Gravel bikes and overly aggressive tyres *OR* I was surprised how much grip semi-slick tyres have when using the right pressure 🚲

There’s an interesting article up on Gravel Cyclist:
Has Gravel Riding Got You Over-Tired / Over-Tyred? – By Big Head Todd

In the article the author, Big Head Todd, vents a bit about the trend towards ever more aggressive tyres on gravel bikes these days, whether that be people adding them because they think they need them or because bicycle manufacturers add them as spec.

Reading through it, I nodded my head a lot because, inexperienced as I was/am with tyre choice, I’ve fallen into the same trap not too long ago and it took many rides on all kinds of terrain to take a step back and rethink how much tread I actually need.

My gravel bike sports a pair of WTB Nano 40 right now. These are absolute overkill for a lot of the gravel roads that I encounter. The Specialized Pathfinder Pro with 38 mm on my second wheel set (slick center channel and fairly tame knobs on the sides), are far more appropriate and offer much more versatility. The reason the Nano 40 spend more time on my bike than the Pathfinders, is because in recent months, I’ve been riding on terrain that would typically be considered MTB territory most of the time. And even if I leave out the occasional section of tame single track, I kind of enjoy going up challenging climbs with this bike; loose ground, roots, and sometimes muddy paths, where I struggle to find traction even with the WTB Nano 40 at low pressures and a gearing of 30 in the front and 40 in the back.

The Specialized Pathfinder Pro are an utterly delightful bit of rubber. Very much comparable to the excellent Donnelly X’Plor MSO 40 mm but more durable. They take a bit of getting used to, in that finding the right tyre pressure for the right terrain and rider/system weight isn’t as simple as with other tyres. Once I had a rough idea about that, it was simple to do the first half of a ride on gravel with stupid low pressures, letting the Pathfinder Pro climb really well and spend the second part of the ride blasting down a hill on tarmac, the tyres inflated to a higher pressure.

I’m glad that I have the WTB Nano 40 but at the same time, it would have been nice to know and understand the true capabilities of seemingly tame gravel tyres.
So if you’re looking for a good set of rubber for your do-it-all bike, think hard on where you ride and do some research before defaulting to the monster truck option.

Alex Hoffmann @mangochutney