Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired / Over-Tyred? – By Big Head Todd

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
WTB Sendero

WTF is going on with tires gravel people? The recently released All Road gravel bike from State is spec’d with Vittoria Barzo tires. Now, this is a tire I installed on my XC race bike not long ago when I wanted more grip and an aggressive tread upfront. For racing XC! The Niner RLT Steel 650b appears in promo photos with WTB Sendero’s that are essentially fast-rolling XC race tires.

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
WTB Horizon on the Lynskey GR250

These are just two examples that came across my feed in the few past days. Is your gravel bike really spending so much time on technical singletrack or wallowing through off-camber mud sections to warrant the two-wheeled equivalent of permanently running mud tires on your lifted truck that never ventures beyond the burbs but once a year? If yes, then stop here and find another entertaining article on GravelCyclist.com. But if not, and you are one of the other 99% of gravel riders out there, here are a few points to consider…

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
WTB Venture

Have you ever ridden through a sandy section and produced enough watts to spin out your back wheel? No? Then you don’t need these aggressive tires. Have you lost a gravel race purely on cornering? No? Then you don’t need these aggressive tires (honestly, I have seen it happen – once – but in that instance, no amount of tread was going to save the rider from their gross miscalculation of the last downhill turn). Do your regular gravel rides still feature 30%-50% pavement sections that link the favorite sectors together? Yes? Then you don’t want these aggressive tires. Do you want to be faster or simply roll easier with less effort on 99% of gravel routes? Yes? Then you don’t need these aggressive tires.

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
Ritchey Speedmax

Do aggressive tread patterns have a place in gravel? Sure, but not for most people most of the time. That’s why tires such as the Panaracer Gravelking SS, WTB Byway, and Tioga Binary (plus many others) are already on the market. Even the popular Gravelking SK tread is excessive for most routes in most conditions (but if you need one everything / all-conditions tire, this is a good option).

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
Panaracer Gravelking SS in action

If you are consistently backcountry bikepacking or simply into riding “party pace” then hey, install the knobbed-up aggro tires. If they fit then it’s fine. I can appreciate a slow roll as much as anybody. But I normally ride with a bunch that turns every outing into something pretty spirited because it seems somebody is always on a hard effort day. In other words, the usual type-A bike jerks.

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
Terene Elwood Tough

So I want fast-rolling, quick tires to close down the gaps, or sometimes even open them. I’m not suggesting going all Jobst Brandt by just running slick 25mm tires: girth is your friend when the going gets particularly soft or chunky and 38mm to 40mm is on the low side of what we run. But why are you tarting up that gravel bike like you intend running it down an enduro course? Shouldn’t you really have another bike for that sort of fun (and I’m guessing you do)?

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
WTB Byway

I get it – aggressive tires do look pretty cool in a “wow, I could really take that bike anywhere” catalog photo kinda way. Except that you usually won’t. And if you do, you still probably won’t need these aggressive tires. On the occasion you do, buy those tires for that adventure then afterward hang them up in the garage and look at them wistfully each time you roll in from your real gravel rides.

Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired
Panaracer Gravelking SK

Instead ride smoother, faster, further, and happier. Save the aggression for conditions that warrant it. You will not be over-tired. Oh yeah, tire choice is very personal and what works for me might not work for you!

Tyre Reviews on Gravel Cyclist:

Above, your author, Big Head Todd at the 2017 Tour of Ara (South African Karoo) – Vintage bike, narrow tires, seriously challenging conditions. Re-visit Todd’s Tour of Ara experience – Part OnePart TwoPart Three


  1. Avatar Cerveza

    “Is your gravel bike really spending so much time on technical singletrack or wallowing through off-camber mud sections to warrant…”

    Let me stop you right there Todd.

    Yes. Yes. And you guessed it, yes!

  2. Avatar Michael McAleer

    Good rule of thumb: If you can look at your tire print in the dirt and see the imprint of the tread pattern clearly, then your tread is providing you with traction. If all you see is a concave rut with no definitive tread block pattern, you’d be just as well off on smooth tires. For those of us in sandy Florida, the latter is the case.

    • JOM JOM

      Not all of Florida is sandy! But, good points for sure 🙂

  3. Avatar Mr. Pete

    Agreed. I love these 40mm Ramblers. Couldn’t have been better timing.

