Gravel can cover such a wide range of riding, from racing world-class level events such as Unbound Gravel or adventure bikepacking like the riders who take on the Rapha Pennine Rally. Whether you are racing or cruising, you can call yourself a gravel rider. However, bike setup and frame can be massively different depending on the style of the event or weather conditions. Choosing the best gravel tire for the riding you do is crucial for safer riding, durability and those extra free watts up for grabs.
Challenge Gravel Grinders have been on the market for what seems like forever and over the years they have improved the build of the tire to suit modern riding. With a very fast rolling tread and chunky grip on the edges, they’re ideal for a drier course and provide a backup for when the corners are a little slippier than planned. Where initially people would use the Gravel Grinders on faster rolling CX courses, they’re also now targeted and tailored for riders who specifically ride gravel. Challenge has since launched a whole range of different tires specifically for gravel racing/riding, including the new Getaway XP.
Design and specifications
These 700x40mm tires tested are part of Challenge's Handmade Tubeless Ready “Pro Series” and are recommended for hardpack gravel, sand or rocky terrain. This technology retains an impressive rolling resistance with comfort and overall bike handling improved. With a TPI (Threads Per Inch) of 260 and utilizing a double side wall of SuperPoly Corazza Armour, they are claimed to be more stable and puncture resistant than most gravel tires on the market. Other width options include 33mm, 36mm, 40mm 42mm and 46mm, all on a tanned wall, with black walled options and 650 sizing also available.
Initially, I struggled to mount these tires onto my wheels. Challenge runs a very tight beading on their tubeless tires to help reduce the risk of them coming off the rim when riding low pressures, but this means stretching onto the wheels is rather difficult. To mount these tires it took: Two pairs of hands, three tire levers and warming the tires in the oven for 10 minutes (we don't recommend trying this at home – Ed) to heat the rubber and add a little stretch. However, Bike Perfect staff writer, Paul, had better success in his how to setup tubeless tires feature using the Gravel Grinders. Once the tires were firmly mounted and stretched onto the rim, I never had an issue with the removal or mounting.
Having meticulously tested these tires in dry and very wet conditions, it’s safe to say I've given them a run for their money. I found that when riding on easy gravel, such as a fire trail or bike path, this tread performed incredibly well. It was fast rolling and I trusted the grip enough to rail corners at a decent speed – the same goes for grass tracks where the tire resistance was low, saving precious watts. In the gloop I found they cut nicely through mud, especially at speed, but they do have a tendency to skip around in really thick muddy conditions.
I am yet to puncture on the Gravel Grinders, despite putting them through some pretty rough conditions, on a variety of terrain, so top marks on the protection of the double side wall of SuperPoly Corazza Armour.
Overall the Challenge Gravel Grinder is a great all-round tire for all types of gravel riding, it does have certain limits in the real heavy mud as the grip is minimal on the central rolling tread, so lacks any use when in the deep gloop. Although for me they were a slight pain to get onto the rim and turn tubeless, as mentioned, my colleague Paul had better success.
Price-wise they are around the same as the best gravel tires and I would say for me these tires are perfect for fast gravel races, and I will probably run these at Kings Cup Gravel National Champs later this September as well as the early season CX races where intermediate tread tires are necessary.
Tech specs: Challenge Gravel Grinder tires
- Price: $89.99 / £54.78 / €63.85
- Use: Hardpack, Gravel, Sand, Loose, Rocky
- Sizes: 700 and 650
- Widths: 33mm, 36mm, 40mm, 42mm, 46mm
- Type: Handmade Tubeless Ready
- Color: Tan
- Weight: 420g (700x40mm tested)
- Pressure: 2-3.5 bar
- Safety limit: 400 kpa