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The new Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC is a tyre designed for both road use and hardpack gravel trails, maintaining the high levels of grip and speed found on other models in the range. Easy to set up tubeless and with tough puncture protection, they make perfect sense for a whole host of applications.
The GravelKings come in various guises, and just when you think they've got all bases covered along comes another one to fill a gap. This SS+ TLC fits in between the GravelKing Slick Tread and the more aggressively treaded GravelKing SK.
As you can see from the photos, Panaracer has gone for a minimalist tread in the centre with things getting a little bit more knobbly towards the shoulder to help cornering when off-road.
A lot of gravel routes and byways in the UK this time of year tend to be more like mud tracks, and with a tyre as smooth as this you aren't going to be venturing anywhere near the woods or grassy trails.
Luckily for me, I have a network of hardpack gravel trails spanning hundreds of kilometres just a stone's throw from my front door, and the SS+ has been a complete blast on these.
At 38mm wide, which is stretched out to about 40mm on the majority of rims, the width is fine for fast rolling on a hard surface, and should you hit a patch of small, loose aggregate the tyre isn't going to sink either.
One of my favourite routes is a 100km loop taking in Stonehenge at the midway point. The terrain is about a 50/50 mix of country lanes and hardpack gravel tracks, which makes for the perfect testing ground for this kind of tyre.
On the road the SS+ is impressively fast for such a large tyre. At 460g it's no lightweight, but that's never really noticeable as the SS+ never feels stodgy. It's quite supple considering the reasonably low 120TPI casing, and gives a good degree of feedback, keeping you engaged with what's going on with the surface beneath you. This level of suppleness is even more impressive considering that the SS+ has a layer of Panaracer's ProTite protective guard from bead to bead and a nylon belt for puncture protection.
Cornering grip on the road is good, providing plenty of confidence even at speed, and although it isn't up there with a full slick, I wasn't really conscious of the tread compressing when banking the bike over hard.
All of this translates over to the gravel too. Grip levels are good, and when cornering hard on descents you get a little bit of extra bite from the tread on the shoulders.
The tracks I used for testing do have a fair amount of potholes and large stones poking up from the surface, which can be hard on tyres and wheels if you aren't paying attention. At speed you can't miss them all, and some of the whacks can be hard even when you're out of the saddle to provide a bit of elbow and knee suspension. I clouted the SS+ a fair few times with no issues.
I had no problems with punctures, either, riding on the rural lanes after the hedges had been cut, although running them tubeless should see them sealed quickly anyway, should you pick up a thorn or something.
Speaking of tubeless, the Panaracers were really easy to fit on a mixture of wheels, popping onto both hooked and hookless rims without issue. More importantly, they are easy to remove. If you puncture badly out in the middle of nowhere and need to install a tube or add a patch, the last thing you want to be doing is wrestling a tyre off the rim.
When it comes to options, they are available in widths of 32mm, 35mm, 38mm and 43mm for 700C wheels. If you use 650B then your only option is 48mm (27.5 x 1.9in). All tyres are available as full black or black with tan sidewalls.
Priced at £49.99 each means that the SS+ is a penny cheaper than the very lightly treaded IRC Boken that Matt tested recently. He was impressed with how well they grip on the road, and the weights are very similar.
Another tyre that works well on road and hardpack off-road surfaces is the Hutchinson Overide. For the same 38mm size they are quite a bit lighter at 425g, and a fair bit cheaper at £32.95. They perform well on a range of surfaces, but I'd say that the SS+ is a more performance-orientated tyre everywhere.
Overall, I really can't fault the GravelKing SS+ for the type of riding I do – they make my gravel bike feel fast and lively wherever I'm riding, and thanks to great levels of grip I can really have fun. Yes, there are cheaper tyres out there, but the Panaracers deliver the full package. I can't wait for the summer when drier conditions mean they'll be even more versatile.
Brilliant, robust tyres that offer great performance and grip on any hardpack surface
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC
Size tested: 700 x 38
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?
Panaracer says, "The newest addition to the Gravel King Family is also available with increased puncture resistance, thanks to Panaracers ProTite Plus technology.
"Building on the success of the GravelKing Slick Plus and the GravelKing SK Plus, both industry leading tyres in the gravel category. Panaracer has developed the next generation of the gravel tires in the GravelKing Semi Slick Plus.
"Designed as a dryer condition or race day ready and fast rolling tyre, the Semi Slick is made for those riders who want to go fast while maintaining great control, traction and climbing prowess."
This is a very fast tyre on the road and hard gravel surfaces.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Semi Slick Plus features an all new tread pattern consisting of a smooth diamond pattern centre with more aggressive side lugs.
This tread pattern allows the rider to keep speed going into corners and maintain control throughout any transition a gravel ride could present. The GravelKing SS incorporates a supple 120 TPI casing with a nylon puncture resistant belt and Panaracer's proprietary ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) compound.
Tubeless Compatible (Up to 60psi)
ZSG Advance Compound
AX-Alpha Advanced Alpha Extra Cord
Sizes: 700 x 32c / 700 x 35c / 700 x 38c / 700 x 43c / 27.5 x 1.9 (48c)
Weight: 370g / 420g / 450g / 530g / 590g
Colours: Black/Black, Black/Brown
Made in Japan
NEW ProTite Shield Plus
Ultra-strong reinforcing material is wrapped around the whole tyre with nylon taffeta lining the treads to provide added protection against side cuts as well as punctures from dented rims or piercings.
ZSG Natural Compound
Our own very low rolling resistance as the premium compound. Its enhanced wear resistance makes it perfect for a long lasting training tyre with an excellent ride.
AX-Alpha - Advanced Alpha Extra Cord
AX technology uses extremely narrow cord which is weaved at a super high density into the casing for lightness and flexibility. This increased density improves resistance to cuts and abrasions.
Anti-puncture reinforcement throughout the tyre strengthens resistance to cuts and pinch flats.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The GravelKing SS+ is a tyre that has the ability to perform well on various off-road surfaces without sacrificing its overall performance on the road.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great performance in terms of rolling resistance and grip.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There's nothing really to dislike, as long as you can cope with the limitations of grip on some winter trails.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are cheaper out there like the Hutchinson Overides, but for the performance I'd say that the GravelKings aren't overpriced – highlighted by others like the £50 IRCs mentioned in the review – though they are £5 more than their SK and Slick siblings.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
There is very little to fault with the GravelKing SS+. If you want a race tyre for any hard surface then this is a great choice, and durability is impressive too. It's every bit as good as the Slick and SK versions, which we rated as exceptional, but I'm going for very good/8 here, as it's just a little bit pricier.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!