Gravel Rubber: WTB's Nano 40

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In northern Michigan, girth matters. We’ve been riding the WTB Nanos, and they’re the right tire for a lot of local riding.

With more bikes blurring or erasing the line between gravel, road, cyclocross, and even mountain biking, the importance of rolling the right tire to handle it all makes more of a difference than ever. We’ve all been there; riding a fast tire on pavement that slides all over the place in the dirt, or a heavily treaded dirt tire that rolls like a slug on anything hard-packed or paved. It’s a lot to ask of a tire, when you think about it. For decades, the demands of each tire was relatively narrow. Slicks stayed on pavement. Treaded tires stayed on dirt, usually on a completely different wheel size. Today, tires have to do more.

Finding the tire for your style of riding and where you ride is key. Here in Traverse City, we have a lot of rough, cracked roads, so a supple tire is important. Our gravel isn’t really ‘gravel’ as other places would have it. Here, we have sand. With sand, width is the biggest factor for a tire, and we’ve found that a 40mm tire serves as the best benchmark for anyone mixing pavement, gravel, and trail. In other parts of the state, the clay base mean 28mm or 32mm tires are fine; up here, you might as well back a towel, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with your butt in the sand.

Enter the Nano. We first started riding this tire three years ago, and with thousands of miles on them and plenty of other tires tested, we keep coming back to these. The deep chevron tread offers a firm footprint for dirt and an almost paddle-like impact on the sand. It’s a low enough profile that it doesn’t hum or feel slow on pavement, either, which is a good thing; they ride so well on so many surfaces that you’ll spend a lot of time on these on the roads getting around town or riding up to the trailhead.

And yes, these are darn good on the sandy Vasa Pathway and the flowy Singletrack, too. The key for these tires is finding the right tire pressure. We never have them over 40 psi which, to the thumb-press, feels rather firm. On a tubeless rim, 20-25 is a good range, and between 25-30 psi if you’re using tubes.

That tube or tubeless decision is a bit of an important one. While not heavy per se, they’re slightly on the heftier side for a 40mm tire, though the ‘race’ version, which require tubes, might save you a few grams.

We’ve got black and skin wall Nanos in stock to suite your flavor.

Got a gravel tire you dig? Let us know!