Schwalbe’s G-One range is one of the best gravel tire collections out there, and the Ultrabite is the most aggressive version in the stable. Given the current weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere, this could be the perfect option for making the most of the wet and muddy trails. Its size and construction go some way to blur the lines between gravel bike or 29er hardtail, but can you have too much of a good thing when it comes to gravel bike grip?
Design and build
The first thing you'll notice with the Ultrabite is the size of the knobs compared to other gravel tires. It could easily be mistaken for full-on XC rubber. It features wide horizontal paddles along the center line, designed to increase traction on climbs and improve braking traction. As you move across to the shoulder of the tire, the knobs switch orientation to a vertical pattern. By angling the tread pattern this way, they should hook up well for more lateral grip and less sliding.
To coincide with the Ultrabite's grippy intentions, Schwalbe uses their Addix Speedgrip compound. This was originally designed for MTB use and is the second-fastest rubber mix within that range. Although not the fastest rolling compared to other versions used in the G-one series, it offers a good compromise between grip, longevity, and speed.
Like the rest of the G-one performance range, they use Schwalbe’s TLE (Tubeless easy) tech, which has proven to be one of the most reliable and easily set up systems out there. They have a reassuringly beefy sidewall construction, which helps with sealing and makes for a confident, robust tire if you ride on rocky terrain.
Four versions are available, and I had the largest 50mm width on test. They measured up at 49.5mm wide when fitted to my Elite and Reynolds wheels, which may be too wide for some gravel bikes. If your bike has less clearance there are 40 and 45mm versions are available too, as well as a 650b x 50mm if you run a smaller wheel size.
With its width and large tread, the Ultabite will never be a lightweight option although the 745g weight is perfectly reasonable given its hardcore intentions. As with all Schwalbe TLE tires, fitting and sealing was straightforward, no doubt helped by its stiff sidewalls. I tried them on hooked and hookless rims, and both times, they went on and inflated using a normal pump. No compressors or tricks are required to get them seated correctly here, which is always welcome.
I used the Ultrabite as a front-only tire, largely due to clearance issues on both the Cube Nuroad C:62 SL and Ribble Gravel Ti Pro bikes I had on test, and paired them with a G-one bite on the rear which felt like an ideal compromise. Pressure-wise, I tended to run around 29 to 33 psi, depending on my route. They are comfortable down to the early 20’s, but they roll significantly slower at such low pressures.
The size and construction of the Ultrabite are very close to their MTB counterparts, and this gives a huge feeling of confidence in front-end grip on pretty much any terrain bar the deepest muddy sections. With it fitted to the front, I felt I could push much harder than usual and attempt lines and trails I'd normally skip on a gravel bike, and there lies the problem for me.
They almost felt like they had too much grip, which may sound an odd thing to say, but bear with me. It encourages you to push your luck, as you would on your trail or XC bike, and it soon becomes apparent that your riding position and the rest of your gravel bike aren't really up to the task a lot of the time. I quite like the feeling of being on the edge of control you get from a gravel bike on mellow trails, and the high grip offered here means you have to push much harder to get the same level of excitement.
While it is noticeably slower than the G-one bite it replaced, it's still relatively sprightly given its size and weight. It's been remarkably robust, too. My local grit stone trails kill sidewalls at an alarming rate, especially when running lower pressures, but there are no signs of wear and zero punctures during testing.
A very grippy limpet-like front option, which works well in a wide range of terrain. If your gravel riding is towards the extreme end of the spectrum, then these are a great option enabling you to push harder and seek out more technical challenges, though at the loss of speed and rolling resistance.
I used them in everything from deep mud to gritty rocky trails, and they worked flawlessly and inspired a level of confidence I'd not had with other gravel tires, but if you are more of a high mileage road-oriented gravel rider, would be better served with the lighter, faster but still grippy G-One Bites.
Tech specs: Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite gravel tires
- Price: $88 / £65 / €65
- Sizes: 40, 45, and 50mm in 700c, 650b x 50mm available too
- Weight: 745 grams (700 x 550mm tested)
- Details: Super ground casing, Addix Speedgrip Compound, TLE construction