The best tyres for riding the gravel tracks in the Dirty Reiver

I’m looking forward to riding the Dirty Reiver in 2020 again. Despite a top 10 finish last time i did it, I don’t think I’ll be in that kind of shape again but I’m looking forward to it!

However more important than the ride itself seems to be tyre choice and hopefully this is a useful guide to what tyres work on terrain like the Dirty Reiver. The route is very similar to the gravel tracks on my daily gravel riding here in the Tweed Valley and the long, fast forest track descents here will find out poor tyres quickly.

A lot of tyres I use seem to rip or spray sealant too easily and while I ride fast I’m not that heavy compared to some at 75kg. I have found a few that survive and should be reliabe for the riding like the Reiver route involves.  To avoid punctures I used to run about 70psi with tubes but I’m sure the extra muscle fatigue from the solid tyres outweighed the speed advantages. I have learnt in the last couple of years to mix it up with lower pressures and the right tyre and I’m never going back to tubes.

1. Tubeless is the only option
Tubeless means lower pressures and more compliance for comfort, self sealing with sealant for most flats and lighter rotational weight. I’ve been tubeless for years now on MTB and on gravel and I can’t remember the last time I had to put a tube in. Put simply do not attempt the Dirty Reiver with tubes unless you’re rims just don’t work tubeless. I expect to run about 45psi, but I know others go lower and it makes such  a big difference.

2. Width
For me 40mm is about the magic number for speed/grip/tolerable comfort. For more comfort anything up to a 1.95″ tyre would work and for faster rolling a 37mm would be noticeable harsher and more fatiguing but probably carrys more speed, don’t go any less than 37mm, even if running a Lauf fork and a nice Titanium frame (which I recommend – Lauf sponsor it for a reason!). The course is coarser than you might expect and you’ll be carrying some serious speed on the downhill sections, so some width is important.

3. Wheel size

Like more and more gravel bikes I have the option on my new Tripster ATR V3 to run 650b or 700c. Either would work fine for the Reiver and running  650bs has been my preference recently, the wider clearance opens the door for riding so many new routes that maybe had a few sections too rough before. If you’re in the Dirty Reiver as a fun day out rather than taking it too seriously then 650b with 1.95″ tyres are a wee bit slower but reduces the fatigue from vibration. However for me I like to carry speed up and down the undulations of the route and the better rolling resistance of a 700x42mm set up is my preference for the Reiver.

4. The Tyres:

For me the best tyre has to firstly survive the rough gravel riding. If something doesn’t puncture or rip on my local testing loop here in Scotland, then its worth considering further! I’ve only listed what I think are currently the most popular gravel tyres and explained the positives and negatives about each on faster, rougher gravel. As you’ll see I have ripped and punctured quite a few of them and only a couple I’ve not tried to.

Finally it is worth saying that all tyres set up tubeless differently depending on rim shape, size, values and even sealant used. This impacts on actual width and how easy it is to set up tubeless, but all here do work tubeless, it is just dependant on your rims that some might be easier or harder. A rims’ shape can help or hinder while tolerances and dimensions vary so there is no hard and fast rule based on just the tyre. I’ll focus on puncture protection, grip, longevity and rolling resistance.

Teravail Rutlands

A great strong, light and grippy tyre. This hasn’t punctured at all on rough tracks. It holds air well too over a long time. Either a 700 x 42mm or a 650b x 47mm. It is very grippy on the corners which is a lot of fun, this grip means it does drag just a bit more than some and it is a soft compound so wears down relatively fast on the rear. If you want the security from a robust fast cornering tyre, this is the best on the market in my opinion. If you’d like less grip consider the Teravail Cannonball in the 700 x 42mm, I have not tested these but can’t see why they’d differ in quality. They are hard to get hold of in the UK and not the cheapest option.

Schwalble G-One All round/Speed/Bite

I’ll keep this simple they are all rubbish, when the going gets tough, they just give up too easily and self destruct on rougher trails. They might perform well in terms of riding performance and on smoother tracks and road sections then fine consider them, but for the Reiver or my local riding I’ll keep it simple; No thank you.

WTB Resolutes 700×42

A great looking all round tread pattern, decent weight, middle grip levels make it a genuine all rounder. Only one tubeless puncture after 2 years of use on two pairs and even this sealed with a plug very well. This is my go to tyre for riding. I have used in 650 and 700 and I like the 42mm width for both wheels – rather bizarrely. It is surprisingly fast on the tarmac and rolls well. It will spin out on steeper, loose climbs and drift on loose corners but as a fit and forgot all round  it is about the best buy out there for Gravel and th Dirty Reiver.

