700c x 42mm
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Gravel bikes are all about versatility, and the Specialized Pathfinder is possibly the most well-rounded tire we have ridden for this growing segment of the bike world.
Sure, there are tires that trend more toward the mountain bike side of the spectrum with chunky knobs that will withstand the punishing terrain of events like Grinduro. There are also tires that are merely plus-sized road rubber, better for something like Belgian Waffle Ride. Fast? Sure, but perhaps not as versatile.
Enter the Pathfinder. If you can only afford one tire for gravel (or you hate the hassle of swapping tubeless tires), put this one at the top of your list.
The smooth center tread is fast-rolling on pavement. It also has clever wear indicators in the form of those Specialized “S” logos. The side knobs are unobtrusive but surprisingly stable on loose corners. We aren’t sure what engineering magic went into that diamond-shape pattern, but it is solid.
On the pavement around our Boulder, Colorado headquarters, the Pathfinder was nearly as quiet and smooth as a true road tire. We could tell there was a bit of extra rolling resistance due to the increased contact patch, but it wasn’t slow by any means. We prefer the 42mm size, but you can always size down to the 37mm for a faster ride.
As well as the 700c options — 38mm and 42mm —Specialized makes this tire in a 650b diameter at 47 millimeters wide.
When we left the road, we were equally impressed. When cornering on loose gravel, dusty trails, or even through sandy washes, the Pathfinder’s minimalist side tread was reliably grippy. It would occasionally drift off line. It never broke loose unexpectedly, though.
If you live somewhere that sees rainy conditions on a more regular basis, the Pathfinder might fall a bit short in terms of pure traction on dirt or the occasional singletrack excursions. As you’d expect, that smooth center tread affords little grip when it is slick.
However, with these tires set up tubeless at about 30psi, we had ample traction for all but the most extreme conditions, and the casing and tread have been trouble-free through rocky terrain and road debris alike.
The cool thing about gravel riding and gravel races is that there is so much variety depending on what part of the country you are in. It would be a stretch to say that the Specialized Pathfinder is the perfect tire for every appellation of gravel, but it is versatile enough to be trouble-free on almost any off-pavement adventure.