Challenge is a name often associated with the cyclocross world, but the Italian firm also offer a handful of gravel tyres. The most popular of which is the fast rolling Gravel Grinder series. Available a variety of sizes, UK distributor Upgrade, chose to send over the chunkiest of the bunch, the 700×42.
Before you even unravel the tyre from the packaging, it’s clear right away that these are chunky tyres. They’re a lot more voluminous than what the sidewall states. Mounted on a 22mm internal diameter rim, the tyre measured a mighty 44mm wide. Our test bike was rated for max clearance of 42mm and these tyres were really pushing it close.
The official weight for the Challenge Gravel Grinder 700×42 is 425g. The office scales reported 428g and 427g for our test pair, which isn’t shabby for such a chubby tyre.
Challenge have a reputation for hand made, tubular tyres. Vulcanised rubber clinchers like these, are surprisingly a relatively new ball game for the brand. Tubeless ready, the TLR in the name, is an even more recent move for Challenge. None of this was of concern, the tyres popped on the rims without fuss and remained inflated overnight, even without sealant. Riding without sealant would be chancing it and I chose another Upgrade brand, Effetto Caffelatex to keep me puncture free throughout the trial.
No prizes for guessing the Gravel Grinder is a dry conditions tyre. The file pattern tread is one step up from a full slick. Large sidelugs are designed to hook up in the corners, but you’d be upside down in a hedge before they have a chance to bite! Keep them on hardacked trails and you’ll rocket along with minimal rolling resistance.
The tyre has a very smooth, damped feel while riding most surfaces. Most of this can be credited to the large volume which give the Challenge a magic carpet feel over the rough. Acceleration is pretty rapid as you’d expect from such a minimal tread pattern and minimum drag makes it a great climber too.
So long as the conditions are dry, you can get away with some surprising angles of lean in the corners before the Gravel Grinder breaks away. Those large side lugs really only come into play when you’re really leaning over. Perhaps best to consider them as the ‘last ditch effort’ to regain some grip before all is lost.
Dry sandy conditions are another surprise. It’s large volume gives the Gravel Grinder the feel of a flotation tyre and it finds more traction that you’d ever give it credit for.
In the 3 months I’ve running the Challenge Gravel Grinder, I have been lucky in avoiding any visits from the Puncture Fairy. The sidewalls are starting to show some abrasion from close dices with flints but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary.
The file tread is wearing well, despite a lot of road miles. I have to ride A LOT more tarmac in the winter to reach the gravel trails and avoid muddy bridleways. Yes, there’s clear signs of wear down the centreline, but nothing I would deem as excessive.
A fast rolling, high volume tyre for what one can only describe as ‘perfect gravel’ conditions. You’ve seen the photos of American gravel grinders with dry dusty roads? That’s the optimum surface for the Challenge Gravel Grinder! They’d work just as well for ‘trad gravel events on this side of the pond too; Dirty Reiver for example.
The width is great for comfort, it’s tough, durable and wears well. As a fast rolling dry summer tyre, the Challenge Gravel Grinder is great. Just hope that it stays dry!
Last modified: 3rd April 2020