Review Panaracer Gravel King SK 32mm / IRC Marbella 28mm

Winston Leg-Thigh

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Gravel King SK 32mm

Bought a pair of these to let me explore some of the sketchier rindos and gravel trails. First impressions were that they feel really solid yet supple: much nicer than the regular gravel kings (which I had no luck with). My wheels aren't tubeless and are only 15mm internal so they come up a bit narrow (30.5mm), but they were easy enough to fit, only needing a lever for the last bit. On tarmac they roll well and the extra volume compared to 25mm gives a really smooth ride. They probably make things a bit slower on the flat and climbs but they're great for descending - the extra volume means you don't have to worry about bouncing all over the place or on those semi-speed bumps they have on some hills - and there's no problem cornering with them (although my cornering skills are best described as utter shite).
Off-road they're brilliant on gravel and rocky roads - you can just roll over all sorts. They (I) struggled on really fine gravel / sand and they aren't going to get you through really deep mud, but they're okay in light mud and on grassy surfaces. For rides where I'm staying on tarmac I'm running the rear at about 75psi, for rides where I'm mixing it up a bit I've gone with about 60 psi. Obviously if I was running tubeless I could probably go lower but those pressures seem to work well for me. I've had the rear one on for about 800km and it looks to be standing up well. I have had one puncture; a shard of glass just as I was turning on to a rindo. The glass went through a gap in the knobbles but it didn't cause any serious damage to the tyre and I think if I was running tubeless it would've sealed without any problems.

Been okay in these conditions

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IRC Marbella 28mm

Bought this because the clearance at the front with the 32mm gravel king was a bit too tight. I wanted something knobbly and this was about the widest thing I could find that was less than 32mm. Again it's tubeless ready but I'm running it with tubes. Fitting was the complete opposite to the gravel kings. I need levers just to get the first bead on, and I was close to giving up with the second bead. Once it was on I was a bit surprised at how narrow it looked, and a quick check with the calipers showed it at 25.1mm. After about 350km it's stretched out a bit (26mm) but it's still narrower than I was expecting, although that might be down to my rims being narrow. That said, it rides beautifully. It's much more comfortable than the 25s I had on before and it has stood up far better than I would have expected to some really dodgy roads in terms of grip, ability to plough through stuff, not getting cut to shreds, and still looking like new. The minimum recommended pressure is 75psi and that's what I've been running it at on all surfaces. I haven't been on anything too muddy yet (this weekend maybe), but for gravel, unpaved roads, and tarmac, it's a great tyre. Fortunately it has taken everything I've thrown at it because I dread the day I have to try and get the tyre on / off again.
If your frame hasn't got clearance for "proper" gravel tryes but you want to get off road a bit or want something all-weather, this is a great tyre.

It's stood up to these roads okay

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Last edited:

stu_kawagoe

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Lovely pics, mate. I also like the whole DIY gravel bike thing you’ve got going on. Btw, do you have much of a problem with stones chipping your paint? Would you consider mudguards or tape to stop chips? Are you on flat pedals in the pics? What make and model are your pedals? How are those Sora rim brakes on the gravel descents?

Anyway, thanks again for sharing and sorry for asking so many questions. I’ve actually got it in my mind to build up a DIY gravel rambler myself at some point too.
 
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Winston Leg-Thigh

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Cheers, to be honest I haven't really had any problems with chips on the frame. My wheels have got a few battle scars, though, and I think if it was a new frame I'd probably put tape on to protect it. I've got mudguards that came with the bike bit they'll only fit 25mm tyres (and they're a ballache to take on and off), so I might get a set of SKS speed rockers or something similar.
The pedals are Shimano A-530: flat one side, SPD the other. They're the only clipless pedals I've used and when I got them I wasn't sure whether or not I'd want to ride clipped-in all the time. As it is I very rarely use the flat side but there's no point in buying a new set til these give up the ghost.
The brakes are definitely the weak point of this set up. They're the long drop Shimano ones so I imagine they've got even less power than the equivalent short-reach brakes. That said, they're a million times better than the TRP long drops that came with the bike I got for when I'm back in the UK. Still, even with the Shimano ones, anything over 10% and the brakes aren't going to stop me at anything faster than a gentle roll. The bigger tyres do make a massive difference on gravel/sketchy descents, though. There's already been plenty of bits I'd have got off and walked down on 25s that were okay on the gravel tyres.
When I get the money I'll get something better/lighter, but for the moment it's opened up a lot of new territory.
 
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dastott

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Nice review. Had to walk myself today on a rindo with a 23/25 tyre combo. Don't fancy the look of the final pic with its bone shaking surface...
 

Winston Leg-Thigh

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Nice review. Had to walk myself today on a rindo with a 23/25 tyre combo. Don't fancy the look of the final pic with its bone shaking surface...
@dastott - cheers. I think you've probably ridden that last one! TBH with this tyre combo it wasn't bad although I should've let a bit of air out of them for that section.
I think with a 23 on the front of my bike the buzz would have me walking on most roads!
 
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Winston Leg-Thigh

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You'd better tell me where that last photo is from then. Surprised I don't remember TBH...
It's part of,or links two parts of, Route 107 just into Oita prefecture. It leads into Onta pottery village. Maybe you've not been down that bit. There's a KOM for the taking, anyway!
 

dastott

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Haha! You're trying to tempt me but still don't fancy those cobbles. Have ridden them elsewhere and now avoid.
 

bloaker

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Fantastic pictures! I wish there were some riding like that near me that I could day trip to.

I have run a bunch of gravel options from 32mm up to full blown mtb tires between my old Cyclocross bike and Fargo.
The Clement brand was my favorite off road, however.... horrible life. Soft and tacky vs hard and long life, it is a horrible decision to have to make.
 

Winston Leg-Thigh

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@dastott - a set of these IRCs or GK SKs in 26mm and you're good to go!

@bloaker - cheers. I'm lucky to have it on my doorstep. I just need more time to get out and explore it. These are the first gravel tyres I've tried and I've been really impressed with both so far. The compound on both (but especially the GKs) was much tackier than than any of the regular road tyres I've used and the tread seems to be holding up well to being ridden most of the time on tarmac. I'd like to what it's like going up and down some of the sketchy stuff on 38mm or 650*47 or something compared to 32mm. From my very limited experience so far, 32 seems to strike a nice balance between not being too slow on the road but opening up all sorts of other stuff.
 
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dastott

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The OP is a pioneer in finding obscure mountain roads here in Fukuoka Prefecture. Most cycling visitors (rightly) head to Oita and Kumamoto when they come to Kyushu but Fukuoka and Saga have some stunning cycling too.
 
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luka

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those roads! gotta try and find something remotely similar around Tokyo that wouldn't take me 3h one way just to get to the trail head...
 
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Winston Leg-Thigh

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those roads! gotta try and find something remotely similar around Tokyo that wouldn't take me 3h one way just to get to the trail head...
Yeah - I'm lucky that most of that is within 20-25km of the front door and I've only really scratched the surface of what's out there.
 
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luka

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Yeah - I'm lucky that most of that is within 20-25km of the front door and I've only really scratched the surface of what's out there.
guess I'm living in a wrong city... ;) your tyre review is also very helpful, pondering different setups for the new bike and all