Buy Here

WTB Nanos

I thought these in a 700 x 40mm width was the answer, they roll fast and they’re a decent weight at 530gm for TCS version.  I have used Nanos extensively set up tubeless and I like the speed and grip but while they are better than some, they just keep puncturing on me.I have been riding pretty fast on varied gravel tracks but I’m not exactly that heavy either. Each time they have self sealed eventually  but fundamentally the issue is the tread covers a narrow contact strip which exposes the sidewall at the shoulder which is then too thin.  I no longer us them. Maybe an option on the front but not the rear.

Buy here

Vee tire – Rails

See the source image

Vee Tire or Vee Rubber Rails are pretty hard to get hold of but they have really impressed me in both a 650b x 1.95″ and 700 x 40mm. These grip really well on most surfaces but most importantly still roll well on roads, as you find with grippy tyres they wear down quicker than some. However I have not punctured once using the Synthesis sidewall. The non-synthesis is nowhere near as good. To be honest I’ve used a few other Vee Tire tyres and they were all pretty rubbish, but the Rails are very good.
The 700x40mm Rails are tubeless ready and set up well, the little perforations in the blocks grip well on rock and even dustings of snow in case it is one of those years for the Reiver. They’re really competitively priced too, however they’re pretty hard to track down.

WTB – Riddlers

In many respects these look a good option with a nice fast tread pattern with side lugs for cornering at speed but again they are just not the strongest at lower pressures. I’ve used these in 700x 45 and found them less attractive in almost all respects over the WTB Resolute 42mm (only the 45mm extra comfort on more mellow terrain).  The 37mm is a bit narrow for me, but they both miss the 40mm sweet spot being either 37 or 45mm. Maybe fast in the right terrain but not convinced the Reiver is the right terrain.

Maxxis – Rambler

A surpisingly light option (385gm), the lightest listed in the 38mm+ sizes. It is tubeless ready and rolls well, and being tubeless ready should cover your back a bit…..well it should, but it doesn’t. It rips on rougher gravel and punctures easily. With 120 TPI its a compliant ride and it comes up quite narrow, measured at just under 38mm in real life when quoted as 40mm. The EXO protection casing works well for Maxxis MTB tyres, but the sidewalls on these are thinner and are weak so avoid it for the Reiver.

Specialized – Trigger

Fast but heavier than you might expect looking at them, but still a respectable (490gm for 38mm). There’s more rubber to these than they appear. They are 38mm or 47mm so again miss the 40mm sweet spot. They come ‘2Bliss’ ready so can pump full of sealant. Supposedly a strong tyre and fast rolling just a bit bulkier than you might expect looking ay the minimalist tread pattern. Also the casings are 60TPI so bit stiff feeling like robust touring style tyres  and not that compliant ride. A viable option for the Reiver but not the best.

Challenge Gravel Grinder

This 40mm gravel option from Challenge looks similar to the Specialized Trigger and pretty fast, however I have not tried them so can’t comment too much, the specs all read good so maybe worth considering and other reviews seem quite positive on them.

Buy here

Panaracer Gravel King SK

GravelkingSKAnother mid comfort and mid grip option that’s best in 40mm. Weight is OK at 490gm for 700 x 40mm. They are a decent enough tyre, but they feel more sluggish compared to WTB’s offerings, they feel heavy but oddly they also seem to lack grip?!  Designed just for gravel I’d maybe consider it on the rear for Dirty Reiver. Only get them in the TLC tubeless ready version and they should hold up OK.

Buy Here

Hutchinson Override


Not something I have used, but looks an interesting option for those seeking low rolling resistance over grip. Apparently a very strong tyre robust tyre in a tacky rubber but with no side lugs it will drift like snow in the corners. Only available in 38mm you would be making a statement of intent to go very fast if you buy these!

Buy Here

Touring style tyres

These are heavy but roll well and are super robust and almost puncture proof. They come in range of widths to suit personal preference for comfort up to 42mm. While these tyres will grip more than you think but that is based on very low expectations, they are still going to be looser than loose on the corners at speed, they’re also a bit too sturdy and uncompliant, offering a harsh stiff ride feel. I think they are just too heavy for this event, even though they won’t break or puncture on you so don’t need to be tubeless and can rely on them to last the distance.

Continental Travel Contact

Solid centre line and side knobs and lightest ‘Touring option’. This is quite a good option and pretty fast on gravel. Little less grip than might like and they can’t reliably be set up tubeless like all touring style tyres. They give a solid harsh ride but won’t puncture and will roll well, if little sluggish from the extra weight over some of the above options.

Schwalbe Marathons

These are heavier but a go to tyre for so many touring. Reliable, bombproof, unrelenting tyre option that will get you home without issue….eventually.

