Given that the best gravel bike tires are by definition a compromise between the totally conflicting performance vectors of easy road speed, smooth comfort, rock shrugging toughness and tenacious off-road traction pretty much every bit of ‘all road’ rubber has a sweet spot somewhere along that sliding scale. But now Schwalbe has dropped a totally new tire in its already benchmark G-One line up and massively expanded our expectations of what’s possible in terms of speed, suppleness and all-conditions grip.
The G-One R(ace) tire is the first Schwalbe gravel rubber to use its pro road race-derived, XC MTB proven Super Race TLE carcass design. The exact details of this translucent coated ‘Souplesse’ construction are as light as the twin layer, puncture strip reinforced layup. At an average of 480g for our 700 x 40c samples, it’s lightweight considering how much tread is on top. The close-packed ‘boomerang’ tread owes a lot to the central pattern on the most recent Racing Ralph overhaul too. Being a race tire, it only currently comes in 700c sizing but 40 or 45mm widths, with our 40mm slipping on with thumbs and then blowing up easily and without any need to overpressure to ‘pop’. At 38mm wide on a 25mm internal rim, it’s slightly undersized though.
I’d already heard good things about the G-One R from other testers and riders but that still didn’t prepare me for the phenomenally smooth and easy roll of the ‘Souplesse’ (it’s the French term for impeccable circular pedaling style) carcass and close-spaced tread. Even without any centreline ridge or extended inline knobs it’s got an eerily silent glide that’s not far off as fast as the classic stipple tread G-One All Road on the road.
Peel off onto dirt of gravel though and it’s the carcass that really comes into its own with a level of pillowy compression that feels like you’re running them 10psi lower than you actually are. That translates to extra speed in several ways. Firstly because the tire deforms so easily (due to carcass and potentially the lack of inline knobs to stiffen things up) that’s not taking much energy out of your momentum. It’s not bouncing you and the bike upwards when it hits stuff either so again that keeps your forward velocity vectors unharmed as well as making it easy to maintain pedaling cadence. It also gives outstanding ground molding traction over any surface irregularities. This applies right through from loose gravel or hardpacked baked/frozen ripples mid-corner to straight-lining awkward rock and root sections without a hiccup or a slip-up. Unsurprisingly that does mean you’ll rim out a lot more than a stiffer tire at the same pressure but despite no reinforcement beyond a bead chafer we’ve not flatted them yet despite regular “ah no, that’s definitely knackered’ flinching.
As well as the fluidity with which the G-One R suck onto every lump, bump or hole, those split ‘boomerang’ tread paddles also constantly flex to finesse the ‘slip or grip’ breakpoint well beyond what you’d expect. That micro movement means they also flick clay and other clogging compounds clear surprisingly well so it’ll tractor through slop and gloop almost as well as a proper mud tread. Whatever compound Schwalbe has used also seems to have got the ‘just do everything far better than seems reasonable’ memo too.
There are all sorts of superlatives I could throw at the G-One R but the most telling is the amount of time it took me to fully trust how outstandingly good it is. Straight off, there was getting used to the pillowy plushness that feels around 30 per cent softer than the actual pressure it was running at and not constantly reaching for the pump or looking for leaks.
Then there was a big adjustment to make in how hard it can be cornered on a wide variety of surfaces, despite flying along like a slick tire and turning in with similar ease. That’s such a dislocation that it has actually gotten me into trouble getting back onto other similarly fast rolling rubber, where a casual knee down into a turn has resulted in an immediate and ignominious hip and shoulder down a split second later. But perhaps the hardest reboot has been feeling that sickening thump of rim on rock/root and thinking “ah damn that’s done it” but finding that somehow the carcass has Tai Chi’d through unscathed again.
The puncture layer and comparatively deep, dense tread mean it’s not been spiked yet either as far as I can tell. That’s not to say I’d recommend something so skimpy as a loaded expedition tire and I’m half expecting my luck to run out purely because of the tester's curse, but for now, if I want to go really fast, in blissful comfort with remarkable amounts of grip and ‘A-Team firefight’ invulnerability, then Schwalbe’s G-One R is truly next level. Maybe even several levels.
In fact, it’s so good I’m not even going to quibble about the premium price because I’m convinced if you try them you’ll think they’re worth it. Also, you could spend far more on other components - or even a new bike - and it’d make much less of a difference.
Tech Specs: Schwalbe G-One R tires
- Price: $87.99 / £69.99
- Weight: 482g (averaged from two 700 x 40mm tires)
- Colors: Skinwall only
- Sizes: 700 x 40mm (tested) and 45mm