If all is going well your tires are the only thing in contact with the ground, the final connection to the road that ultimately determines a good portion of the ride quality and handling characteristics of a bike. Good tires are like fine wine, not always necessary but appreciated by the connoisseur. I’m guilty of running a lot of “box wine” tires, but will admit that I can appreciate the better rubber when I’ve got it on hand. The Panaracer Gravelking is the latest from Panasonic’s tire division, and upon pulling it from the box it was immediately clear that this was a top quality clincher tire with performance in mind. Meant for those bent on taking their road bikes off of the blacktop, the Gravelking is clearly targeting the burgeoning gravel race scene though it should go over well with real-world riders looking for a serious tire with more flat protection than standard road rubber. The tire is light (the pictured 28c version weighs 267 g), the casing supple even if it hides full bead to bead anti-flat protection. A road tire for the way a lot of us choose to ride, without the weight and relatively terrible ride quality of the various urban “flatproof” tires out there. Can’t wait for the weather to break and get a chance for some time on these. Available in March 2014 in 700 x 23, 26 and 28 sizes for about $50 each.