I plan to do a 1000 km bike packing/touring around West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The route consist of 70% tarmac (transition between towns through jungle mountain pass) and 30% gravel (Smooth,chunky fist-sized, sand mostly to get to my destination like beaches, cliff, waterfall, etc.). climate here is dry all year round. i have 2 options for tire type selection, first one is both tyre using regular gravel tyre (knobby, maybe vulpine or cinturato H), and the second is to swap the front with semi slick tyre (same size, maybe Byway or pathfinder). Main things to consider is:

  1. does it change the balances of front-rear grip esp. while cornering and descending (climbing mostly depends on rear wheel traction)
  2. how much gains (marginal) do i get from the semi-slick tyre
  3. which setup is more efficient overall (comfort, safety, speed, etc.)
  • 3
    In MTB people use different tyres for front and back all the time. But your questions are too many and very specific and look like a better fit for a discussion forum. 1000 km does not sound that much, if in civilized world, I would not bother with a spare tyre. Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 5:45
  • @VladimirFГероямслава I live in a fairly densely populated country, and often do carry a tyre. I've used it a couple of times, and wished for it once when I didn't carry it (a blowout too close to the bead for a boot, and longer than the boots I carry). Even here in the UK, most of my riding distance is more than 2 hours walk from a bike shop or public transport to get to one - and many aren't open on Sundays. Taxis won't take bikes and it can be hard to get one in a rural area. I'm not saying you have to, but it's often a good idea to carry a tyre
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 6:01
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    @VladimirFГероямслава the road is good, but between village it is around 50km and there's no transportation (middle of jungle, no ppl at all, mountainous terrain). well, let's simplified the question to which one to pick between front semi -slick or regular tire for marginal gains
    – Ravidas K
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 7:07
  • For the question about performance gain, the answer is always looking up at bicyclerollingresistance.com. For tires mentioned in the question, Cinturato H has lower rolling resistance than Pathfinder.
    – ojs
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 7:30
  • BTW if you are going to carry a tyre, it doesn't have to be the same as you'd choose ideally. I carry a folding 28mm Durano Plus for road (otherwise 32mm) and gravel (37mm), and have even carried it on the MTB, when it would have been a challenge squeezing the tube in.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


As said in the comments, having different tires in common in MTB, and is also discussed in the context of gravel racing.

The principle is: grippier tire front, less rolling resistance rear. The reasoning is that there is more weight on the rear, so the rolling resistance is mostly influenced by the rear tire. But when you brake or corner, the weight is transferred to the front. Having grippier tires allows to have more control when you need it. Because there's less weight on the front rear when riding, the impact on rolling resistance is lower.

So having a semi slick front and a gravel tire rear might not be the most optimal combination.

  • Hi, thank you for the reference you add, helps a lot in sorting my mind out, but one thing still bug my mind, that is if i use semi slick in the rear, wont i be more prone to sliding and skidding when i climb, esp in loose terrain? Does semi slick tire holds up well in climbs as knobby tire?
    – Ravidas K
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 7:58
  • 3
    @RavidasK big loose lumps (unless wet and rounded) are quite OK on semi-slicks. Mud and small loose stuff is where tread is needed. But if you lose traction on the back climbing, you put a foot down, get off, and push. If you lose traction on the front cornering, you probably crash.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 8:22
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    For wear it can also be beneficial to have a slick tyre in the rear. Most of the wear happens on the rear tyre and knobs can wear down quickly.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 8:23
  • 1
    @Michael gravel tyres seem better than true knobblies in that regard (I ride my MTB to the trail centre on road and that's killing my back tyre). But you're right, or course. Picking something with some grip but more rubber than air touching a flat surface might be good. I used to use Marathon Mondial on my tourer for that, before I got a gravel bike
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 9:11

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