If ever there was a discipline where tyre choice can make or break a ride it’s gravel or multi terrain riding. In a single ride you can encounter a full range of surfaces from paved roads and dirt tracks, to gravel, mud and rocks. And with seasonal or daily weather variations, the conditions can differ drastically from one ride to the next over the same terrain. While no tyre can cover every situation perfectly, there are now some great options out there that can handle a huge range of surfaces very well.
As gravel and adventure bike enthusiasts ourselves, we’ve spent the past few years extensively testing just about every brand of gravel tyre available, and have settled on a core range that we can recommend without hesitation. Being situated in the Welsh Marches means we’re able to cover a fair range of surface types; from sticky and slippery alluvial mud that resists drying out, to deep peaty bog and as we cross into Wales, and endless stretches of rocky or gravelly tracks, as well as a representative selection of rooty forest trails. The things we don’t have are proper clay, ice-like chalk and free draining sandy soil. But nevertheless it isn’t a bad testing ground in our local hills!
Below are our top picks for gravel and multi terrain riding. Each one has a slightly different specialty, and leans more into one style of riding, but they all stand out on the rough stuff.
The Nano is a legend in the world of gravel riding – a true all rounder that is fast over paved surfaces, thanks to its profile and central tread line, but capable over pretty much everything up to serious winter mud. It’s not the toughest tyre out there, but is still far removed from fragile race only use.
The tread bites pretty well apart from on the slipperiest of off-camber, and it clears well too. Once you get into winter mud it does finally clog and r more can be a bit skittish. But for the remaining 80% oof conditions it is a very reliable option.
The Nano is only available in 40mm, and comes up big, so unfortunately it may not fit every frame. The tubeless set-up is quite reliable and not too tricky on these, and the tyre seats well. The tan wall version is slightly lighter than the black wall, but the extra layer of rubber in the black sidewalls makes them a bit more robust and resistant to sealant weeping.
In conclusion, as long as you aren’t looking for a specialist winter/mud tyre the Nano is about as wide ranging and fast an all rounder as you can get!
The Rutland is very much from the same school as the Nano, but available in more size options and in a choice of casings: Light and Supple, or Durable. It shares many of the same capabilities in terms of surfaces and speed as the Nano, but is quite a bit tougher! Even in the Light and Supple version it offers a little more protection than the Nano, while in the Durable version it is far more robust, but still very fast rolling.
The Light and Supple models have the edge over the Nano for speed and agility, and are available in a choice of tan and black wall, with both having the same weight and side wall resilience.
Overall, the Rutland performs like a slightly more advanced alternative to the Nano, with more options (including 650b), and outstanding ease of tubeless set up, but it does cost a bit more too.
The Ravager is an out-and-out favourite for many gravel riders who are looking for grip over a wide range of terrain, but don’t want to give everything away when it comes to smoother tracks and roads. It excels in mud and over loose surfaces, but does roll more slowly than the Nano and Rutland over hard ground and paved roads.
It’s not a full on mud-plugger, so doesn’t feel hugely draggy on the road, but there is still a small price to pay for the exceptional grip and mud clearance in all but the very worst of conditions. A particular strength over both the Nano and Rutland is it’s ability to grab onto slippery cambers with exceptional confidence.
In terms of toughness it ranks alongside the Nano, and sets up well tubeless. Only the one size again – 700x40mm.
Continental Terra Trail
A brand new tyre from Continental, so we have only just started testing this one, but it is proving to be an instant hit! Too early yet to see how robust or durable it is over long term use, but it feels very reliable and we’ve had no issues so far. We’ve included it in this round up as it has been so impressive in terms of performance, especially in wetter or muddier conditions.
Similar to the Maxxis in the way that it handles and clears mud, it also performs well off camber and feels quite quick over harder surfaces, although it comes in a slightly less aggressive tread option too if mud isn’t a concern. But for us, the mud handling of the Trail tread pattern is what sets the Terra apart.
The other thing that this tyre has going for it is the tread compound, which is grippy on roots – or at least as grippy as you can expect!
Panaracer Gravel King SK/EXT
The Gravel King range is well established in the world of gravel, and for good reason. If you are looking for tyres that cover a wide variation of conditions the Gravel King has you covered – but it adopts less of an all-rounder approach, and more of a ‘horses for courses’ offering, with several different models for use in different conditions.
The cornerstone of the Gravel King range is the “SK”, which stands for ‘Small Knobs’. It’s a truly superb tyre for use on hard packed surfaces – so whether it’s drier summer conditions, true non-muddy gravel, or a mix of paved and firmer unpaved roads, the Gravel SK is hard to beat. It rolls quickly, grips well and is easy to set up tubeless. It’s also pretty tough, but if you are looking for even more puncture protection it also comes in a ‘Plus’ version, which has the same tread pattern but has an extra barrier layer within the casing.
Available in a huge range of sizes, and with a choice of black or brown walls, the SK is bound to offer a tyre that fits your frame.
And if you are looking for more of a rough paved surface tyre, they have a file tread version that runs very smoothly on the roughest of tarmac, while if you are wanting something that grips well in mud there is the EXT (EXTreme) that rolls a bit more slowly but handles deep mud extremely well.
All of the Gravel tyres are on the lighter side of the gravel market too.
The WTB Sendero is quite possibly the grippiest and fastest clearing specialist mud tyre available for gravel bikes right now! But your frame will need plenty of clearance and the capability of running 650b tyres, as it is only available in a 650bx47 size.
It’s the closest to an MTB mud tyre that you can get – so it will roll more slowly on paved or very hard packed surfaces. But that’s not what you’d choose a Sendero for. Quite simply, if you are after the largest amount of grip that you can get, for the most severe of multi-surface riding, the Sendero is an outstanding choice.
If you are looking for a large volume 650b tyre with more all-rounder capabilities, you’d probably be better off with the Terravail Rutlands.