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Panaracer Reviews Tires

Gravelking SK Review

January 2, 2019

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Gravelking SK Review

Panaracer Gravelking SK
4.93

Summary

Panaracer’s popular Gravelking lineup was way ahead of its time. Their affordable SK model offers chunkier tread for more aggressive surface condition, and after logging 1,600+ miles on them, I’ve found they remain ridiculously supple regardless of what you throw at them.

Most online customers report experiencing much of the same with these ultra-versatile tires, although you’ll likely encounter a noticeably harsher ride at higher PSIs, depending on your preferences.

Pros

  • 1,600+ miles of intense riding with no flats (set up tubeless)
  • Great traction and performance on nearly all surface conditions
  • Solid wear resistance
  • Competitively priced
  • Mostly positive online customer feedback
  • Low rolling resistance, despite chunkier tread

Cons

  • With additional air volume and tread comes higher weights (with any tire)
  • Tackier rubber compound might wear faster than non-knobby competitors
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Panaracer advertises their Gravelking SK model as a go-anywhere bike tire. We’ve ridden them 250+ miles to help you decide if they deliver, and if they’re worth the investment.


Updated April 23, 2019

About Gravelking SK Tires

Compared to the standard model, Panaracer’s Gravelking SK tire—available in six sizes—features a more aggressive tread pattern and a wider design. This makes them especially handy if you log a lot of saddle time on chunkier surfaces like gravel, packed singletrack, asphalt, and pavement.

On top of their versatility, the SKs come with a competitive $40-$50 price tag from third-party retailers, making them an especially popular option. But, are they necessarily the right choice for you?

I’ve logged more than 250 miles with the Gravelking SKs, on just about every surface. Combined with details from Panaracer and feedback from other cyclists, this article can help you make a more informed decision.

Panaracer Gravelking SK Specs

Quick Facts
Manufacturer Panaracer
Model Gravelking SK TLC (Folding)
Category Multi-Surface, Mixed Terrain, Gravel
Sizes Available 700 x 26, 32, 35, 38, 43C 27.5 x 1.75 (650B x 43), 27.5 x 1.90 (650B x 48)
Weight 320 – 500 g
Pressure Range Tubed: 60 – 100 PSI (4.13 – 6.89 Bar) Tubeless: 60 PSI max (4.13 Bar)
Threads Per Inch 126 TPI
Origin Japan

Traction & Flat Prevention

Available in tubed and tubeless-compatible (dubbed ‘TLC’) versions, the Gravelking SK tires feature Panaracer’s ZSG Natural Rubber Compound, which they advertise delivers ideal traction without sacrificing acceleration, rolling resistance, ride quality, or durability.

The anti-flat casing involves a belt that extends all the way between each bead. Embedded inside this casing is Panaracer’s Advanced Extra (AX) Alpha Cord, which they explain is a narrow, high-density aramid cord.

Together, they deliver cut and abrasion resistance, pinch flat prevention, and sidewall protection while maximizing lightness, suppleness, and ride quality.

Related: A Step-By-Step Exploration of the Bike Tire Manufacturing Process

Note: Panaracer announced during the 2019 Sea Otter Classic that all tires in their Gravelking lineup, including the SK, are now available with a + (Plus) Protite Shield casing that promises to deliver 2.5X greater bead-to-bead puncture protection than Kevlar, while only adding 12 grams per tire. This features increases each tire’s price by $5.

Tread Pattern

Compared to competing tires (more soon), the Gravelking SKs boast a unique tread pattern. Its center section of tightly-packed, low-profile square knobs minimizes rolling resistance on harder-packed surfaces, with dual rows of more substantial, L-shaped knobs on each shoulder for additional cornering traction.

Gravelking SK’s unique tread pattern offers bite in corners and grip on firmer surfaces, such as gravel, hard-packed singletrack, and even asphalt and smooth pavement. ©TreadBikely

Combined with its larger air volume and lower intended pressure, especially when combined with a tubeless setup, this delivers an overall cushioning effect. With this said, per the Panaracer website, the only tubed SK size at the time of this writing was 700 x 26C.

My Experience Riding Panaracer’s Gravelking SK Tires

Testing Details
Tester Specs Age: 41 Height: 6’ 1” (185 cm) Weight: 185 lbs (84kg)
Bike/Rims 2017 Canyon Inflite AL SLX, DT Swiss CR 1600 Spline
Size Tested 700 x 38C
Weight (as tested) 440 g
ETRTO 40-622 (black tread, brown sidewalls)
Surface Conditions Tacky, slick, gravel, sand, snow, ice
Weather Conditions Wet, dry, windy, calm, hot, cool, sub-freezing temps
The Gravelking SK’s sidewall.

Mounting the Gravelking SKs

Mounting the Gravelking SKs was a reasonably straightforward process, which I set up tubeless using Orange Seal sealant. They’re non-directional and feature identical branding on each side, which mean you can mount them in either direction/

Related: How Tubeless Bike Tires Work

To this extent, Orange Seal indicates they’ve tested their formula up to 120 PSI, although Panaracer indicates the Gravelking SKs max out at 60 PSI (400 kPa).

