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EDIT: Several people have commented that I shouldn't ask for shopping recommendations -- fair enough, but really all I want is a more general discussion of the topic: whether it's a reasonable goal to try to make your gravel bike 'more road bike-like' with different tires, and how to achieve it. You don't need to mention any specific products.


I have a 2020 Giant Revolt 3 (https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/revolt-advanced-3) gravel bike that I ride 99% on tarmac. I was considering a road bike, but as I was coming from a mountain bike background and had never ridden a road bike, this seemed a good compromise. I thought I'd be taking it out on gravel trails, but with Covid restrictions (we are confined to a pretty small area) and the fact that I am trying to avoid train travel (again, due to Covid), I'm riding it pretty much only on the road.

My bike shop said it's almost time to replace the tires and I'm looking for recommendations for new tubeless tires. I'm wondering whether there is any choice that would move me a little bit in the 'road bike direction' in terms of reducing drag and increasing performance, but maintain the grip and stability, particularly in wet weather, that I've gotten used to.

Most important is maintaining safety (grip and cornering, particularly going downhill, and in the wet), but, as said, I'd be keen to see if I can get a little more "quickness" (trying to move in the 'road bike' direction, that is, reducing drag while riding). Is it possible to maintain the same level of safety with a 'road tire'?

Finally, is my goal even a reasonable one? I checked out How much energy is lost with a gravel tire compared with a road tire? and while there is a difference in running gravel tires or 'road' tires, I am not sure how important it is.

For what it's worth, I ride mainly up and down on hills (daily climb is about 600m), and live in the EU (so I'd need to buy the tires here). The rims are Giant S-X2 Disc, and the current tires are Giant Crosscut AT 1, 700x38.

Thanks!

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    Shopping recommendations aren't really on topic for bikes.SE. That said, Panaracer Gravel King (the biggest one you can fit) – Paul H Feb 15 at 16:20
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    My "gravel" bike has three different wheelsets: A lightweight set with 700c x 38 mm Gravel Kings for riding on the road and some gravel during marginal weather when I need to have the fenders on. The second set is a sturdier wheel with 700c x 44 mm knobby tires for some asphalt and mostly gravel time. Third wheelset is a has 650b x 47 mm knobby tires on it for gravel + single track rides. The bike is fun to ride in all three configurations. – Paul H Feb 15 at 21:57
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If you are mainly riding on tarmac roads, then it is perfectly reasonable to mount slick tires. In my experience, slick tires are fine even on dirt roads, e.g. up to grade 2 in the Cyclingtips classification of gravel surfaces (it's an ordinal scale ranging from bad roads at grade 1 to very large rock chunks at grade 4; the latter is described as nearly MTB terrain), so you wouldn't lose the ability to tackle off-road rides.

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As a matter of fact, Jan Heine of Rene Herse Cycles argues that unless you are riding in mud, knobs are actually unnecessary on gravel. He is definitely going against the tire industry's current conventional wisdom.

You should definitely consider how large a slick tire to mount. Do note that many high-performance road tires are available in 30-32mm widths, e.g. the Continental GP 5000 32mm or Schwalbe Pro One 30mm (not recommendations, these are just two models I have in my memory). All bikes are designed around a certain tire width and height - the wider the tire, the taller it is as well. If you fit a larger tire than designed, the bike's trail will increase and it will handle more slowly, and the reverse if you mount a smaller tire than designed. Small departures from the design tire width are irrelevant, e.g. my custom 2007 road bike was designed around a 25mm tire, and it can take 28mm tires without any perceptible handling issues. However, the Revolt comes stock with 38mm tires, and going to 23-25mm road racing tires would probably make it noticeably quicker to handle and less stable. I'd recommend at least 28mm tires. In any case, if you must use tubeless tires, you are probably better off with wider tires at lower pressures.

High-performance slick tires over 32mm are more rare, but I do know that Rene Herse and Panaracer both make slick tires in a large number of widths. Panaracer actually makes the tires for Rene Herse. Be aware that Rene Herse tires with their extra-light casing (but not Panaracer tires) have a bad reputation for tubeless compatibility. Often, the sealant leaks through the sidewall.

If you want to frequently ride in wet weather, it may be worth looking for a tire with a minimal file tread, i.e. not the Continental and Schwalbe tires I mentioned. Heine argues that the file pattern improves adhesion in the wet.

Last, you asked how much power is lost between a gravel and a road tire. As with many answers, it depends on the surface type, tire pressure, and rider and bicycle weight. Tom Anhalt and Bicycle Rolling Resistance have run a number of tests, and you should read the test reports and take note of the input parameters - e.g. Anhalt displays the coefficient of rolling resistance and power consumed for a pair of tires at 30 km/h, pressure set by tire drop, weight unspecified; BRR shows power per single tire at a load of 42.5 kg, at various pressures (but some pressures are behind a paywall).