Continental Touring Plus

I have used these Continental Touring Plus and they’ve been great on gravel, lighter than the Schwalbe Marathons’s but still very hefty. Never punctured in a year using them from Tajikistan to the blue MTB trails at Glentress in Scotland. Again, reliable but uninspired riding.

Well I hope this has helped, it’s probably just confused matters even more. If it helps I think I’ll stick with my WTB Resolutes 700 by 42mm. Otherwise the Teravail Rutlands are a safe option.


    • Definitely say hi if you see me, I should stand out with my gate like 63cm Tripster! It’ll be interesting to compare the different builds people went with for the V2 as it’s so versatile. Are you sticking with 700 wheels too?

      • Yes 700’s for now. Will be interesting to compare having done all four of the old Kielder 100 mile races on 29er. Going to be a long brutal day.

  1. I’m voting for the Vee Tire Rails, again from Upgrade Bikes – they seem to be a bit more robust than my usual Schwalbe G-Ones.

    • That’s interesting to hear the comparison with G-Ones after the positive feedback comments on Facebook about the Schwalbe G-Ones. I’m sure if the Rails had a different logo on them they’d be the ‘go to’ gravel tyre IMO!

  2. Two weeks to go!! I’ve been running Kenda Happy Medium tyres 700 x 35c tubeless and found them pretty good on a variety of terrain, and importantly I’ve had no punctures, for this type of event I believe going tubeless is a no brainer.

    • Totally agree about tubeless, there’s no going back! I think I’d go a bit wider than 35mm for Reiver, although I hear a rumour that the rougher wet sections have been taken out for 2017. I still love the Rails after some more miles on them, rode some rough tracks around Glentress on Friday and split the WTB Nano on the front but the Rail on the rear was like new still!

      • I did try the WTB NANO in 40c I think, but there was zero tyre clearance on my forks, 35c is the biggest I can go I think (GT Grade).
        So I’d better double-wrap the bar tape as well!

    • Thanks, all went well at Reiver and loved the Rails. Hope the Nanos are holding up OK for you, the forestry tracks here are pretty rough so should be fine on most gravel.

  3. I have an ATR V1 and having been running with 40mm Nanos but with several punctures tubed and tubeless. I also have tried 40mm Nards and on the first outing had 1cm side wall slash. I am now on the Panaracer Gravel Kings so fingers crossed, tubed but will have a go at tubeless if they don’t puncture.
    My question can I fit 650b’s and increase the amount of rubber to 1.95″ or its it a V2 that I need?

    • Hi Chris
      I had problems with WTB Nano’s puncturing too a while ago but after finding the WTB Resolute very robust I have been sent the latest TCS version to try as everyone else seems to get on so well with the Nanos. With 650b I’m afraid it is the V2 you need, I’ve never tried on the V1 but the stays were certainly redesigned on the V2 for this purpose.

      • After further research I am swinging towards the Teravail Rutlands, 47mm on 650B, if they will fit my frame. Not the 40mm sweet spot but hopefully comfortable and robust to punctures (fingers crossed). Thanks for highlighting them as I wouldn’t have found them otherwise.

        • Certainly my favourite at the moment with zero punctures for me, I’m interested to try something else from Teravail as just about worn the rear out.

  4. Thanks very much for this really helpful article. My new GT Grade came with 37c Riddlers that I like well enough, but they were impossible to set up tubeless with my standard track pump. In your experience is it possible that the WTB Resolute 700×42 would seat (on a WTB i23 rim) without a booster pump?

    • Glad it was useful. Really hard to say if resolutes will be easier. I tend to always use booster pump but rims really vary in tolerances and profile shape, so more the rim than tyre.

  5. Excellent tyre advice that I could have done with reading before doing the Reiver yesterday! I was too tight/lazy to change the Pathfinders that my Diverge came with and the route was well beyond their capabilities. They were great on the reservoir track and the tarmac/hard pack but left me praying to the gods on those fire road descents! Anyways, after much research I’ve decided to follow your advice and invest in some Teravail Rutland 42s but wanted to check whether you run the light or durable versions? Cheers.

    • Hi, thanks and hopefully it will help next time. I have certainly learnt that a bit wider is faster and more comfy. I have use the light and supple casings without issue, the rear one is now almost through to the threads and holding up tubeless!

  6. Thank you, that was really useful. I run Bontrager GR2 40mm in summer conditions and like you the Resolutes in a 42mm in the winter. I hope to the the Dirty Reiver in 2023, so I’ll go with the Resolutes on your recommendation.

    • I have been trying a few more recently but still love resolutes, the Teravail Rutland is a good winter option too. Just fitted some Continental Terra trail but not overwhelmed so far!

Any thoughts or questions?

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