Spotlight: Specialized S-Works Pathfinder gravel race tyre 

Hands-on with a new premium race version of the popular semi-slick gravel rubber

by Dave Rome

photography by Dave Rome


Specialized’s Pathfinder gravel tyre offers a semi-slick tread pattern that isn’t starkly different to what you’d find wrapping the wheel of an old hybrid bicycle. With an unassuming slick centre and low profile side knob layout, it’s proven to be a fast-rolling mixed-surface tyre that has been first across the line at recent editions of Unbound Gravel. And until now the best version of this tyre was the mid-priced Pathfinder Pro.  

Today Specialized has released a new premium S-Works version of the Pathfinder tyre, one that introduces a dual-compound tread and an upgraded construction that not only strips off noticeable weight but is said to greatly reduce rolling resistance, too. 

A premium Pathfinder

Currently, there’s just one version of the new S-Works Pathfinder and that’s a 700×42 mm size with a tan-coloured tubeless-ready (2Bliss) construction. I weighed my samples at 452 and 449 grams, which means a pair of these new tyres lop off approximately 200 grams from the Pro version. That’s a significant saving but also not too surprising given that the Pro is a little heavy. 

The dual-compound tread is the same as what’s found on Specialized’s latest cross country mountain bike tyres. It places a harder compound (T5) in the centre for improved wear and rolling resistance, while the subtly tackier/softer compound (T7) sits on the shoulders for improved cornering traction. The concept of using multiple compounds to balance speed/durability/grip/puncture resistance is commonplace within mountain bike tyres. 

How the S-Works Pathfinder is constructed.

When it comes to rolling resistance the Pathfinder Pro was already in the mix amongst the gravel tires tested by bicyclerollingresisntance.com. And while I haven’t got data to prove it, it’s almost a certainty that the overall thinner construction of the S-Works Pathfinder will place it as one of the faster rolling mixed surface options available. 

The Pathfinder Pro is well regarded for its puncture resistance, and it’s likely that there’s a trade-off to the S-Works’ weight savings. Still, the S-Works Pathfinder retains the same “Blackbelt” protective layer below the tread and features a new “Grid Race” sidewall reinforcement which is a lightened version to what Specialized uses in its mountain bike treads. And that’s all in addition to the 120 TPI (threads per inch) casing beneath. Time will surely tell how it all holds up. 

First impressions

A combination of record rainfall and the virus unfortunately means I haven’t yet been able to test these new treads. Still, the combination of a snug fit that allowed installation without a tyre lever plus the easy tubeless inflation with a regular floor pump provides positive first impressions. And the tyres held air reasonably well before sealant was added. 

The 42 mm quoted width measures at an actual 41.6 mm wide on a 21 mm internal width rim (measured at 40 psi). Meanwhile the tyre balloons out to an actual 44.7 mm on a 25 mm internal width rim. 

Prior experience with the Pathfinder Pro suggest this voluminous tyre will be a hit with those seeking a fast tyre across a mix of road and gravel. However, the same past experience tells that the slick centre tread remains a limitation for those who often find themselves on steep, loose and/or muddy off-road terrain. 

Price: US$60 / AU$95 / €60
Weight: 452 / 449 g
More information: Specialized.com

Follow the link to see previous products we’ve covered in our Spotlight series.

Editors' Picks