Tag Archives: Gravel bike

Gravel bike tires compared- WTB Nanos and Hutchinson Touaregs

Since late July I’ve ridden just over 3,000 miles on the Poseidon X. The first 1,500 or so were on the 700c wheel set using 40c WTB Nanos which were an upgrade over the stock 35c stock Kendas that I never rode. The second 1,500 were on the 650b wheels with the Hutchinson Touaregs. I thought I’d offer up a mini-review/comparison of the two tires.

First, the Nanos. I rode them on gravel and pavement, about 30% to 70% respectively. I chose them knowing that I’d be riding at about that ratio and they performed exactly as I’d hoped. They role fairly quietly and well on pavement thanks to the fairly solid center tread. But they have enough knobby structure to do well on gravel and dirt/gravel. When and if I go back to the 700c tires I’ll use those again. If they were made for the 650b wheel size I’d definitely consider them but at the moment they are not. No punctures. I kept them at about 40 to 45psi with tubes so, not a very cushy ride.

The Touaregs, 47c tires, have been excellent on the 650B wheels. Smooth rolling on pavement thanks to the tiny, closely spaced knobs that make up the center tread but grippy enough on gravel that I’ve never felt out of control. Now, to be honest, I tend to be a slow, conservative rider. Not sure how either of these tires would do for more aggressive riding on gravel. In recent days I’ve been doing all my riding close to home which means a mix of trails, gravel and road. My 8 mile loop is about 4 miles trail, 2 miles gravel, and 2 miles of pavement. I’ve been using the Poseidon for much of this riding and while the Touaregs do great on the dry dirt they do slip a bit when it gets wet and they get really squirmy when it get really muddy. There’s just not a lot of tread for the thicker, stickier mud and so they clog up. That said, they tend to shed that mud pretty quickly once ridden on the gravel.

A few other things to note about the Touaregs. Since riding my mixed 8 mile home loop I’ve lowered the pressure down to experiment. I’m not tubeless and was concerned that with lower pressure and bumpy trails I might get some pinch flats. Well, that’s not happened yet and I’ve been running at about 28 to 30psi for days. It’s a fantastic improvement over the 40 I was running on the longer gravel rides. Certainly not fat bike levels of comfort but so much cushier than 40psi. Perhaps with some bigger bumps and more aggressive riding I’d get a pinch puncture but so far it’s not happened.

I have had 2 flats but both of those were large thorns picked up off the side of the trail and I can’t really complain about that!

Final notes about installing Touaregs and flat fixing. The initial installation was difficult! I broke 3 plastic tire levers trying to get them on the rims. They were tight! That said, it might have been poor technique as it’s been awhile since I’ve worked with tight fitting tires. Also, being clincher tires and tubeless ready rims, they’re slightly different in that as they air up they look off kilter until they get about 45psi in them and then they begin to “seat” on the rim. At about 55psi they seat evenly all the way around. Took me awhile to figure out that I had to pump in more air to get them to seat evenly.

With that tight fit I was worried about flat fixing on the roadside. A fatbike or mountain bike tire tends to go on and off pretty easily. The WTB Nanos on the 700c wheels were pretty easy too. The Touaregs took a while. That said I hoped that after riding them for a month they would stretch/loosen up a bit and I think they did. When I got my first thorn puncture popping the tire off and getting it back on was MUCH easier than the initial install.

Also, I think working with clincher tires on tubeless ready rims just requires slightly different technique and experimentation in terms of how the tire seats and how you go about breaking that seal when you need to take the tire back off. Mostly it seems to be a matter of finger strength and really pushing the tire down and away from the inside of the rim. Once the seal is broken in one spot you just work all the way around the tire breaking the seal on that one side.

In putting the tire back into the rim, I tried a technique that was mentioned on a youtube video which was to NOT focus on using the thumbs to get the tire bead back into the rim but to first use the palms of your hands to sort of stretch the whole tire back over the rim. Pushing first with the palms, almost massaging the tire backwards and then using my thumbs to do a final push of the beat over the rim. Using that technique I was able to get 95% of the tire back on and only used the levers for the very last bit. It’s all good now that I’ve done it a couple times.