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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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Old 07-27-19, 03:59 PM
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Any way to cram Huck Norris into in? If you are extremely concern about slashing the sidewalls, they work.
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Old 07-27-19, 07:13 PM
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I decided to bite the weight bullet and will be trying out a pair of Marathon Plus Tour 1.75" tomorrow on the trail.
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Old 07-28-19, 11:37 PM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
I decided to bite the weight bullet and will be trying out a pair of Marathon Plus Tour 1.75" tomorrow on the trail.
The tires held up fine, but going uphill on the way eastward was a slog, especially since we had to detour onto a steeper road when a running nuisanceevent blocked off the trail and we had to go up a Cat 4 climb while I couldn't shift into the little ring for the first half.

Other than some bottle ejection issues (our tandem came with really crappy bottle cages), don't think the Marathons made the ride too rough. I definitely appreciated not being concerned about flatting.
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Old 07-30-19, 05:22 AM
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Wider tyres are so much better than narrow tyres I would never go back to anything under 38/40mm unless it was 28's on a set of deep dish aero wheels for a time trial. We have a set of 26" Blunt35's that I built up for our 26" Mocha that I installed Schwalbe Supremes 2.0" tyres on. They roll really well and last for ages. We used them when we rode along Eurovelo 15 which has a lot of hard packed gravel paths and I really liked them. A bit of caution is required for cornering but in a straight line they were fine.
650b x 40 is nearly the same diameter as 26" x 2.0". So I also built up a set of Lightbicycle 650b carbon rims (we have disc brakes) and did our recent 7 week tour of Italy on a set of Schwalbe G-One Speed 650 x 40 tyres. They also roll really well and offer more grip on gravel paths. We did some really rough goat tracks (thanks Google maps) when we were in Sicily which tore up the rear tyre a bit. By the end of the ride the tyres were up to about 3000 kms and the front was hardly worn but the rear required replacing. We are now using some 47mm Gravel King Slicks that measure 51mm wide on the 650b wheelset. They don't roll as fast as the G-One speed tyres but they give a comfortable ride with loads of grip. One thing I did notice with these tyres though is that the rolling diameter must be just a bit to big because the handling is that good. I have to be conscious of counter steering and a bit of extra muscle is required
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Old 08-09-19, 04:41 AM
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Seems you got it sorted out. A short while back we took the Ventana ECDM mountain tandem on the Tuesday ride. Essentially the majority is a slow paced social ride. They do however have a fast as you can go portion.

Generally the ride is deemed a MTB ride, but over time more and more gravel bikes have showed up, often with stronger riders.

The Ventana, while running our typical full knobby off road tires had a lot of rolling resistance compared to the other bikes. Even as a tandem, it took a lot of effort keeping the fast guys in sight during the sprint. The skinny tired gravel bikes go pretty good.

Wanting to see just how much better or worse a smoother tire would work on gravel, I installed a pair of Continental Town & Country 26 x 2.1” tires that were not being used. I guessed at a pressure to run, and will run a bit less next time. Regardless, the tires were fine on the gravel hardpack, with excess pressure making them a bit sketchy, but still ok on the looser stuff. Those Continentals rolled well also.
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Old 08-09-19, 11:53 AM
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I just finished a tour along the C&O Canal, riding Schwalbe Marathon 26x1.5 tires. These were on my single Co-Motion touring bike, but I'm sure would be fine for a tandem, too. I was pleased with their performance on widely varying terrain on this trip, from almost-singletrack dirt/mud with roots and rocks, to paved roads, to hard-pack dirt and loose gravel. Pretty close to all-round tire IMO if you want a bit of volume. They aren't the lightest tires out there, but with the Green Guard barrier they hold up very well and rarely get flats (I've run 26x1.25 versions for years, including on our 26" Santana Fusion tandem for touring).
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