Ride Quality

I’ve ridden them on a variety of terrain at max pressure and found they’re relatively harsh on anything except for smooth pavement. Drop the PSI down to 35 or 40, though, and the suppleness is mind-blowing.

I ran mine even lower (about 28 PSI) during the 2019 Old Man Winter bike rally in Lyons, Colorado, which involved a lot of mixed-terrain riding.

The Gravelkings performed flawlessly and delivered superb traction on a variety of changing surface conditions, offered very low rolling resistance, fantastic suppleness, and cushy comfort. A+ all around.

The Panaracer Gravelkings couldn’t help in the 8-10″ of soft snow during the Rowena Trail section of the 2019 Old Man Winter bike rally, but they otherwise delivered great traction and comfort.

Even though they’re folding tires, they’ve remained straight from the get-go, with no waves or wobbles in the rubber, and no flats or meaningful air loss to date (fingers crossed). I think the black tread/brown sidewall combination looks snappy, too.

How They Fit

At 440 g each, the SKs are 120 g heavier per tire than the Continental Grand Prix 4-Seasons I ran from April to November. The larger volume and added tread fit my frame just fine, although I think the 43C model might be pushing it in the rear.

In the top two pictures, I’d ridden my rear (left) and front (right) Gravelkings approximately 250 miles. In the bottom two images, I’d logged more than 1,600. As is expected, the back experienced noticeably more wear than the front.

Real-World Performance

From a performance perspective, I’ve found the SKs offer minimal rolling resistance and predictable handling on harder packed surfaces, despite its more pronounced tread pattern compared to other Gravelking models.

The SK’s unique center tread pattern will also pick up mud quickly—especially the peanut-buttery mixture found here on the Colorado Front Range, but it performs solidly on damp soil.

In fact, I’ve found this pattern delivers fantastic traction on a variety of surfaces. This means that after dropping the tire pressure, I can seamlessly go from pavement to looser singletrack in the same ride.

Regardless of the terrain, I’ve found Panaracer’s GravelkingSK tires are supple, predictable, and versatile on a wide variety of surface conditions.

The taller profile can take some getting used to, though, especially if you’re transitioning from a lower profile road-oriented tire. I found this is especially apparent when leaning the bike into corners.

As with any tire with more pronounced knobs, traction is also hit-or-miss on wet pavement, especially if you need to brake suddenly and/or prefer running higher PSI.

Really, the Gravelking SKs perform their best at lower pressures (i.e., 40 PSI or below), where they deliver a great deal of suspension and impact absorption. You can see them in action here: A Gravel Grind Through Waterton Canyon

And even though my rear tire’s center tread has nearly worn bare after logging more than 1,600 miles, my Gravelkings continue to provide great traction and superb hook-up.

Bottom line: Whether you shred on pavement, singletrack, gravel, or shallow, packed snow (or all of the above in the same ride), Panaracer’s Gravelking SK tires are higher priced but deliver fantastic performance and overall bang-for-your-buck.

How Does the Gravelking SK Compare to Competing Models?

With the increased popularity of gravel-oriented cycling, several other mainstream manufacturers have entered the market, including Schwalbe, Maxxis, and WTB, to name just a few.

And when it comes down to it, many of these models share more in common than otherwise. This includes fast rolling capabilities, tubeless ready construction, availability in a variety of sizes, and the implementation of different technologies to maximize puncture protection.

They also share relatively similar threads per inch, weights, and PSI ranges; folding beads, along with different proprietary tread patterns to accommodate a variety of surfaces.

With these details in mind, here are some of the core differences between popular models:

Model Third-Party Pricing Average Online Customer Rating Standout Features
Panaracer Gravelking SK $40 – $50 4.5+ Unique central and side tread patterns, available with a variety of tread and sidewall color combinations
Schwalbe G One Allround $40 – $50 3.8 Tight, all-over tread pattern and low-profile knobs for maximum speed
Maxxis Rambler $50 – $60 4.3 38C (120TPI) version weighs 380 g
WTB Riddler $40 – $55 3.2 Pronounced knobs for more aggressive terrain (more mountain bike-oriented), available up to 2.4” widths
WTB Nano $30 – $50 4.2 Available up to 2.1” widths, higher-end versions not tubeless compatible

Bottom Line: My Overall Impressions About the Gravelking SK Tires

Should you invest in a pair of Gravelking SKs? Choosing any tire is a deeply personal decision and includes factors like where you ride, the surface conditions you favor, preferences, and so forth.

But, after riding with these tires more than 1,600 miles, they’ve performed almost flawlessly and are reasonably priced compared to the competition. As a result, I can’t recommend them highly enough. I’m always excited to ride them and see how they’ll perform in different scenarios and conditions.

But, if you ride in wet conditions with lots of mud, their tight central tread pattern might not deliver optimum performance.

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Derek is an avid cyclist with more than two decades of experience in the sport, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. He enjoys all types, including road, MTB, cyclocross/gravel, commuting, and touring. When he's not writing reviews and guides related to bike accessories, parts, and gear for TreadBikely.com, he's riding, talking about cycling, or thinking about bikes he can't afford. #rolloutblissout
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