Best Tires for Unbound 2024

The highest-rated tires for Unbound Gravel from riders who live and ride in the area!

Best Tires for Unbound Gravel

There may be no hotter debated topic than which tires are best for the unforgiving gravel of Unbound. Just take a look at any Facebook group or Reddit thread and you will see the debate rages on and is renewed yearly with new releases of tires.

This is especially true for 2024 as the route will go north to what is typically more rough and sharp gravel than that of the south route. So, instead of forcing you into the depths of social media to find a good recommendation, we brought the best of local riders’ recommendations straight to you.

Before we started, we asked all cyclists to disclose any associations with brands, and all of them were excluded to prevent any biased reporting. With that said, let’s get down to business.

Hunter Williams

Favorite Tire: Panaracer Gravel King X1+

When it comes to finding out what tire works best, Hunter is a great person to talk with. Born and raised in Emporia and a former Unbound Gravel Single Speed winner, he has been racing Unbound since he was a young boy at the age of 16.

“My tire of choice at the moment is the Gravel King X1+. It’s a tire that I have been able to rely on through many different types of terrain. It has a fast rolling tread in the center with some nobs on the side for traction in the corners. It is a harder tire due to the extra picture protection, so time must be spent on tire pressures to get the ride you want from them. I have ridden many different tires, and I’m glad to have switched to these because of my peace of mind, knowing that I can trust the tire to hold up in the rough and be fast on the smooth.”

Sasha Mallon

Favorite Tire: Vittoria Mezcal III G2.0

Sasha is no stranger to gravel and going fast, with multiple podium finishes at Unbound, Gravel Worlds, and about every race she starts. This is an impressive achievement when you consider she is a mother of two, wife, and full-time pharmacist.

“This year we go North! That means more chunky, slippery, and sharp gravel. More steep climbs. With that, I’ve enjoyed my Vittoria Mezcal III G2.0 in 44s. It’s a great ride, and so far no punctures or tears! They are durable for the conditions, and make my ride as low maintenance as possible. This tire is ready for serious action!

My other go to is the Specialized Pathfinder Pros in 42s, although this is a fast and sturdy tire for a less rugged route. They have performed with no flats on the South Unbound route in 2023. Bonus: they come with a tan wall design. In my opinion, this is a very “cute” tire with the tan wall and slick middle strip. “

Vittoria Mezcal

Tyrel Davis

Favorite Tire: Michelin Power Gravel
Runner-up: Panaracer Gravel King X1+

Tyrel is the owner and manager of High Gear Cyclery in Emporia so who would know better than a bike shop employee who rides gravel and sees all the common issues come in!

“I’d say the Michelin Power Gravel has definitely been my favorite gravel tire. They ride super fast with a ton of grip. I’ve never had such a smooth riding tire that can outlast the chunky, loose gravel out on the Flint Hills roads.”

Michelin Power Gravel 40 Review

Bobby Thompson

Favorite Tire: Vittoria Terreno Dry Gravel Endurance
Runner Up: Reneherse Hurrican Ridge

Bobby is a long-time gravel grinder and Emporia local race promoter at Discover Gravel with various events, including Rock Ridge Gravel, Flint Hills Gravel, and the 1,000-mile Flint Hills Ultra. So, when it comes to riding the worst of the worst, Bobby would know a thing or two!

“Vittoria has a killer tire lineup of styles and sizes. I personally use the 40c size. They look fast. They feel fast. Style is badass. Extra Protected center line for our Flint Hills here in Kansas. Just enough bite on the edges to keep me feeling confident in corners.

If I’m going somewhere a little extra loose on steep climbs where I know I’ll be exhausted, I’ll opt for a little more dig with the Terreno Mix Gravel.”

Vittoria Terreno Dry Gravel Endurance

Garret Seacat

Favorite Tire: Panaracer Gravel King X1 Race

Coach Seacat is a long-time Emporian, gravel rider, and former bike shop manager in Emporia as well. He was lucky enough to be in town since the beginning of the event and has taken part in the event in one way or another since its inception.

“I had no plans of switching tires this year from the Michelins for Unbound until I got a pair of X1’s to demo months ago. I was shocked at how fast they rolled, even with a fairly aggressive tread pattern.

While I normally prefer to ride Panaracer tires in the ‘plus’ version for additional protection, the X1s are strong enough with full bead-to-bead protection that I feel no need for it this year. With well over 1,000 miles on the tires and multiple times through Little Egypt, I have nothing but great things to say about the tires.

I say it almost every year: if you want a tire you can put on and have zero worries of flats or issues, get a Panaracer.”

Panaracer X1 Tire

Adam Galindo

Favorite Tire: Maxxis Rambler
Runner-up: Panaracer SS+

Another lifelong Emporian, Adam, has completed the 200 over 5 times, took first place on a tandem and is a Unbound XL finisher. Adam logs big miles yearly and is also a local NICA youth mountain bike team coach.

“I really like the Maxxis Ramblers in 40mm tires for riding through the tougher northern course. These tires are great because they roll fast on smoother gravel without losing their grip when things get a bit loose or gnarly.

The extra rubber with the size 40mm helps smooth out the road, making long rides a lot more comfortable.

Plus, the Ramblers are durable. They can take a lot of abuse without getting cuts. Which takes a ton of stress off of worrying about the rougher sections.”

Maxxis Rambler

So there you have it, the best tires for Unbound Gravel from the most experienced riders in the area.  With this variety of personal experiences, we hope this helps guide you to the best options available in the market. The key takeaway from our contributors emphasizes the importance of tires that can withstand sharp, unforgiving gravel while providing stability and confidence on long rides.

As you ponder which tire might best suit your gravel riding needs, consider the technical specifications and how each tire aligns with your riding style. As always, visit your local bike shop to see these recommended tires in person and purchase them.