Fast-rolling and grippy on gravel, dirt and pavement — that’s what the new Specialized Pathfinder tires are targeting. And, after extensive testing of both the 700x38c and 650x47c versions, these tires are great for anything you can throw at them.

Specialized Pathfinder Pro Tires 700×38 & 650×47 Features:

  • 2Bliss casing makes for easy tubeless install
  • Available in tan or black sidewalls
  • 120 TPI casing
  • Folding bead
  • GRIPTON® compound
  • Endurant Casing and BlackBelt flat protection
  • Weight: 490 grams (700x38c), 555 grams (650x47mm) — actual
  • MSRP: $45
Specialized Pathfinder Pro Tire Review

The face of the 700x38c Pathfinder Pro.

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 650x47 Tires Review

The face of the 650x47mm treads.

Find your own path 2Bliss

When released, the new Pathfinder Pro tires had my summer plans written all over them. With a trip to the Midwest in June and SBT GRVL in August, the search for the perfect all-road tire pointed squarely to the Pathfinder Pro. But, would the 700×38 or 650×47 become the best go-to rubber? That gets a little murky, but it’s fair to say both are great options heading into 100 miles of blissful Colorado gravel.

I’ve had the 700c’s mounted up to the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels while the 650b’s were mounted on the Roval CLX 32 650b wheels. Both were set up exclusively tubeless, using Bontrager sealant.

Installation of the 700×38 Pathfinders was entirely tool and curse-free with my thumbs doing all the work. Mounting was a breeze and seating them up with the Blackburn Chamber Tubeless Pump was quick-and-easy.

The 650b’s are a little more stubborn on the Roval CLX 32 650b’s, but can still be installed without tools. Removal, however, is pretty difficult (e.g. I resorted to a tire lever), should the need arise. Regardless of tire size, my pro tip is to keep an eye on that direction arrow before mounting these up. I may or may not have had that issue. 

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 650x47 Tires Review

Rolling the 650b’s on some local climbs.

Road testing the Pathfinder Pro

Out on the road, both tire sizes perform very well with that wide, fast-rolling center channel at 35-40 psi. Depending on the terrain, I raised and lowered the pressure accordingly. Over the course of a long, 3000 ft. road climb, the 700×38’s yielded slightly to faster, narrower tires. I’d say there is a 5-8% efficiency loss as compared to fast-rolling 28mm tires, which added about 6-8 minutes to my average time.

American Fork Canyon Climb on Strava

The climb up American Fork Canyon was a touch slower than my typical 1:05 time.

Other comparison tests between both the 650 and 700c versions showed that they are consistently about 5% slower on extended climbs. Again, this is to be expected and shouldn’t be a big deal, but just be aware. What’s awesome about their on-road performance is the sheer comfort and ability to dart onto any gravel or dirt road you may encounter. As an added bonus on the road, hitting the shoulder, if needed, is no big deal. Potholes? Also, no big deal. Try that with 28mm road tires.

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 700x38 Tires

Atop the Alpine Loop, the 38’s did quite well.

What’s flat-out amazing about these tires on the road is the sheer grip they offer when cornering at speed. The 3000 ft. climb above turns into a whale of a downhill with twisty, turny corners that, with the Pathfinder 700×38’s, felt like a playground. The angulation you can achieve with the Pathfinders is off-the-charts as I’ve  enjoyed every curvy downhill I’ve encountered.

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 650x47 Tires Review

Very confident on all variety of dirt and gravel.

Getting gravelly

Mixed road/dirt rides are just what the Pathfinder is made for. That fast-rolling center is awesome on pavement and those tear-shaped side knobs make for excellent dirt performance. I’ve been able to push these tires hard on gravel and really love how they hook up on climbs, flats and descents.

As with all tires, you can get the rear tire to let loose on climbs, but a little balance goes a long way and I’ve been surprised at the terrain these can tackle. Short, steep, rocky, anaerobic climbs can be powered through with excellent traction. And, rolling gravel with mixed climbs are great — with excellent efficiency on fast sections. What you see below is a mile of mixed gravel (smooth and rocky) with a couple of little punchy climbs mixed in. I was a mere 1 second off my best time, and I wasn’t even pushing hard.

Grove Creek to Battle Creek Canyons on Strava

Just a second off my PR on this 1-mile gravel/dirt affair.

Without question, the Pathfinder Pro 700×38’s are going to be my tire of choice heading into SBT GRVL. And, the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V’s will be the chosen wheelset as well. With their generous 25mm internal width, the 38’s measure out to 38.75mm.

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 650x47 Tires Review

The 650b’s offer a little more playful feel and are even more forgiving.

When going 650b, traction increases a little on gravel and they still roll along just as fast. While the treads do look smaller than the WTB Byway 47’s, they measure out to a full 47.12mm on the Roval CLX 32’s. Optical illusion, I guess.

Post SBT GRVL Update (8/19/2019): I chose to run these tires with the Roval CLX 32 650b’s for the SBT GRVL Blue course and I could not have been happier. I was blown away by how fast they rolled on the course and that added tire width made quick work out of the many loose corners on the course. I’m a believer in 650b’s for gravel racing. 

The Good

  • Great traction for mixed roads
  • Rolls well on long road stretches
  • Installed without tools
  • Seats up in a jiffy
  • Makes mountainous descents a blast
  • Great handling when terrain gets dicey
  • Affordably-priced

The Bad

  • Need tire levers to remove the 650b’s
  • Do roll slower than dedicated road tires (obviously)

The Bottom Line: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss

After testing both flavors of tire in a variety of conditions, I’m a fan. These seat up well and stay inflated mounted up to both the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V and Roval CLX 32 650b carbon clinchers. I’m already confidently heading into SBT GRVL with the 700×38’s. Handling and traction is excellent while the center treads allow for fast-rolling on the road that’s only slightly slower than dedicated road tires.

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About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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