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"whether it's a reasonable goal to try to make your gravel bike 'more road bike-like' with different tires"

It is.

"and how to achieve it."

By mounting a road tyre. That is all there is to it.


We can then get into long arguments between the proponents of Continental vs. Schwalbe, vs Challenge vs. Vittoria vs. Tufo vs. whatever...

It is not productive.

Take a a high performance road tyre and if you really need high performance, think about an aero road wheelset (or an ultralight one, if you mostly climb hills). That is, of course, much more expensive.

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If you want a road tire that actually will result in more speed at the same effort, I found the Continental GP 5000 did that.

I do not have a power meter, but rode the same route in a similar manner as in same gears, cadence, and heart rate. I was about 3% faster when it came to average speed for the ride coming from Bontrager R3s.

Qualitatively the tires feel supple and handle well. I have rode on normal roads 35mph plus and felt stable on them. I also have rode on them in the wet and had no issues, but obviously don’t ride as aggressively in poor conditions.

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We're not into product recommendations; you should peruse cycling websites that list and review such things and see what is available to buy (locally or local shipping)

But in general, you'd want a tire with a slick/low profile rolling center band with more knobby sides.

Or go with a tire with minimal "texture" (I don't know the exact word).

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    I believe the term you're looking for is "file tread" – Paul H Feb 15 at 19:44
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    Those knobby sided slicks are BS, and the transition can cause you to wipe out when cornering. For 99% tarmac/pavement, OP should use a proper slick. – whatsisname Feb 16 at 6:16
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I have a 2020 Giant Revolt 3 (https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/revolt-advanced-3) gravel bike that I ride 99% on tarmac. I was considering a road bike, but as I was coming from a mountain bike background and had never ridden a road bike, this seemed a good compromise.

You made a good choice. Gravel bikes are far more optimal on the road than road bikes for many reasons: longer wheelbase, more sturdy construction, smaller likelihood of using carbon fiber and larger likelihood of using chromium molybdenum steel, improved tire clearance, larger likelihood of disc brakes, more upright riding position, larger likelihood of having 36 spokes on the wheels, larger likelihood of being able to fit mudguards and pannier rack, higher weight typically (so more durable), a larger spread of gears on the rear cassette so you don't have to click...click...click your way across a corncob cassette with 1-tooth differences, etc.

I firmly believe what today is called "road bike" should be called "racing bike", and what today is called "gravel bike" should be called "road bike".

My bike shop said it's almost time to replace the tires and I'm looking for recommendations for new tubeless tires. I'm wondering whether there is any choice that would move me a little bit in the 'road bike direction' in terms of reducing drag and increasing performance, but maintain the grip and stability, particularly in wet weather, that I've gotten used to.

If you ride on the road, the best wet weather grip belongs to slick tires with no tread pattern that have carbon black tread. A typical road tire. Oops, you cannot buy a tire without a tread pattern, because it's so SCARY!!! to ride on a slick tire, so all we have are tires with a minimal micro tread pattern that wears away in no time (like Continental Grand Prix 5000). Plus, a tire with no tread pattern rolls more stably on a road than a patterned tire.

Most important is maintaining safety (grip and cornering, particularly going downhill, and in the wet)

If done on the road, this calls for a slick carbon black tire.

I'd be keen to see if I can get a little more "quickness" (trying to move in the 'road bike' direction, that is, reducing drag while riding)

This too calls for a slick carbon black tire.

Is it possible to maintain the same level of safety with a 'road tire'?

Yes, as long as you avoid the colored tires that don't have carbon black in the rubber compound.

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    "smaller likelihood of using carbon fiber and larger likelihood of using chromium molybdenum steel" Come again? – Paul H Feb 15 at 17:58
  • It actually makes sense that the GP5000 has some tread. You want your tread to be proportional to the average roughness of the surface you ride on, so having micro-tread to match the micro-roughness of an asphalt road makes sense. – MaplePanda Feb 15 at 20:09
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    The continental GP4000 & 5000 have a tread pattern to improve aerodynamics, for no other reason. Most of your answer is very dated. Is this 1995? – JoeK Feb 15 at 20:31
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    The Revolt 3 has a carbon frame and fork... – Cerulean Feb 16 at 1:42
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    @Cerulean I would not get caught up in that tangent about bike material in the answer. Carbon fiber is superior to aluminum in longevity and alloy steel in weight. – Tude Productions Feb 16 at 4:49

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