Feature: Challenge Tubeless Gravel Tire and… Prototype 700c x 40mm Tubular Gravel Tire – Sea Otter 2018

New for 2019, the Challenge Gravel Grinder Tubless (TLR) 700c x 42mm

Founded in 1985 by Max Brauns, Challenge Tires have enjoyed a reputation as a solid performer, particularly in the cycling genres of road racing and cyclocross. Tire models such as the Grifo (cyclocross), Paris Roubaix (road) and Crono (time trial) have been made famous by the amateurs and professionals who have ridden these tires to victory.

challenge gravel grinder tubeless tire

In 2013, Challenge introduced the Almanzo tire, named after the granddaddy of all American gravel races, Almanzo 100, held annually in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Sitting alongside the Almanzo tire in the Challenge product catalogue is the Gravel Grinder, a 700c x 38mm offering that rolls fast with good cornering grip, albeit without support for tubeless. Many of us, including one or two of the Gravel Cyclist crew, have rigged the Gravel Grinder tire to run tubeless, but it wasn’t ideal.

New for 2019 are two tubeless options, the Gravel Grinder in 700c x 38mm and 700c x 42mm. If you’re familiar with Challenge tires, the Gravel Grinder shares the same tread pattern as the company’s Chicane cyclocross tire.

Future rumoured releases from Challenge in 2019 include a 700c x 36mm tubeless version of the Strada Bianca tire (no photos available, sorry), which features a file tread pattern, and 650b tubeless versions of the Strada Biancha and Gravel Grinder.

challenge gravel grinder tubular gravel tire

Also of interest was this unlabelled prototype Challenge tubular tire (pictured above), spotted at the Boyd Cycling booth.

challenge gravel grinder tubular gravel tire

Tubeless or tubed tires are the norm in gravel cycling, but Challenge has always offered their gravel tires in a tubular option (as in, the type of tire you glue onto a rim).

challenge gravel grinder tubular gravel tire

I didn’t have calipers handy with me, but this prototype Challenge tubular tire is 700c and measures about 40mm in width. It shares the same tread pattern as the Strada Bianca tire.

challenge gravel grinder tubular gravel tire

Tubular tires have always been associated with the best of best performance, particularly on the road and track. If you have ridden and raced on tubular tires, you know what I mean. But, their negatives sometimes outweigh their positives, especially if you’re the type who does their own mechanical work – and gluing of tires. Thus, I see gravel tubulars as being an option for the few, and not for the many. With that said, I have used tire sealants in road-going tubular tires in the past with limited success, but sealant would fare much better, in the lower tire pressure world that is gravel cycling.

More to come from Sea Otter 2018… watch this space.

Challenge Handmade Tires

7 comments on “Feature: Challenge Tubeless Gravel Tire and… Prototype 700c x 40mm Tubular Gravel Tire – Sea Otter 2018

  1. This is great to see! The Gravel Grinder was my favorite riding tire. While you guys could ride them tubeless, mine blew off the rim during setup at about 45 psi. I hope the tubeless version us as supple as the earlier version.

    Any word on the size of the 650b version?


    1. No word or dates yet Steve. I for one would love to know, as I may have a very interesting 650b wheelset under review soon… and these tyres would be spot on for them.

  2. These need to happen for sure, I know the market is somewhat limited, how ever with the progression of gravel over the last couple of years. Heck UCI is trying to get in on the gravel scene. I can see this becoming a more common thing amongst “elite performing” gravel racers or road cross over athletes. I personally am not a pro nor am I an aspiring cat 1 but, that being said I would really appreciate these… I love the way tubulars ride far more than tubeless tires. The squirm factor that you get with low pressure tubeless alone is reason enough to run tubulars over tubeless at low pressures. Theres nothing a good gluing cant hold!

  3. The Challenge Gravel Grinder tire sizing on a 23 mm (inside) rim is a bit off, the 38 measures 35 mm and the 42 measures 44 mm.

  4. Any word on the 40mm Tubular Gravel Tire? Been looking and am not seeing anything out there in tubs.

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