Review: Panaracer Gravel King SK Tyres

The Panaracer Gravel King series of tyres have had a great reputation for years - often spoken about in reverent tones on internet forums and by those who ride them. Until now, I hadn't had the chance to spend any time on them to find out if the hype was justified.

Panaracer have been producing tyres in Japan since the 50s. Their name was legendary in the early days of mountain biking; producing the first front/rear specific tread patterns with their creatively named Smoke/Dart combo, then the red-sidewalled Fire XC, which were ubiquitous on the trails and race courses of the late 90s. Panaracer then seemed to drop off the radar in the MTB scene, but kept churning out their range of road and 'adventure' tyres -gaining a cult following along the way.

The SK version sits in the middle of the Gravel King line-up as far as tread pattern goes, making it probably the most versatile tyre in the range. It mixes a fast-rolling centre strip with tightly-packed square 'knobs', which offer a bit more traction on loose surfaces than a completely smooth centre would. This helps with climbing and braking and gave a bit more confidence on damp trails too. Heading to the sides of the casing, two rows of alternatively-spaced and bigger squares offer good cornering grip, and never let go under hard turns in loose gravel and/or wet dirt. On the road, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they rolled, with very limited drag or tyre buzz from the centre blocks.