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Panaracer Driver Pro MTB/Adventure tire review

Panaracer’s Driver Pro is now available in large-volume sizes to make the most of its super-supple Japanese construction

Panaracer DriverPro
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Not a devastating race weapon but a super comfortable, swift and surprisingly surefooted summer trail/monstercross/adventure tire

For

  • Grippier than it looks
  • Super supple and comfortable
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Great price

Against

  • Not as fast as it looks
  • Floppy at lower pressures
  • Limited sizing for puncture proofed version
  • Blocks easily in mud

Driver Pro has been sitting quietly in the portfolio of Japanese tire makers, Panaracer, for years,but it’s recently been released in a whole bunch of fatter sizes that really play to its supple carcass strengths. Sticky compound means it’s a lot grippier than it looks too, making it an impressive comfort and confidence booster.

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 Construction 

You can feel the floppy suppleness of the Driver Pro carcass and the natural rubber coating straight off the header card. Once you wriggle it onto the rim though, the fit is snug without needing levers and inflation is instant and easy just with a track pump. Unlike some Panaracer tyres we’ve used, it popped securely into place without massive over-pressuring. With widths up to 2.6in, you can really max out the float effect if you’ve got frame space. 2.1 and 2.2in versions get the reinforced ‘ASB chafer’ protection strip that the Japanese company have been using and developing for over 25 years sitting just on the bead/rim edge for extra impact protection. 

If you want more protection there is a specific puncture-protected version but that’s only available in a 2.2in width in 27.5= and 29-inch sizes. 

Performance

We didn’t have issues with splits or holes even with regular rim dings on our ‘unprotected’ sample but stability isn’t great at lower pressures. Specifically, there’s a lot of cornering squirm under 20psi even on wide rims so we settled on 23psi front 27psi rear as a sweet spot (70kg rider on sniper root/rock singletrack). Even at that pressure the float and buoyancy of the natural rubber compound and carcass construction are excellent though. That makes it a fantastic tyre for adding float to reduce fatigue or softening the ride of a more abusive ride on a hardtail or large clearance monstercross/adventure bike. 

The triple compound ZSG rubber mix is softer than you’d expect for a semi-slick tyre too, so it grips really well in loose and dry conditions even if you lean it over hard. Unsurprisingly the multiple small knobs do clog pretty quick in damp/sticky conditions, but even then the sticky compound still manages to find more purchase than you’d expect.

The flip side to that is despite the low knobs and close spacing ‘semi-slick’ design, rolling speed is not obviously better than an intermediate knobbly tyre such as a Maxxis Forekaster or Schwalbe Nobby Nic/Hans Dampf which will have more damp grip. At 800g it doesn’t accelerate like a race tire either.

Panaracer DriverPro

The low profile tread doesn't roll as fast as you would expect due to the sticky compound (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Driver Pro might look like a high-speed race tyre but the sticky compound and average weight don’t put it near the front of the grid. It struggles for grip in wetter/stickier conditions compared to other knobbed tyres of similar weight and rolling speed. Where it excels though is adding a luxuriously flowing and floated ride quality with excellent confidence and efficient rolling in loose and dry conditions. So if you’re after a big gravel tyre for making your miles more comfortable it’s excellent.  

Tech Specs: Panaracer Driver Pro tire

  • Price: $50.00 / £44.99
  • Sizes: 26 x 2.1, 27.5 x 2.22, 2.4 and 2.6in, 29 x 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6in
  • Weight: 800g (29 x 2.4in)