  4. K-Dogg K-Dogg

    Ooo! I love the sound of “party pace!” Sign me up! At 65 I rarely rise to the bait of those durn “A” pacers any more… at least until actual racing comes out my closet again.

  5. Avatar Jeremy Schwab

    You can pry my 2.2″ tires from my cold dead hands… j/k, I have a spare set of wheels with ByWays for rides with >50% road and/or flat gravelly stuff. But around here in BC, there’s lots of fun singletrack where the XC tires shine! Party Pace all the way… the only pace I have. =P

  6. Avatar DrDover

    It’s wonderful to have so many choices for gravel these days. Just 9 years ago the choices were few, narrow, and not tubeless.

    • JOM JOM

      You are spot on. Circa 2006, my tyre of choice was the Michelin Jet, converted to tubeless, dodgy style.

  7. Avatar Gritty

    Sub-60-inch wifey and i are on a regular diet of 60-75% asphalt rides balanced with gravel and a side of single track; i totally agree with your assesment about magazine-appeal balloon gawkers. Our trouble is finding anything other than full-on road tires for her 650 mm wheels. Makes me grumpy. And sad.

  8. Avatar NHgravel

    In NH/VT, yes I could run my Velocitta’s anywhere, were they confidence-inspiring on class 6 [aka VT Pave] roads, not really, but I dam they were fast on flat gravel roads. But since we don’t have many long flat stretches, and our trails are a collection of roots and rocks…I prefer my WTB Resolutes….

  9. Avatar IceFusion

    Why do judgey? Part of the appeal of gravel is the non-conformity. It’s great to have choices. No need to judge me on them.

  10. Avatar Ben Arians

    Hi JOM, love the site. Wondering if I’m the only one that is experiencing ads blocking a lot of the content on here? Seems worse than many.

    • JOM JOM

      Hi Ben, I definitely have an ad network that inserts their content (ads are generally targeted around your browsing history), but I’ve not heard from anyone who has mentioned this issue. If you can, drop me a message through the contact page, hopefully, I can investigate further.


  11. Avatar Jim Robinson

    I get it. I must be on the extreme skinny end of the gravel tire scale. I live in the Belgian Waffle Ride part of San Diego County and ride those trails all the time, there is a lot of single track with a fair bit of rocks and some really steep bits. There’s also a lot of pavement and some big climbs. I ride Gravel King SK 35s, which measure 38 on my rim, but they feel like overkill and are noticeably slow on the pavement. Really comfortable though. My other tire are IRC CX Sand 32s, which measure 35, a little less comfortable on the trail but noticeably faster on the road and climbs. So should I acquire more technical skills or get stronger? Anyway I was hoping for a listing of the fast rolling tires but didn’t see them. The Gravel King SS looks worth a try.

  12. Avatar Capt. Obvious

    So why aren’t you riding a hardtail mountain bike?

  13. Avatar Sevo

    Well let’s back up a second and remember that bikes with bigger knobby tires are also not just ridden on gravel. Also, not everyone is 150lbs and rides/races exclusively on gravel too. And last, not all gravel is nice smooth hardpack with just a slightly sandy part of two on it.

    Myself and many others also enjoy taking our gravel bikes on singletrack sometimes or incorporate into a ride singletrack to gravel or vice versa. Quite a lot actually. It’s doable on some semi slick 38x700c tires or even the more aggressive Panaracer GK EXT really bridges the gap admirably. But, a bigger tire like a 43x700c Bruce Gordon Rock n Road does it even better. Slap a 45x700c set of Panaracer FireCross Tire’s on and it’s a whole new bike.

    But even the, it’s not enough and why I’m quite thankful most gravel bikes also fit 2.1 x 27.5 tires and suck have more knobby options and a godsend on such rides or when gravel here in CO is more sand than gravel where a blind corner on a route you road last week was smooth but is now a sand pit or washed out from rain.

    Just because enough don’t get it doesn’t mean it isn’t what someone else is looking for. That’s Myopic.

    Yes, it is pretty amazing how much you can really ride on 38 semi slicks. I look forward to building my old LeMond with the new Panaracer SS Tire’s in 26x700c Tire’s. I’ve also been amazed by the traction the 48x700c Soma slicks and their suppl casing provides…and fast too. But that’s not the only types of tires people need opportunity here they ride, and why we have so many varieties of gravel bikes, tires, and setups.

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