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26" gravel tires - smooth and wider or knobs and narrower?

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26" gravel tires - smooth and wider or knobs and narrower?

Old 06-17-19, 05:04 PM
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surak
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26" gravel tires - smooth and wider or knobs and narrower?

Didn't want to threadjack the recent thread on gravel tires, since mine are for my Santana Vision 26" rigid drop-bar tandem which maxes out at 2" wide slicks (Kojaks, ruled out for gravel after reading BRR review noting their low tread protection and "horrible" sidewall protection) with fenders. Stoker has expressed willingness to ride the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, we've been on parts of it but never on a tandem. Riding on 32mm city tires the first time was a bit sketchy and even sketchier when I recently rode a portion on 25mm slicks, so confidence-inspiring tire choice is at the forefront of my mind.

Jan Heine argues that smooth tires with supple casing are best, while lots of people seem to feel more confident with knobs (at the expense of size in order to fit under fenders). Then there's a wide range of offerings based on puncture protection and associated weight. I thought I was going to buy some Continental Contact Plus Travel 1.75" tires, but the listed weight of 950g is eye-popping and now I have second thoughts...

Do side knobs help smooth the ride and avoid sidewall cuts, or should I look to find whatever can run the lowest pressure?
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Old 06-17-19, 05:29 PM
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Width and knobs are two completely unrelated considerations that have little to do with each other. A skinny knobby is not a substitute for a fat slick or vise versa.

Wide tires can afford lower pressures, making for a smoother ride and helping the tires track the ground better. Knobs are useful for punching through loose or mucky material and grabbing anything grabbable.

If we're talking about a ride that includes a bunch of dry rocky gravel, I would tend to go for super-fat slicks.

Originally Posted by surak View Post
I thought I was going to buy some Continental Contact Plus Travel 1.75" tires, but the listed weight of 950g is eye-popping and now I have second thoughts...
The performance issue with tires like that isn't the weight, it's the rolling resistance.

Do side knobs help smooth the ride and avoid sidewall cuts
If you want a smoother ride, pump the tires squishier. If you want to avoid sidewall cuts, use a bigger tire to reduce sidewall exposure, and/or use a tire with beefier sidewalls.

Last edited by HTupolev; 06-17-19 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 06-17-19, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Width and knobs are two completely unrelated considerations that have little to do with each other. A skinny knobby is not a substitute for a fat slick or vise versa.


The performance issue with tires like that isn't the weight, it's the rolling resistance.


If you want a smoother ride, pump the tires squishier. If you want to avoid sidewall cuts, use a bigger tire to reduce sidewall exposure, and/or use a tire with beefier sidewalls.
Thanks for the reply, but the problem is the maximum tire clearance allowed by my fenders, which are not coming off. Since knobs enlarge the tire profile, I am limited to choosing either width or knobs, so they are very much a related issue.

I'm not concerned (rather, my stoker isn't) about speed, and there aren't too many resources on rolling resistance for 26" tires other than the rough estimates different manufacturers rate theirs at that aren't useful for any comparison. I do know that heavier is obviously harder to roll uphill, as the trail does steadily going east, and rotational weight is even worse.

Of course a flat could slow a ride down even more than a poor-rolling tire. There's a limit to how squishy one can go on a two-person weighted tandem before pinch flats become an issue. And I'm guessing sidewall cuts be easier to get with a tandem since it can't steer as nimbly or bounce off rocks as lightly. Other than BRR, I don't know of any source that reports sidewall thickness. Again manufacturers lump all puncture protection into a one-dimensional scale that isn't useful. I'm left with using side knobs as an indication that a tire could have some sidewall protection.
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Old 06-18-19, 11:23 AM
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If you aren't sold on the Compass, then maybe consider running dirt jumper tires instead?

They are good mix of smooth/grippy/durable but without having the heavy e-bike ratings which seem to be limiting the useful 26 inch tire options lately.

Here is one example: https://www.specialized.com/us/en/co...YaAh2pEALw_wcB

Here is an article that compares a number of other tires: Best Street MTB Tires - The Rise
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Old 06-18-19, 11:51 AM
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This would be an inexpensive experiment to see how they work: https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...cts/kenda-5912
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Old 06-18-19, 12:47 PM
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Here's another inexpensive source for a tire that got good reviews: https://www.northerntool.com/shop/to...8269_200478269
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Old 06-19-19, 06:09 AM
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We use 26x2 slicks (Schwalbe Kojak) on our tandem which is good for hardpack but not loose stuff. We mostly do credit card touring and general riding on roads and, sometimes dirt roads.

Only time I would consider real aggresive treads is for riding in loose gravel or sand/mud. Too much buzz for my taste on hard surfaces.

If Panaracer Gravel King is available in 26", that might be a reasonable compromise.
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Old 06-19-19, 10:02 AM
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For maximum comfort, you'll want to maximize the air volume of your tires. It helps to minimize the sidewall stiffness, too. Knobs (or thick thread) take up valuable space that could otherwise be used for air. Knobs are used to increase traction on sand or mud; for dry gravel, they don't improve traction or comfort. Most of the 26 x 1.9 to 2.0" tires seem to have really thick, "durable" treads and stiff sidewalls. Your best bet might be a set of MTB XC tires with the knobs trimmed. Other options could include Vredestein Spotted Cat, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial, Schwalbe Big Ben, Schwalbe Jet, Panaracer Ribmo, Schwalbe Kojak. I'd caution against the Vee Speedster which otherwise looks good for your application -- we found that the tread picked up lots of glass and small rocks compared to every other tire we've owned.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:35 AM
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We use Schwalbe Marathon HS-420, 559x47 with good result.
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