The new breed of 'gravel bikes' is now firmly established; somewhere between a cyclocross bike and a sportive road bike; they offer their rider the ability to ride all day, on the road less travelled.
To accompany the rapid growth of this new disc-equipped go-anywhere road bike category, we've seen component manufacturers grow their complement offerings; with new disc-specific wheelsets, wider handlebars, wider rims, shorter stems etc. One thing that is still lagging a bit though, is gravel-specific tyres; something that works without compromise, both on and off-road. Schwalbe have risen to the challenge, with the Array…
Micro-dot tread pattern
When you think of tyre treads, you usually think of smooth profiles for the road, and knobbly lugs for off-road. What do you do for gravel though, and that mixture of tarmac and trails?
Schwalbe have come up with the micro-dot tread pattern, in a bid to provide an answer. The idea, is that at low pressures the tyre conforms to the trail surface; the micro dots then work like the lugs on a mountain bike tyre, and provide surface grip on loose and varied profiles. However, because the dots are rounded and small in height (compared to MTB or CX lugs), the don't create as much drag on the road; which means you can pump the tyre up to higher pressures, and it feels and performs more like a road tyre, with a less rolling resistance.
Does it work?
The design seems to work well. I have been running these tubeless (as is intended), and off-road you can drop the pressure right down; providing grip and traction, even in wet conditions. For commuting though, which for me features more on-road, I've pumped them up, and felt the significant reduction in rolling resistance; in fact, I would say they just feel like a very good 35c slick tyre.
It seems that Schwalbe's dotty idea is effective then, and these have fast become on of the best commuting tyres I've tried. They provide you with the ability to dart off-road on the way home, and add interest to your commute; whilst still providing low rolling resistance on the road.
A tyre choice for gravel bikes, which doesn't present a compromise? It seems like a new breed has evolved.
View the Array at Wiggle