Panaracer GravelKing SK 700 x 26 Tire Review

Gravel bikes: an amazing trend that has finally been recognized by manufacturers and industry marketers, and I’m thrilled about it! Although I don’t own one yet, so backroad adventuring is still left to my long-time dilemma of a road bike or 29er mountain bike.

These Panaracer GravelKing SK tires seem to fit the bill for my off-pavement road bike venturing needs! Are they though? Let’s explore.

Panaracer GravelKing SK 700x26

We are specifically talking about the: GravelKing SK 700x26mm, tubed, 270g per tire, aggressive knobs, ZSG Natural rubber compound, Puncture Protection Breaker, and AX-α low rolling resistance casing, folding clincher tire. We are not talking about the “file tread” version that looks like a slick road tire.

Panaracer is a Japanese tire company that has been making bike tires for a long time and they somewhat recently released the GravelKing lineup and it’s really exciting if you like bike tires!

The GravelKing SK comes in the following sizes: 700x 26, 32, 35, 38, 43, and 50 mm. All other sizes are tubeless compatible but the 26mm needs tubes, as do my rims. Although if your rims are compatible, the 26mm size is now tubeless compatible up to 60 psi, although I might personally feel that is too squishy for such a narrow tire. But that’s all up to preference and past personal experiences with airing down road bike spec tires.

Initial Thoughts

  • Fit: The absolute hardest tires to mount I have ever experienced, without contest. I can hand mount any tires on every rim I’ve owned in life up to this point. The Continental Grand Prix 5000s did give some guff the first time out of the box but have since been fine — these GravelKing SKs required cursing and tire levers to mount, which led to unfortunate tube pinching and additional mounting that still required tire levers. Perhaps it is the wheel-tire combination, either way, it is very frustrating especially mid-race.
    That said, the 700x26 tires fit perfectly in my 2019 Specialized Allez road bike and compared to my usual 700x25 Conti GP5000 tires, I would unscientifically guess the GravelKing SKs are exactly the same width. Whether that means the Continentals run wide or the SKs run narrow, I don't know, but they fit in my fork and frame with room to spare. This really makes me wish they would just make it a 28mm width.
  • Traction: Endless confident traction! I can climb gravel and loose dirt inclines out of the saddle and they just hold on, constantly pushing me onward and upward. Handling on rough doubletrack, that gives Colorado single track a run for its money, was satisfying and impressive. Cornering off-pavement is a massive improvement over slicks or ‘file tread’ tires on gravel to say the least.
  • Puncture Resistance: From a simple observation of pinching and feeling the tire, they don’t feel particularly special as far as other decent tires go. Very similar in stoutness and quality to a Continental GP5000 or Specialized Roubaix Pro. That said, the aggressive tread likely provides substantial protection from offending objects. Other than smacking a grapefruit-sized rock with a hard square edge that would explode any tire, while flying down a gnarly doubletrack section of a race, I haven’t had a stab or slash related puncture.
  • Great for Cat 1, 2, & 3 Gravel if you’re good at picking your line. Once rock gardens or sudden cross ruts come into play, that is where their lack of air volume screams at your jarring body and dramatically increased puncture potential. This is why I don’t recommend them for racing, but if you have the time to slow down and either dodge or walk, I would still confidently take them on rough routes.

Here’s a guide to the Industry Standard Guide to Gravel “ISGG” Categories

Why GravelKing SK

These tires are specifically geared toward gravel, dirt, and rough pavement.

My on-going objective has been to find a gravel grinder worthy tire for my road bike, which is tough because having a 700x28mm width restriction makes just about every tire the same on the loose stuff. Especially since most off road worthy tread patterns only go as narrow as a 700x30 or so.

How do they differ from other gravel tires?

They offer a narrow enough option for road bike width restrictions.

Two common trends with gravel tires have been to either adopt mountain bike tire treads with a shorter profile or to take a road tire and give it a ‘file’ pattern tread making it just rough enough to not be slick. Both have their advantages, depending on the surfaces you want to ride.

The GravelKing SK takes the more of the first approach by doing a good job of packing noticeably beneficial knobs in the center for grabbing traction with solid bands on either side of the knobs to keep an efficient role on the pavement. All of which can be determined by simply observing the photo above.

Who is the intended target?

People like me and probably yourself, since you found this review! Those looking for traction and handling confidence off-pavement, but aren’t ready to pull the trigger on a proper gravel bike.

Particularly you who want to enjoy long miles of mixing pavement with gravel, and don’t want to slog along on your mountain bike. These will be awesome training or touring tires, so long as the dirt doesn’t get too rough.

Are the GravelKing SK 700x26 tires worth buying?

Yes. This is the best gravel tire I have found for bringing a traditional road bike into the gravel world!

Although, I do not recommend racing a tough gravel grinder with them unless you are only in it for a sightseeing adventure.

They do not replace the higher volume tires necessary for racing rough tracks, but they do make the best attempt at bridging the gap if you absolutely must.

I would be happy to use these for a bikepacking tour on back roads if a gravel bike that allows wider tires isn’t available.

Final thoughts!

  • An amazing tire that Panaracer has totally nailed on the head, as far as fitting a gravel tire into a traditional road bike setup.
  • They lack the necessary width for racing and do not replace the wider tire options of a proper gravel bike. If you have a 29er mountain bike though, I imagine the 700x38 or 700x43 would be absolutely killer! Could be the perfect match of traction and speed on gravel, compared to mountain tires with more meat on them.
  • I will happily run them for a casual backroads bike tour and long training rides that include gravel or double track when I want the road bike geometry.

The Pananracer GravelKing SK, again specifically in the 26mm width fitted to a road bike, is the best option available for bringing your roadie saddle into the woods or prairie for that scenic ride you’ve been itching to do. They’re good on pavement and can bring your farther from tarmac than file-treads can and they’ll make you smile while doing so.

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