I've answered this question a few times now via email, so that must mean people want to know. So in an effort to "Work less hard and stay small", why not put it here.
BEFORE I START: The tire size printed on the side is irrelevant, what matters is how a tire fits on your wheels. Sometimes a tire fits much bigger than listed, sometimes much smaller. On top of that, there are production variations. So always check there is enough clearance when you mount a new tire. Every time. On frame and fork. On any brand bike. On any model. Thanks!
"What tire should I get" is a very difficult question to answer, because there are a ton of different places you can ride the WI.DE., different riding styles & speeds and on top of that, a ton of different tires. We can't proclaim to have tried them all (though we have tried a lot), but here we go:
In general Andy and I like Schwalbe. We don't own any shares in that company, OPEN doesn't get sponsored by them (in fact we pay them to buy their tires for our complete bikes). We just genuinely like their stuff.
It helps that they have a lot of choice in 27.5" tires and even their mountain bike tire casings are usually very supple. This is important because for the rougher gravel/dirt riding, you need a mountain bike tire but you still want low rolling resistance. When I say you *need* a mountain bike tire, there are two considerations at play:
- You can take a WI.DE. on real mountain bike terrain, so a mountain bike tire makes sense. Of course, if this is all you ever ride your bike on, you'd get a mountain bike (maybe a ONE+ :-). But if you mix terrains, your frame choice will gravitate towards average terrain you cover and thus speed (that's where the WI.DE. comes in). However, your tire choice will gravitate towards the toughest terrain you'll face, (because you're a cyclist, not a hiker).
- Good luck finding a lot of 2.25" or bigger gravel-specific tires. There simply aren't many, so you end up with a mountain bike tire anyway.
The one that jumps out for many is the G-One Speed in size 60-584 (that's the ETRTO designation of tire width and rim diameter, also known as 650bx60mm or 27.5x2.35"). The G-One consists of a huge range of tires with small knobs, and the G-One Allround tire in 700c that are 35-40mm wide are great for fast gravel. They're some of our favorite 700c tires for the WI.DE. and the UP/UPPER.
So naturally, when they make that tire in a 650b size, just under the maximum width a WI.DE. can take, and they call it SPEED, that seems like a no-brainer. In fact, this tire is one of the main reasons the WI.DE. was designed to fit up to 2.4" tires. We wanted to ride this tire. But when we did, Andy and I both didn't like it.
It feels super sensitive to correct tire pressure, and pretty much all the time you either don’t have grip or you don’t have nice rolling. It's one of the very few times we've been disappointed by Schwalbe.
The good news is, Schwalbe now came out with a whole bunch of new tires that also fit the WI.DE. and that are brilliant.
First up is the G-One Allround. It’s 57-584, rolls fast, has enough grip and works with different tire pressures. You can find it as part # 11600954.
A bit out of left-field is the G-One Bite. Slightly more aggressive knobs than the Allround yet lower rolling resistance on asphalt according to Schwalbe. The feature we don't really like are the side knobs. In general we find side knobs superfluous on gravel tires. If you're hanging at such an acute angle you're about to hit the ground anyway. Even worse, the only terrain where you could achieve such an angle without falling is on asphalt, and the last thing you want is huge side knobs hitting the road instead of smoother rubber. Luckily the side knobs on the G-One Bite aren't that big. A second oddity is that the transition between the center knobs and the side knobs is devoid of any knobs. But these are small details, overall it's a great tire.
Yet, most people will overlook this tire due to a quirk in the listed sizing. You see, this tire is virtually the same size as the Allround mentioned before, but it is classified as a 54-584 (i.e. 2.1" wide). Many might think it's unnecessarily small for the WI.DE. Or they might think it's perfect for the UP/UPPER. They'd be wrong on both counts, don't try to put this tire on your UP/UPPER as it won't fit. But it's great on the WI.DE., part # 11601057.
The above tires could classify as big gravel tires, of which as I mentioned before there aren't many. Yet they also have enough profile for moderate mountain biking adventures. However, if you want to get ready for the really tough stuff, Schwalbe has the Rock Razor in 60-584 (27.5x2.35") with part # 11600534.02. Schwalbe calls this a semi-slick, which when viewed through mountain bike glasses sounds OK, but with gravel in mind this is a monster tire. And it is also the one we spec on our WI.DE. complete bike.<
Above I have listed the top level part numbers for each version, but some also come in a version one level down for a nicer price. Once you search for the part numbers on the Schwalbe website you will see all options. Here are the three main contenders, from left to right: G-One Allround, G-One Bite, Rock Razor:
We also like WTB. There's the Riddler, which comes in 700c as a fast gravel tire with good grip. The 700x37c is great for all our bikes, the 700x45c is very nice for the WI.DE. WTB makes very clear distinctions between tire uses, so you won't find the 650b Riddler anywhere near it's 700c cousin. But once you go over to the MTB side, you will find the Riddler in 650b, part # W010-0636.
Because it's mountain bike WTB prefers to use inches in its naming. These mountain bike Riddlers have coarser profiles and come in both 27.5x2.25" and 27.5x2.4" versions. As is always the case, actual tire width depends on many factors including the rim width, so just try which one is right for you.
A smaller tire but great for fast gravel, both for the WI.DE. and the UP/UPPER, is the new WTB Venture, part # W010-0825. It comes in a 50mm and a 47mm version, thanks to a little production snafu. Originally WTB made the mold for the 47-584 tire, but then the tire came out big; it was really a 50mm tire. Since this was to be part of WTB's RoadPlus line-up, they really didn't want to go over 47mm and made a new, smaller mold.
By that time however, some bike brands had gotten samples of the 50mm tire, liked it, wanted it, and so WTB was forced to make both sizes available for bike manufacturers. Because 50mm was too big as a RoadPlus tire in their mind, you will see these tires with the odd "Venture 2.0"-27.5" name on the sides. And if you look closely, the ETRTO spec will be 47-584. Likewise, the 47mm version of this tire will have a 44-584 ETRTO spec.
Of course when this 2.0" tire gets spec'd on bikes, eventually consumers want to also buy it in bike stores to replace the tires they've come to like. I hope WTB will make it available for that purpose soon.
Side story aside, this is a great tire. A fast profile in the center, some side knobs that are slightly more useful than most; they stick up pretty far, so not much of a lean is needed to hook them in the dirt. Of course that also means they tough the asphalt sooner. As another plus, this tire will leave plenty of clearance if used on the WI.DE. with a fender (yes, yes, coming soon, my next update post will be about the fender).
Here is the Riddler on the left and the Venture on the right: