaracer began manufacturing rubber products for a variety of commercial and consumer applications. In 1978 we began to exclusively manufacture bicycle tires so we could carefully focus on producing the finest tires available today. Without a doubt, Panaracer is the last Japanese manufacturer still producing bicycle tires in Japan. We feel that our domestic production allows us to maintain our quality control at the highest levels.”

Panaracer has made their mark in the MTB world, with models such as the Smoke and the Dart. In more recent years, they responded to the growth of the gravel cycling market, producing tyres such as the Comet (we reviewed this tyre on behalf of our friends at BikeRumor.com) and the Gravelking.

PanaracerGravelkingSKReview2016-1

The Gravel King is available in two distinct flavors:

  • Gravel King – The regular file-tread version, available in 700c x 23mm to 700c x 32mm – mostly suited to pavement and some of the nicer gravel roads around the world.
  • Gravel King SK – Featuring a more aggressive tread and wider casing for the demands of true gravel cycling. This model also happens to be tubeless ready and is available in 700c x 32mm, 700c x 35mm and 700c x 40mm widths. Featuring Panaracer’s ZSG Natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker and AX-⍺ special low rolling resistance casing make the “Gravelking a go-anywhere tire.”

A “go-anywhere tire” is a pretty bold claim to make; naturally, we had to put those claims to the test.

Panaracer Gravelking SK in 700c x 40mm.
Panaracer Gravelking SK in 700c x 40mm.

Panaracer USA were kind enough to send along two sets of the Gravelking SK for test – the 700c x 35mm and 700c x 40mm versions.

Weight

  • The sample 700c x 35mm Gravelking SK tyres weighed 382 and 384 respectively, just a tad over their advertised weight.
  • The sample 700c x 40mm Gravelking SK tyres weighed 496 and 504 grams respectively, again a small amount over their advertised weights.

Mounting the Panaracer Gravelking SK

The 700c x 35mm and 700c x 40mm versions of the Graveking SK are very easy to mount. The best way to demonstrate the ease at which this process happened is to link to the video review (below) of the Topeak Joe Blow Booster Pump I reviewed earlier. The link below will jump directly to the spot where I inflate the Gravelking.

As always, dry mount the tyre first sans sealant, to ensure it will seat and hold air.

I mounted the Gravelking SK to these five wheelsets with ease:

  • American Classic Argent Disc wheelset.
  • American Classic Hurricane rim brake wheelset – non tubeless and tubeless type.
  • American Classic RD2218 wheelset with Shimano Dura-Ace hubs.
  • Mavic Allroad Pro Disc wheelset.
  • Stan’s Notubes Alpha 340 wheelset with Shimano Dura-Ace hubs.

If you ever have trouble mounting a tubeless tyre, these tips can solve the problem:

  • Remove the valve core and inflate. This process allows a greater volume of air into the tyre and most times, will pop the tire right onto the bead.
  • If this doesn’t work, apply something like Sleek Beeswax & Mink Oil Furniture Polish to the sidewall. This product is far better than soap and water, and will help seat even the most stubborn of tyres. This product can be purchased from your local furniture store or online.
  • Once the dry mount test has been passed, install your favourite sealant and inflate. Don’t forget to keep a fingertip over the valve if you removed the core. This simple step will retain the air you just inflated; if you’re good at juggling, you can quickly re-install the valve core and still keep some air inside the tyre. Then, inflate to the desired pressure.

In all cases, I used Orange Seal’s Endurance Formula with the Panaracer Gravelking SK sample tyres.

Do the Panaracer Gravelking SK’s measure up?

Taking an average measurement across the wheelsets I used these tyres with, the 700c x 35mm versions measure 38mm wide, and the 700c x 40mm versions measured 43mm wide.

The 700c x 40mm Gravelking SK's are a tight fit.
The 700c x 40mm Gravelking SK’s are a tight fit.

Frame clearance may be an issue for some of today’s modern framesets if you choose the 700c x 40mm version of the Gravelking SK. The 40mm tyre was a tight fit in my Parlee Chebacco review bike, which was the configuration I ran at the 2016 Dirty Kanza. You can check out that bike in more detail HERE.

Gravelkings on the Parlee Chebacco post Dirty Kanza 200. Authentic Kansas mud!
Gravelkings on the Parlee Chebacco post Dirty Kanza 200 with authentic Kansas mud!

Riding the GravelKings…

Like many of the tyres that adorn my bikes, both pairs of the sample Gravelkings have traveled near and far. As mentioned earlier, the 700c x 40mm set was my tyre of choice at the 2016 Dirty Kanza race. The 700c x 35mm versions have rolled a bunch of training miles and appeared at 2016 Gravel Worlds and the 2016 Pisgah Monster Cross race. I haven’t exactly been kind to them…

I rode the 700c x 40mm models at 40psi front and rear – probably a bit to high to best honest, and the 700c x 35mm versions – after a bit of psi experimentation, at 35psi front and 38psi rear. Bob Cummings of the Panracer Gravel team provided some good tyre pressure insight – thanks Bob!

The 700c x 40mm tyre was the perfect choice for a race such as Dirty Kanza 200. Weight-wise, they are on par with similar tyres of this width, but instill great confidence and security when the terrain gets really rough. The first 75 miles of Dirty Kanza feature plenty of rocky roads and the larger volume Gravelking handled them with ease. I still picked my lines with great care, but their tough nature eradicated any worries in my mind about puncturing a tyre; I could focus on riding.

Close-up of the Panaracer Gravelking SK's tread pattern.
Close-up of the Panaracer Gravelking SK’s tread pattern.

The little knobs that comprise much of the tread pattern roll very fast on most gravel road road surfaces; on pavement, they fly. However, if the texture of mud is just right – and by that I mean the mud you’ll find at Dirty Kanza (Emporia, Kansas) – tacky and sticky – the Gravelkings will collect mud, grit and small stones – and potentially begin packing up. However, that phenomenon happened to many riders at the 2016 race, no matter what tyre they were riding. Such is the nature of the muddy roads in that area.

Unless the gravel is gnarly, the 700c x 40mm version of the Gravelking may be complete overkill for many of the gravel roads throughout the world. Sure, they are tough, but they felt sluggish to accelerate, particularly on the local roads in my USA home town of Gainesville, Florida. I felt handicapped during a fast gravel group ride, which typically feature a lot of attacking. The Gravelkings roll fast once up to speed, but during acceleration they felt slow. But, if you’re chugging along all day at a race like Dirty Kanza 200, this is a moot point and the 40mm size is very worthy of consideration.

Riding the Gravelking SK's in some crappy Florida weather.
Riding the Gravelking SK’s in some crappy Florida weather. Short socks FTW!

On the other hand, the 700c x 35mm version of the Gravelking is a rocket. Over 120 grams lighter, and with a casing that measures at least 38mm on every wheelset I tested them on, they are fast. Just like their bigger brother, they roll fast over just about everything, but with the added advantage of fast acceleration.

PanaracerGravelkingSKReview2016-6

An additional surprise was how well they rode across sandy roads. The roads I ride between Gainesville, Florida and little towns like Live Oak, Florida can get a bit loose in places with sand scattered here and there. Without doubt, this was the fastest rolling “narrow” tyre I’ve ridden on gravel when sand is present on the surface. Granted, you’ll sink like a stone if the road truly turns to sand – then, time to get our your Monster CX bike with its 2.0″ tyres – but I was impressed with their performance. Suffice to say, I like the 700c x 35mm version of the Panaracer Gravelking SK a lot.

No "narrow" gravel tyre can deal with this sand...
No “narrow” gravel tyre can deal with this sand…

Both widths offer grip in all situations and surfaces, barring only the loosest of gravel while cornering – but this is an issue inherent to any tyre cornering hard on gravel. On the subject of cornering, the Gravelking SK 700c x 35’s have lovely manners for descending some of the gnarly gravel in the mountains of North Carolina.

JOM suffers like a maggot.
JOM suffers like a maggot on the tough gravel roads of North Carolina.

This ain’t your nice Midwest gravel – some of these roads are rutted up and potholed to hell – all while flying down a serious mountain where good brakes, concentration and skills go hand in hand. In the photo above, I’m suffering hard on a gravel climb in North Carolina at the 2016 Pisgah Monster Cross, rolling the Panaracer Gravelking SK in 35mm.

As a side note, if you haven’t ridden gravel roads in places such as North Carolina and Virginia, you really ought to. Amazing gravel and amazing scenery!

A little pre-riding before the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200.
A little pre-riding before the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200.

I’ve already mentioned both versions of the Panaracer Gravelking SK are tough – both widths have experienced no cuts or slices in their casings during the period of my review. Nor have I punctured… maybe I got lucky there? Also, the Gravelking SK’s are long wearing. I have barely made a dent in the 700c x 35mm model which is the one I have ridden the most miles / kilometres on.

Summary

For gnarly gravel terrain and the miles are long, I would choose the Panaracer Gravelking SK 700c x 40mm tyre. It is my go to “narrow” tyre for that event.

For everything else, the Panaracer Gravelking SK 700c x 35mm tyre is fantastic. I rate these as highly as the Maxxis Rambler I reviewed earlier, although I feel the Panaracers offer better protection from punctures – whereas the Ramblers perform better in more varied situations – you could ride Ramblers on an easy MTB trail without trouble.

But, the Gravelkings are appropriately named – they are Kings on gravel and a tyre very worthy of consideration.

Panaracer Gravelking SK’s are a veritable bargain, priced anywhere from $40 – $45 depending on where you buy.

Gravelking SK 700c x 35mm Gravelking SK 700c x 40mm
Click the image to BUY from Amazon. Click the image to BUY from Amazon.

Highly recommended by the Gravel Cyclist crew!

Anytime is a good time for a ride, even if the weather is crap. Beats working!
Anytime is a good time for a ride, even if the weather is crap. Beats working!

Panaracer Tires

41 comments on “Review: Panaracer Gravelking SK 35mm and 40mm Tires

  1. Thanks for the review. I am running 700 X 35 CycloXKings now. I am thinking these 35 mm Gravel Kings might be good to try when I need to replace them. I am also considering the Clement XPlor USH in 35 mm.

  2. JOM, just bought and mounted a set of Graveling SK 35’s this weekend. Great tire so far. They measure 38mm wide on my HED Ardennes Plus rims.

    I replaced a different brand of tubeless tire after trying four of them and all four had significant wobble issues. The Panaracer QC is so much better. They roll perfectly true. Thanks for helping me find a great replacement.

  3. Looking forward to picking these up when the Skinwall’s come out in November (confirmed with Panaracer).

    Any thoughts on running 35 in the rear and 40 in the front? I’m a mountain biker and have always wondered why the different F/R tire model so common in MTB hasn’t picked up in GG.

    1. Hey Josh, I haven’t run that setup personally but the guys on the Panaracer gravel team in the Midwest ran that very setup at the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200.

      I think a lot of gravel folks may have come from road cycling backgrounds – not speaking for everyone but I know some people would be annoyed by the lack of symmetry with the different sizes tyres 🙂

  4. Bought a set of the 35mm last week and mounted one on the back of my gravel bike – ATR Reynolds carbon rims. Absolutely the hardest tire I have ever mounted and I have used several different brands/models on this wheelset. After a couple rides I measured the width and at 40lbs it measures 34.54mm. Mounted tubeless using truckers cream sealant and it still leaks down over a couple days, no obvious sealant leaks anywhere. Not sure it will work for my purposes so I left the RAMBLR on the front. Guess I got caught up in your 38mm width report and had high hopes but this narrow of a tire doesn’t work on the gravel I ride. Thanks for your time.

    1. Hi David, sorry to hear you experienced a major negative with the Gravelking. We cannot possibly try every wheel and tyre combination out there, but I hope that Panaracer takes notice. Thanks for your candid feedback.

  5. The GK 35s are listed on Panaracers website as “TUBED” and only the 40 is listed as tubeless compatible. Is there a tubeless compatible 35 version… I like the looks of this tire but 42mm is a bit too wide for my frame.

    1. JBG, their new site is missing information about the tubeless 35mm version of the Gravelking. I am running two pairs of the tubeless 35’s right now.

      1. JOM- picked up a pair of the 40s and the 35s. The shop said they were both the tubeless version. The 40s had “TLC” designation on the sidewall but the 35s did not. The TLC designation is apparently Panaracers designation that it is the tubeless version. Just curious whether or not the 35s that you are running have the TLC designation like the 40s do? I did not see it in the pictures but you may have different ones now. The sidewall and bead appear to be very slightly different on the 35s that I have vs. the 40s. Thanks

        1. SKR, my 35’s in the brown sidewall don’t have the TLC designation but I assure you, they are tubeless and were effortless to inflate, etc. The regular black sidewall version are the same as the brown ones I have. Unlike most people, I am fortunate to have received these tyres direct from Panaracer USA, so perhaps yours are marked differently?

  6. JOM – thanks for the great review. After running the 40’s at DK and also your experience with the 35’s would you still run the 40’s at DK or the 35’s? I have been running Specialized Trigger Pro 38’s tubeless including DK200 and have had great luck with them. They measure out pretty much the same as your experience with the GK 35 but the GK would be much lighter. Have you ever ridden the Trigger Pro’s? If so, curious what your thoughts are on them vs the GK’s.

    1. SKR, I haven’t ridden the Trigger Pro 38’s, but they are highly rated by a couple of friends of mine. Assuming I appear at DK 200 2017, I will be aboard the GK’s in 35mm. I think they are more than tough enough to deal with the first 100 miles, which are quite rocky.

      1. Thanks. Had a feeling that was what you would say. If the 35’s measure out wider like a 38 and deliver the lighter weight should be more than sufficient for DK

  7. Far from experienced here, but I was able to mount up 35mm’s to a set of Psimet wheels with just my joe blow pro. They have held like a champ and roll great on the midwest crushed limestone. Looking forward to running them at Barry Roubaix.

  8. Which one is more comfortable for gravel roads that get more on the rocky end of the spectrum? I do levee riding in South Florida and sometimes I take a good beating riding on Clemente’s XPlor MSO 36 (23mm inner rim) when the rock tips grow from the ground. I do not race but would not like something super heavy either. I ride about 10-15 miles to get to the gravel part of the ride. The specified tire clearance for my Jamis Renegade is 40 mm. Would you recommend ; Maxxis Rambler 40mm, Gravel King 35mm or 40 mm? I really appreciate your answer.

    1. Hey there,

      I really like the Gravelking 35mm or 40mm – this was the tire I rode at last year’s Dirty Kanza 200 – there were plenty of rocky and chunky gravel roads in that part of Kansas. Depending on your rim, the 35mm may blow up to 38mm or higher. So, definitely consider that – it is one of the lighter options for sure.

      1. Hi JOM,
        I got the Panaracer Gravelking SK 35mm (tubeless) as you recommended and it was a really good call. It is an excellent tire. It is very supple, light and rolls well on the road too. I was actually riding faster on gravel on these tires. It is shocking how much tires can make a difference in ride ride quality. It is probably one the best bang for your buck upgrades you can do on a bike. Kudos to Panaracer. I also use their Gravelking 28mm on my road specific set of wheel for when I do road only riding and it is also great. It’s supple, has excellent grip, and I never ever got a puncture.

        1. Thanks for the feedback, glad the GK’s are working out.

          You have to love the free tyre width upgrade courtesy of wide rim beds!

  9. Based on the great reviews JOM’s included decided to give the GK SK’s a try. Have them in both 35mm and 40mm. The 35’s are on HED Belgium+ rims and measure out at 38mm. The 40’s are on my race wheels some Stans Avion and they measure out at 43mm. For what it’s worth, the Panaracer gravel team has told me they are getting the same results on theirs as well. With a wider rim both versions will most certainly measure out 2-3mm wider than stated width. Quite a few miles on both and they are great performers. They roll fast including on pavement sections, are nice and supple and have been a great tubeless performer.

  10. Hey Jom still trying to get my Tamland 1 rig set up for Pony Express 120. I probably won’t be able to take 2 sets of tires with me since I am flying. A set for dry conditions and a set for wet.

    I thought I had it down to 2 tire choices.

    Gravel King SK 38 mm which are now listed as 40 mm but you said next year you would ride the 35 mm because they spin faster

    Other choice of tire was Clement mso 40 mm tubeless.

    Then I read articles of locals in Kansas using the Specialized Trigger Pro in 38 mm. I think some were sponsored by Specialized and that may have been a factor along with a couple of riders winning races there on them.

    From reading above you like the Gravel Kings over the Maxis Rambler. If you were to pick an all around tire of the 4 would you still pick the Gravel kings for dry or wet conditions since you said they pack up some in wet conditions? Right now on my Tamland 1 I still have the stock tires Clement xplor mso 40 which aren’t tubeless ready. I was able to make the front tubeless but no luck with the back. Thanks for any input. Maybe a test ride on the Triggers should be in the works.

  11. Panaracer no longer has the tires listed as 700×35 and 700×40 on their website. They are now 700×38 and 700×43, available in black and brown wall versions, with new product codes.

    I already run the previous 700×35 (R) and 700×40 (F) tubeless on my gravel bike (Focus Mares Force 1) with Stans No Tubes ZTR Grail team wheels, and they measure up at 38mm and 43mm as per your review.

    I just received a set of the newer 700×38 brownwall. I bought them for my All-City Nature Boy single speed. They are set up tubeless on DT Swiss R460 rims. With 35PSI they measure 39.5mm. I wondered if they were just the same tires but relabeled to reflect real world results, but now I wonder if they really are a bit wider than the outgoing 35 and 40.

    I love these tires. That’s why I’m now running them on both of my gravel capable bikes. On the singlespeed I am replacing a set of Schwalbe G-One Allround 700×35 (also ran those tubeless). They are very comfortable and roll great on pavement and crushed limestone/hardpack (like Katy Trail), but don’t inspire much confidence for me on real gravel surfaces. The Gravelking SKs are king.

    1. Dean,

      I rode the new 38’s at Dirty Kanza 200 this year (brown side walls naturally). I echo your sentiments completely – they are my favorite gravel tyre.

      BTW, I am rolling the new 650B x 1.9″ size for the first time tomorrow. Should be interesting!

      Thanks for writing in.

  12. Great review and comments too- wondering if you would pick the Gravel King or another tire for 50/50 riding pavement and gravel ?

      1. I run the Gravelking SK 700×38 (tubeless) on my All-City Nature Boy single-speed. I mostly ride it on pavement and it rolls pretty well, but love that I can take it off-road, e.g. to Katy Trail (crushed limestone/hardpack) or more technical (i.e. real) gravel roads.

        I have also used the Schwalbe G-One Allround 700×35 (tubeless) on the same bike. I like it somewhat better for pavement (it’s a bit cushier and maybe rolls a little better) but it doesn’t inspire as much confidence when I hit more technical gravel.

        The Gravelking SK with the brownwalls looks way cooler.

  13. Hi JOM,

    Do you happen to remember how well the Gravel Kings held air on the Mavic Allroads? The Mavics are built to UST design standards and the Gravel Kings are not rated as UST (they are however noted as being TLC – Tubeless Compatible). I mounted them without sealant just to see how well they would seat on a UST rim and they didn’t last ten minutes before having significant air loss. On the other hand, my Schwalbe G-One Allrounds definitely seem to marry better with UST.

    Obviously sealant plays a key role in sealing the contact area between tire bead and rim and I’m sure the Gravel Kings will be fine once I complete the whole process with sealant. Guess I’m wondering if UST certified rims (like Mavic), which are designed to such a specific bead profile, sometimes have problems with tires (like the Gravel Kings) that are otherwise designed to be “tubeless compatible” or “tubeless ready.”

    1. Andrew, like you, I have only dry mounted GK’s on the Mavic Allroads. I’ve suffered similar air loss with other rims and tyres, but the sealant along with a bit of relevant shaking about the place, got everything situated and the tyre perfectly sealed. If the air held for at least five minutes, you should be fine.

  14. Done with Schwalbe after two different 38 mm G-One Allaround tires blew off the rims, both mounted on American Classic 29″ Race wheels. I suspect broken beads. One was new out of the box and the other had 150 miles on it.

    Based on JOM’s review I’ve ordered a pair of what I believe to be the older 35 mm version of the Gravelking SK this morning. I’m hoping to ride part of the Southern Cross route with them in the next week or two and will report back.

    -Tim-

  15. How do, I need a tubeless tyre for mainly roads, sometimes poorly maintained roads ~10% ish. Need to be 32-35mm wide. I’ve been using Mavic Yksion tubeless tyres and they’re too prone to cuts. Do the 32mm smooth Gravel Kings work setup tubeless?? Any other tyre choices?

    1. Haven’t tried the 32mm GK’s, but I’ve been riding the WTB Exposure 32mm with good success. Need to post a review of that sometime soon… it is a true tubeless tyre.

      1. Schwalbe G-One Allround 700×35 would be my pick. Tubeless ready, sets up easily, rolls well and handles light to moderate gravel like a champ. I used them on my single-speed before I switched to the Gravelking SK 38.

          1. I wish Panaracer did a smooth tread 32-35mm tubeless tyre. The Bon Jon tyre is nice but too expensive.

          2. Gaz, Panaracer does make a 32mm tyre that is smooth… which it isn’t designed to be a tubeless tyre, but I know of several riders who have set it up in that manner. Bob Cumming of the Panaracer’s gravel race team is one such guy.

          3. Jom, would you consider that safe on 40mph+ downhills or just slow speed slogs. Thanks for the info. Really dug your tunes on the vids, proper goid vibe on them. Do you have a collection of them just to listen to? Sounds goid meditation music, love the rhythm.

          4. Gaz, I’ve descended at 40+mph on the 700c x 35mm GK’s, which blow up to 38mm or bigger, depending on the rim. Not sure if I would do that on the 32’s though, I like a little more width beneath me on the gravel roads at speed.

            For the tunes, I acquire copyright free music when I can and stash them away. That limits my choices but there is definitely a recurring theme with me 🙂

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