There's an increasing choice in tyres designed for mixing it up on and off-road as the gravel and adventure market grows, and this new Pathfinder Pro from Specialized is a fast-rolling tyre that is good for tackling rough roads and dry hardpack gravel trails.
- Pros: Fast on road and hardpack, easily tubeless
- Cons: Not so good in muddy conditions
With its smooth centre section surrounded by tightly packed diamond-shaped blocks, it's obviously a good choice for lots of road riding.
When riding in a straight upright position, that smooth centre line is all that contacts the road, and as a result provides low rolling resistance, allowing you to zip along the road at a decent pace. It really feels little slower than a slick tyre of similar width.
Feel adventurous and want to get off the road and onto some gravel and dirt, and the remainder of the tyre provides good grip. The diamond-shaped tread combined with bigger and spaced out shoulder blocks gives you the capability to let fire into loose gravel or dirty corners, knowing the compound and blocks will find grip. You won't be tackling any muddy bogs, it's not quite that capable, but for gravelly surfaced tracks, canal towpaths and dry bridleways, it offers more grip than a slick tyre.
The tyre is constructed with a 120 TPI 'Endurant' casing intended to be rugged for dealing with off-road shenanigans, and a BlackBelt puncture protection layer minimises the risk of puncturing. The tread is made from the company's own Gripton compound which strikes a good balance of rolling resistance and traction.
Specialized's 2Bliss play on words indicates it's a tubeless-ready tyre. So I fitted them to a suitable tubeless-ready rim which proved painless, and enjoyed many happy rides of tubeless bliss. I suffered no flats, leaks or burps during that time. I've experienced good results with various Specialized tubeless tyres over the years and these did not buck the trend.
For where I live at this time of year, this is a good tyre for 80 per cent road and 20 per cent off-road exploring. But for areas with more gravel roads to explore, that ratio leans closer to 50/50. I can see this being a very rapid choice for an event like Dirty Reiver, which models itself on the famous Dirty Kanzas, an event incidentally which this tyre has apparently racked up victories at.
Specialized offers the Pathfinder in a choice of 38 and 42mm widths in 700C size or an on-trend 650B x 47mm option for those liking the small wheel movement. At £42 RRP it's reasonably priced. Not cheap, but you can easily pay a lot more for a similar tyre: the £73 Compass Switchback, for example.
Whether it's the right one for you really comes down to the type of riding you're doing and how much road and hardpack gravel you're mixing together. It really excels on the road but there are better and more versatile do-everything tyres, like the Panaracer GravelKing SK which offers a bit more grip off the road. And there are better choices for really muddy conditions, but steer clear of the bogs and it's a decent tyre.
Overall, I like these tyres and for a lot of people they will be well suited. There's a lot of choice in this sector of the tyre market, you just need to decide what you want and need from yours.
Fast on the road and hardpack and good cornering grip, with easy tubeless setup; not great in the slop though
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready tyre
Size tested: 700x38C
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialized says, "Born in the American Midwest, gravel riding is one of the fastest–growing styles of cycling. The sense of adventure, conquering new challenges, and simply experiencing a new style of riding are some of its big selling points, but doing so without the proper tires makes the difference between having fun and cursing and hollering on the side of the road. The Pathfinder delivers the versatility that these adventure-laden rides deserve''fast rolling, lots of grip, and a whole lot of fun."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Casing: 120 TPI
Butyl wrapped bead = 2Bliss Ready
Flat Protection: Endurant Casing and BlackBelt
650b x 47mm [1.75"], psi 35-65
700 x 38mm, psi 50-80
700 x 42mm, psi 50-80
For dry gravel trails and mostly road riding with a bit of occasional off-road, this is a suitable choice.
Thus far has been just fine on this front.
Wide tyres + low pressures = lots of comfort
It's not ridiculously priced compared to other tyres in this segment. The Compass Switchback is £73.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good grip on a variety of surfaces and fast where conditions allow it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not so good in the mud.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Panaracer Gravel King SK is £39.99, the Compass Switchback is £73.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a very good tyre for those mostly riding on roads and hardpack gravel trails and want a fast-rolling tyre, and it's reasonably priced.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.