GravelKing SemiSlick tire review

By Justinian Hatfield
Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick
A worn-in Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick

I’ve been riding the Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick for about a year now. The bottom line is it’s a tire that’s at home on both pavement and dirt.

Like many cyclists, I jumped on the gravel train early. I remember, as a kid, before gravel was thing, putting 23mm cyclocross tires on my Cannondale r400 for better traction on dirt. These days, I have a separate wheelset running a chunky pair of 40mm WTB Nanos for true off-road adventures.

As my daily lunch ride route consists of mostly pavement with about a mile of dirt thrown in, I needed something that had lower rolling resistance, but also gripped in the sugar sand that we call dirt here on the Gulf Coast. When I bought my first Panaracer Gravel King SS (as it was called then – rumor has it that Panaracer changed the name to “Semi Slick” to distance it from the connotation with Nazis) the tire looked like a great pavement choice, but I was skeptical of how it would perform in sand.

Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick
The tread on the Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick.

Turns out, I didn’t have much to worry about. I’m riding 35mm SemiSlicks and because of the aggressive tread on the side lugs, the tire is capable of gripping in a few inches of sand, assuming you’re pedaling fast enough. Is it a bit squirrelly? Yes, but it has enough traction to keep moving. And with its smooth center tread, you don’t feel like you’re on a “gravel tire” when riding on pavement. In fact, I just rode these tires in a 75-mile charity ride with no issues.

The tires perform well in wet conditions as well. I’ve been caught in many a summer downpour and didn’t have to worry about slipping. Although, I haven’t tired cornering at high speed in wet conditions on these tires. Nor, I have ridden these through any wet sand or mud. I have a feeling they would slip in these conditions.

In terms of longevity, I’ve put slightly more than 1,000 miles on the GravelKing SemiSlick and while the center tread is starting to wear down, it appears to have plenty of life left. I haven’t gotten any flats while riding them tubeless.

They are available in black or with brown sidewalls and in the following sizes: 700 x 28, 32, 35, 43c or (650b x 48). At 32mm and larger widths these are available tubeless-ready. Unlike other tubeless tires, I didn’t have any trouble mounting these on my HED rims and they seated quickly using an air compressor.

The GravelKing SemiSlick incorporates a 126 TPI casing with a nylon puncture resistant belt and Panaracer’s proprietaryZero Slip Grip compound. A beefier version, the SemiSlick+ uses the same build as the standard but adds a bead-to-bead layer of Panaracer’s ProTite puncture material for even more protection against tread and sidewall cuts.

With its fast center tread and ability to grip in sugar sand, the Panaracer GravelKing SemiSlick, makes an awfully attractive choice for the Florida cyclist who mainly rides the tarmac, but wants to venture off road as well.