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Traverse City, MI 49684
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Fresh Rubber: Panaracer Gravel King SK
September 17, 2017, 12:00 am

With this amazing weather, we've had plenty of opportunities to get out and put a new set of tires through the ringer around Northern Michigan. 

Even with the warm temps and sun, we've been in the woods a lot this September, and much of our time has been spent on drop bars, gravel roads, and weaving in some singletrack as well. It's a tall ask for your equipment, but with Giant, Scott, and other brands putting together the right bikes, we're on the search for the right tire. 

Our pals down at Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. put the Panaracer Gravel King SK on our radar earlier this spring, and with road rides starting to wind down, we figured it was time to get some testing miles in. The SK comes in two main widths for Northern Michigan, where your biggest concerns aren't rocks but sand. Deep, cruel, copious sand for miles. Especially right now, with almost ten days without rain, even the best gravel roads are getting soft, and the worst of them are almost unrideable on 28s or 30s. We picked up the 35mm tires in the trendy gumwall color. The SKs are available in narrow sizes, but if you live in Michigan, it's almost nuts not to get at least 35s. 

Our pair measured out to a full 38mm on a set of Mavic Kysirium rims. If you have tight clearance, it might be a good idea to get 35s, as we expect the 40s to be 1-2mm wider than listed, but of course, it'll depend on your rims. 

The tread on these are interesting. The center of the tire is a small, square dimpled tread that looks like a slightly more aggressive version of the old Continental Cyclocross Speed tire. We put it next to a Schwalbe Thunderburt, and that center ridge is very similar, which is a solid option for the Vasa 25km and all the gravel you can find. The side knobs are much taller, but are long enough to offer a consistent grip. It doesn't yank you around much, which is a great thing if you drop these down to 33-35psi and hit the singletrack. 

And like any CX or off road tire, your psi is key. Nail it. It can take some trial and error, but it's worth spending a bit of time on getting it right. The tire is rated to 70psi, but you'll never sniff that. We took on a recent Tuesday Night Ride, with speeds consistently over 23mph, and at 55, the tires felt responsive. They were definitely a bit more work at such high speeds, and over 22, you'll notice the resistance on the pavement and in the air more and more as the speed increases. 

Last Sunday, the tires made it onto the race bike for Uncle John's Dirty Ride, a 54 mile gravel race. The race promoter had told riders that 28s were perfect, and there were a few times where a little less rubber would have been nice. That said, on a course that flat, the only place that created gaps were corners, and the Gravel Kings were a difference maker. With riders getting tired, getting lazy with their positioning, and just starting to lose the ability to think, being able to rain a turn and sprint out of it was huge. It was one of the reasons I was able to hold on in the finale, even after some big miles on the front. 

The tires weighed in right at the advertised 380 grams, which isn't the lightest out there, but it's certainly in the ballpark of plenty of other tires that may not offer as functional a tread. 

Overall, we like these tires because of their versatility. There are faster rolling tires, and tires that are better for taking your CX/Gravel bike on singletrack, but if you want one tire that you're going to leave on, no matter what, from now until who-knows-when, this is a tough one to beat. We'll have 35s and 40s in stock, but if there's another width you're interested in, just let us know! 

Cool Kicks: SCOTT MTB Team Boa Shoe
September 11, 2017, 12:00 am

Keep your feet happy with some fresh kicks this fall. We take a look at the Scott MTB Team Boa. 

It's The Right Time For Light Time!
September 5, 2017, 12:00 am

It's getting darker earlier and earlier! Keep your riding going with the right lights from Serfas. 

Giant Adventures with the TCX
August 28, 2017, 12:00 am

Open up new roads, new trails, and new adventures this fall. 

Commute Into Autumn: The Right Bike For Around Town Right
August 21, 2017, 12:00 am

Whether you're trying to exercise more, park the car, or save the planet, getting to work by bike checks all the boxes. 

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