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The Specialized S-Works Pathfinder 2Bliss Ready tyres have been on a serious diet, making them one of the lightest gravel tyres on the market. They're available in just a 42mm size for 700C wheels and roll along hardpack surfaces including tarmac very well. The file tread to the sides provides predictable grip on gravel, but for wet mud you might want to look elsewhere (try our best gravel tyres buyer’s guide).
The S-Works Pathfinders feature a very similar tread pattern to the cheaper Pathfinder Pro tyres that have been out for a few years and which, unlike the S-Works tyre, are available in a few more sizes.
Specialized says the main benefit over the Pro is that this S-Works version is much lighter – and it is. The non-S-Works versions weigh 540g each, with the new tyre just 456g. While this is slightly heavier than the 435g claimed weight, that still represents a hefty saving.
The new reduced weight is extremely competitive. Its natural competitor, the Schwalbe G-One R, weighs 480g, and that's in a skinnier 40mm width.
I've been using the tyres for about two months now on mixed terrain and in variable conditions, and my overriding feeling is that it's one hell of a quick tyre. As mentioned earlier, the tread pattern remains unchanged from the Pro version, and features a smooth centre section surrounded by tightly packed diamond-shaped blocks that get more aggressive towards the shoulders of the tyre.
We don't have the facilities to measure rolling resistance, but both external testing and my own experience indicate that these are up there with the fastest gravel tyres about. For example, these felt just as fast as the impressive Pirelli Cinturato Gravel-H that I tested a few years back.
When you're riding in a straight line, that smooth centre line is all that contacts the ground, and as a result the tyres deliver impressively low rolling resistance. As my gravel rides often involve a fair bit of tarmac to get to and from the off-road sections, I was very grateful for this, and it really does feel as fast as a wide slick tyre.
When you get to the gravel, and in particular gravel corners, the Pathfinder's provide predictable grip and I found that they behaved very similarly to the Schwalbe G-One Allround Evolution tyres that had been on my bike until I fitted these – and that's no bad thing.
But there is a flip side: if things get wet then this tyre probably isn't the one for you. Thanks to the Pathfinder's slick centre, the tyres slip about, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
I found myself setting up a separate wheelset with a set of knobblier tyres for wet off-road excursions. On the road, however, the tyre provides impressive grip in the wet, the Gripton compound once again coming up trumps. If your rides are entirely on gravel, then even in the wet the slick centre won't be too much of a problem; it only becomes apparent on muddy surfaces, especially in wet conditions.
When I first saw the tyres, I was worried that the reduction in weight may have drastically reduced the tyre's robustness, especially as Specialized says it has 'reduced the volume of rubber used to reduce rolling resistance and shave weight'. To overcome this Specialized has introduced a new, lightweight cross-woven polyamide sidewall reinforcement, which it calls Grid Race, which is said to improve tear and puncture resistance while maintaining the good elasticity required for a supple ride.
During testing, the tyres did indeed feel impressively supple. I tended to run them at about 40psi for rides that consisted of mostly paved surfaces and at the minimum recommended pressure of 35psi for more aggressive off-road riding.
Having now put in roughly 2,000km on the tyres I was quite impressed to have only met the puncture fairy once. That good performance could have been helped by Specialized's Black Belt puncture protection, which runs under the entire tread.
Are they the most robust tyre out there? No, but are they stupidly fragile? In my experience, also no. I've put these through plenty of rock gardens and was impressed to find that the thin sidewalls have plenty of scuffs on but nothing that has worried the integrity of the tyre.
I also noticed that Ian Boswell, winner of the Unbound 200 in 2021, opted to use the heavier Pathfinder Pro for last year's wet edition of the race, presumably for the sole reason of puncture protection, so if durability is more of a priority than weight then the Pro version might be a better bet.
I found mounting the tyres very simple and during testing I set the tyres up both tubed and tubeless, or 2bliss as Specialized would have you say. In both cases I managed to pop them on to multiple wheelsets, a set of Scribe Race-D and e*thirteen XCXRs, with relative ease. On the 19mm internal width Scribes, the tyres measured up at the stated 42mm, and 42.7mm on the 23mm-internal e*thirteens.
I was also impressed with the ease of tubeless set up, with the sidewalls resisting the egress of sealant and them popping out into hooks with nothing more than a track pump.
Although £50 is by no means cheap, it is only £5 more than the Pro version which now costs £45. They're also well priced compared with Schwalbe's G-One R tyres, which cost £73 apiece, though thanks to behaving better in wet conditions, the Schwalbes are more versatile for UK conditions.
The Pirelli Cinturato-H tyres are also more expensive at £57.99, and if you are considering a set of Panaracer GravelKings, the Semi Slick Plus TLCs are probably the closest competitor and those have also taken a price hike since we reviewed them in 2021 and are now also more expensive at £54.99.
Overall then, the S-Works Pathfinders are surprisingly good value, roll extremely well on dry surfaces and are very light. If durability is a priority, the Pro version is probably the better buy, with the S-Works tyres best saved for dry off-road riding.
Buy them if: performance is important to you, your gravel rides involve a fair amount of paved surfaces and you're not going to end up in wet mud.
Light and fast tyre for dry gravel performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized S-Works Pathfinder 2Bliss Ready
Size tested: 700x42
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: "The Pathfinder is the winningest tire in gravel, with victories at the biggest gravel races in the world, the S-Works Pathfinder retains the tread pattern, 2Bliss Ready compatibility, and natural casing that have made the Pathfinder Pro the best combination of speed and traction in gravel while shaving 210 grams a set and reducing rolling resistance significantly."
This tyre is quite clearly aimed at performance and it lives up to its lofty expectations – it's a very quick tyre, without being majorly fragile.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Casing: 120 TPI
Butyl wrapped bead = 2Bliss Ready
Dual Compound: GRIPTON® T5/T7
Flat Protection: GRID RACE and BlackBelt
700 x 42mm, 35-65PSI, approximate weight 435 grams
Road, gravel, or hardpack dirt, the S-Works Pathfinder delivers the speed you want with the traction you need.
GRIPTON® T5/T7 dual compound for rolling fast and grip when you need it.
GRID RACE with Blackbelt construction for minimal weight, supple ride and protection.
For dry gravel trails and road riding they're great; if you want to do dirt paths that could be wet then there are better choices even in the dry tyre segment.
So far they have proved just fine.
Supple but only one width, so you can't benefit from really low gravel pressures that would improve comfort further.
It's a strong price compared with other tyres in this segment.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it's a fast tyre, didn't appear overly fragile and was grippy in the dry.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
How fast they are on the road and hard surfaces.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Behaviour in slick mud.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As mentioned in the review, they compare surprisingly well to competitors. They're lighter and cheaper than most other premium tubeless gravel tyres in a comparable width.
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
They're light and yet decently durable, they roll along very well and in the dry, the file tread and compound make them surprisingly grippy and, perhaps more importantly, predictable. These do come unstuck, quite literally, in wet, muddy conditions – even more than other dry weather tyres. But they're easy to fit and to set up as tubeless. Surprisingly, the Pathfinder also comes in cheaper than many of its competitors.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...