Challenge Gravel Tires Review and Buyer's Guide

Shopping for gravel tires can be overwhelming - there are so many distinct widths, tread styles, and casing features to choose from. 

With the right gravel tires on your bike, you'll get better grip during cornering, lower rolling resistance, and improved durability. Let's dig into the Challenge gravel tire line-up, taking at look at the 5 tire options they offer for gravel and adventure use. 

Challenge Gravel Tires Tread Shapes

Challenge makes 5 tire models for gravel and adventure bikes. From least aggressive to most aggressive, those tires are: 

STRADA BIANCA - an almost completely slick tire with a small herringbone pattern tread. A good choice for rough pavement and smooth dirt roads, but lacks the edge knobs needed for grip on more aggressive terrain. A very fast rolling tire. See the Strada Bianca.

ALMANZO - The Almanzo is designed with a file tread in the center, but with small edge knobs for grip - it looks sort of like a Chicane cyclocross tire. It offers more grip compared with a Strada Bianca, but lower rolling resistance compared with the Gravel Grinder model.

GRAVEL GRINDER - Like the Almanzo, the Gravel Grinder has the file or diamond tread pattern in the center, but adds more edge knobs for cornering grip on more aggressive terrain like loose dirt, gravel, or sand. This is a great all-around gravel tire if you aren't certain what to buy, or if your local terrain sees you riding on everything from pavement to rocky trails, different every day. See the Challenge Gravel Grinder.

GETAWAY - Even more aggressive than the Gravel Grinder is the Getaway. It swaps the file tread in the center for true knobs, so you get even more grip off-road, at the expense of rolling resistance. Like the Gravine, the Getaway comes in two casing choices, a "plain" version and an "XP" (Xtra Protection) version, the plain version is lighter, while the XP casing adds additional layers to protect the casing and sidewall from rock cuts and punctures, at the expense of extra weight. See the Getaway.
GRAVINE - The Gravine is the newest Challenge gravel tire, and it's also the most aggressive, for rocky or muddy terrain, when you're spending the entire day off-road with few paved or smooth sections. Gravine has taller knobs with more space between them for improved mud shedding. It's available in two casing choices, the regular "Pro" version, and the "XP" version (Xtra Protection) intended to further protect the tire casing and sidewall from rock cuts and punctures. Unlike some of the other gravel models which also have traditional clincher and vulcanized tubeless options, the Gravine comes only in the high-end handmade tubeless ready (HTLR) version. If the center knobs on the Gravine look familiar, it's because they echo the Grifo, the top-selling cyclocross tire from Challenge, a popular shape that's been in use for decades.
Got the right tread shape in mind now? Then let's take a look at each of the different tire types those treads are offered in. Every tread shape isn't offered in every single type (for example, the Getaway comes in an HTLR handmade tubeless option, but there is no Vulcanized tubeless option) but most of the tire treads come in at least some, if not all, of these options: 

Challenge Vulcanized TLR (Tubeless-Ready) Gravel Tires

The Vulcanized TLR line are the gravel tires from Challenge for riders who want an economical tire with tubeless compatibility. Challenge recommends their own Smart Sealant for use in tubeless gravel tires; others can of course be used.

The vulcanized line is an excellent choice for budget-conscious riders, it's the lowest price option with tubeless compatibility.

Challenge Handmade HTLR (Tubeless-Ready) Gravel Tires 

The HTLR (handmade, tubeless-ready) line of gravel tires offers upgraded performance and features compared with the vulcanized line. As with the vulcanized TLR line, these are for tubeless use on compatible rims with sealant.

The tread shapes stay the same as on the vulcanized tires, but the casing is a higher-end, handmade version focused on performance. The HTLR is more expensive than the vulcanized TLR, but is lighter and more supple, so it's a better choice for more serious riders.

Challenge Clincher Gravel Tires 

Challenge continues to offer non-tubeless, (requires an inner tube) tires on some models. You might choose these if you have an older wheelset that isn't tubeless compatible, but otherwise, you can ignore this largely obsolete tire type - tubeless with sealant is the way to go for gravel riding, if your wheels support it. I would only ride a traditional clincher tire with an inner tube on gravel in an emergency, with no other options available.

Challenge Tubular Gravel Tires

Challenge also offers tubular gravel tires, not to be confused with tubeless. A tubular tire is very uncommon in the gravel space, but they do exist. Tubular tires are glued (or taped) onto a dedicated, specialty tubular rim.

If you're new to cycling and unfamiliar with this technology, rest assured, it's not used on your bike (if it was, you're probably a pro athlete, and you would already know!) For the purposes of selecting a gravel tire, tubeless is what you want, and you can safely ignore tubulars.

Challenge gravel tires features

Here are some of the features you'll find across the Challenge gravel tire line-up, and what they mean. Not every tire has every feature, but here is what you'll see offered, depending on the tire:

  • Corazza Armor (Silver) - a gravel-specific casing with a double SuperPoly layer for durability and puncture resistance
  • Corazza Armor (Gold) - bead-to-bead protection all around the tire casing and sidewall for more aggressive terrain
  • PPS2 - "punture protection strip" - extra layer of fabric underneath the tread to resist punctures

Challenge Gravine in action

Check out some of the types of terrain the Gravine was designed for: 

I hope this information helps explain the complexity of choices in the Challenge gravel product line. Write or call anytime if I can help you choose the perfect gravel tires to enhance your performance.

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