Based in Japan, Panaracer have been churning out the goods for nearly 70 years, so they know a thing or two about keeping you rubber side down.
We often joke about the suitability of the popular GravelKing tyres in UK winter conditions, so when we saw the more pronounced tread of the GravelKing EXT model we knew we had to give them a whirl.
What Panaracer say:
Built on the same concept as our Gravelking and Gravelking SK models, the EXT version incorporates the same technology on top of a specially designed tread tailored to work best in muddy and sloppy conditions, with better puncture resistance while retaining the superb balance of a light riding feel and grip.
These Gravel King EXT Plus tyres have been ridden on the local Bristol roads, bridleways and packed gravel/wet root sections of the local trail centre (Ashton Court) over the last month or so in typically British conditions.
Think peanut butter, and torrential downpours with a healthy serving of very gritty mud.
The GravelKing EXT Plus tyres are tubeless compatible, and feature three technologies to help reduce the risk of punctures.
Panaracer name their dense weave construction ‘Advanced Extra Alpha Cord’, which is then reinforced around the whole tyre with a ‘ProTite Shield Plus’. Thirdly, the ‘Puncture Resistant Belt’ is fitted under the tread only to deliver extra protection to this most vulnerable area, so Panaracer claim.
This extra puncture protection, donated by the ‘Plus’ in the product name, comes at at weight penalty of 40 grams per tyre in all widths over the GravelKing EXT tyres, as well adding £5 off the RRP.
They’re available in three widths in 700c only: 33 (370 g per tyre), 35 (420 g), and 38mm (470 g). On test here are the widest option at 38 mm.
Like the best tyres on the market, you get the choice of stealth black or tan sidewalls.
Set up and first impressions
Tubeless set up was as easy as I’ve ever had of any tyre, and they inflated first attempt using a standard floor pump. The rims are stock on my Marin Headlands, with a 21 mm internal diameter.
There was some very slight sealant seeping on the first ride but this soon cleared up, and no more issues were found. I used Muc Off’s tubeless sealant for these, although Panaracer do of course recommend their own sealant.
Tan sidewalls are always an absolute delight, but finished with white and gold branding detail was the icing on the cake. The tread and feel in the hands is sturdy without feeling like a cheap rubber compound that can arrive on some full build stock tyres.
The sidewall stands up solidly and feels protected enough to not have to worry about when picking through more aggressive, stony bridleways. The three separate tyre protection systems come to the fore here, but more of that later.
Volume, size and profile is as described.
The central banding through the tread pattern gives these tyres a fast feeling on the road, yet is burly and pronounced enough to not spin out like crazy in slick, muddy conditions.
The edge knobs are well spaced and clear mud incredibly well. They could perhaps be burlier right at the edge to potentially inspire more confidence when cornering or off camber sections of the trail, but maybe that’s the mountain biker in me!
I have experienced zero punctures during this test and couldn’t find any signs of significant damage to the tyre on closer inspection either. I do get the impression these would be good for a long while given the feel of the compound.
It has to be said this tyre does feels sturdy, strong and stands up well even at lower pressures; it didn’t feel at all wallowy.
Panaracer GravelKing EXT Plus: the verdict
The GravelKing EXT Plus tyre is undeniably great all rounder with looks to punt and reasonably priced, especially if you’re happy to shop around that is, as these are often heavily discounted.
If your typical off-road routes feature a mix of road and trail at about 50/50, then this is probably the winter tyre for you.
I’d say it’s worth spending a little more and carrying a little extra weight for the ‘Plus’ model too, for that puncture free peace of mind. No-one wants to be stuck trailside in the winter with a tricky tubeless mare!
What could make them better? I’d love to see a bit more aggressive tread on the edge of the tread for cornering, and as is the trend with gravel tyres; increased widths and 650b options.
GravelKing EXT Plus tyres£50, €57, $68 (often discounted)
Last modified: 9th December 2020