MTB-tires as All-round tires for Gravel?

Especially for light weight issues concerning cyclocross / touring bikes & parts.

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Posts: 146
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 10:10 am
Location: Germany

by justRideIt

On a spectrum from fast hard-pack gravel to singletrails, I ride my Specialized Diverge like an old-school MTB. Also, very often weather conditions in Germany make me prefer the gravelbike to the road bike. Can hide in the forest from winds, traffic, light rain and road spray.
Also for a size 52 frame I think 650b wheels fit nicely, makes the bike more playful, esp. on trails. On my Stumpjumper MTB I ride 29" wheels with 2.6" wide tires and they just gobble up trails. Needs a lot of speed to be fun. The 650b with 2.2" and minimal suspension makes the ride more "thrilling" & fun at lower speeds.

On the Diverge, I started with 2.2" semi-slick Continental Speed Kings in RaceSport variant front and rear. They have a very, very supple side wall, but makes them prone to sidewall cuts. I like technical uphill singletrail riding and choosing a clean line on the trail.
When it was damp/ wet or even on dry loose surface, when you did not put enough weight on the front Speed King enough, it would wash out when cornering. There was also no "area of forgiveness": when the tire went, it went unannounced, and so I went down as well. No side knobs to catch it, no indication you are about to lose grip. So I put on the Race Kings in the front which have deeper knobs and inspire much more confidence when cornering and breaking hard. Fast-rolling Speed Kings in the rear stay on. Very happy with this set up for my gravel riding style.

Alternative gravel-specific tires (say Continental Terra Speed and Terra Trail) are only available in 40mm - which is too narrow for my liking. I like to run high-volume tires at low pressures for that magic-carpet ride (21 PSI front and rear at 64 kg body weight).
And the Terras come with the so-called Conti "ProTection" casing, which are reinforced sidewalls. They are only around 30-40g lighter. But they do feel much stiffer and not remotely as supple and fluffy as the Race Sports. The Race Sports give very good feedback about what is happening underneath.
Been riding the Race Sports for over 3.000 kilometers in tubeless setup (although not claimed by Continental as tubeless-ready) withouth any flats or cuts whatsoever. And I'm riding them over and through all kinds of surfaces.

Can confirm what FlatlandClimber mentioned: you can literally hear the aero drag from the knobs in the front tire when going fast.
Would I be faster with narrower / slicker tires? Definitely. But if I want to move fast effortlessly and burn kilometers, I take the road bike with 50mm aero wheels and 25mm tires, not my gravel bike.
So I am very happy to run MTB tires on my gravel bike... it opens up so many possibilities for exploring and I like the added comfort during long days in the saddle.




Last edited by justRideIt on Fri May 28, 2021 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
2020 S-Works Tarmac SL6 Disc @ 6.35-ish kg: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=159454
2021 Specialized Diverge viewtopic.php?f=10&t=165482

Posts: 214
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 12:36 am
Location: Perth

by jemima

This weekend I ran the 27.5 SpeedKing front and rear again across some fairly dry loose singletrack. Dropped the pressure down a little more offroad than normal. Took things fairly easy (lots of slow climbing and mostly careful descending), but once again pretty happy with them.

I have been aware of the RaceKing Racesport with its similar supple sidewall but just need to get one in. I can really feel the sidewall stiffness/harshness of the RaceKing Protection compared to the SpeedKing.

Ideally my frame could fit a RaceKing Racesport in the rear for more climbing grip offroad when things get steep. Might have to crimp the chainstay a little.

SpeedKing also does pretty good across softer sand/tracks when pressure is way down.

Bike is a 52cm also.
Curve Grovel ti.

by Weenie

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