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
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.
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.
Other comparison tests between both the 650b and 700c versions showed that they are consistently about 5% slower on extended climbs as compared to fast-rolling road tires. 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.
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.
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.
Without question, the Pathfinder Pro’s are going to be my tire of choice heading into SBT GRVL 2019. And, the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V’s will likely be the chosen wheelset as well. With their generous 25mm internal width, the 38’s measure out to 38.75mm. (see below for my actual wheel/tire combo of choice)
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.
I’ll add that the smooth center tread does make for awesome riding on roads and smooth gravel, but reduces traction when climbing technical/loose terrain. The grippy edge knobs grab quite well when cornering through rough stuff, but steep, rocky climbs do leave something to be desired.
Post SBT GRVL Update (8/19/2019): I actually chose to run the 650b tires with the Roval CLX 32 650b wheels 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 riding and racing.
- 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
- I needed tire levers to remove the 650b’s
- Climbing traction on steep, loose or rocky terrain is lacking
- 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 is excellent on all terrain and traction is excellent on most gravel routes while the center treads allow for fast-rolling on the road that’s only slightly slower than dedicated road tires.
Buy Now: Visit Specialized.com
Thanks for the review.
Could you tell about the comfort (maybe against Terrene Elwood & Soma Cazadero)?
Nelson… thanks for the question. It’s hard to judge comfort specifically when running tires at 35 psi. 🙂 These are on par with other gravel tires I’m riding from WTB currently (Venture, Sendero, Byway) and others I’ve ridden from Donnelly.
How would you compare these to the WTB ByWay?
I should have given a bit more detail…..
I am considering both for winter training / riding in the UK where the roads are potholed and rough. I will run them tubeless and am considering the 700 x 35c, 38c or 40c versions.
They will be mainly used on rough tarmac and country lanes / fire roads. Historically I have ridden 32c Conti 4Seasons but wish would rather run a gravel tyre on my new bike.
I prefer the Pathfinder Pro’s to the Byway because they have a little more traction for technical terrain. Both seem to roll just as fast and they both seat up tubeless well. I just like having a little extra in case the roads get worse than expected.
brilliant.. thanks for the fast reply. pathfinders in 700 x38c it is
Jason I will be getting a set of 700c 42’s in this week.
My plan is to run them at Mid South and Dirty Kanza, and for that matter, hoping I never have to look at another tire review. I know they will be a great choice if dry at Mid South. How do you think the Pathfinders will perform at DK? Ive only done DK once and I can’t really think of anywhere these tires shouldn’t be fine including the low maintenance road sections which its a good idea to take it easy in those sections on any tire one might be running.
Secondly you mention you prefer 650B for gravel. If you had tested the 42 700’s, do you think it would had been a harder decision choosing the 650 over the 700’s?
Thanks and I enjoy the site
Thanks for reading and chiming in, Sean! Good choice on using these tires for DK and Mid South. I was recently in Oklahoma City for the Holidays and loved the WTB Sendero 47’s for that terrain. Gravel is a little rougher out there with large rocks and loose sections galore (“gravel” is a bigger diameter out there, it seems).
Regarding 650v700, I’m still a 650b fan overall, but you’re right… these in a 42c might be a great option. And, not everyone has 650b gravel wheels. I still like the extra volume that 650b’s provide.
Again… not sure I answered your question, but 700x42c Pathfinder Pro’s would be great options for both races. Crush it, my friend!
I’ve used SpecHEMISPEREs38c for2YrsOnMyREDLINE29er!! If the PATHFINDERs are asGood&/orBetter!!! TheyMightBeMyNextGO2Tyre!!!!
Thanks for the in-depth review. For the record, I run tubes on my touring bike, and the Pathfinder has been an absolute pain in the arse to seat and tune up. I’ve never had such a cranky tire. Still haven’t found the magic combination of techniques that will get it to roll straight. However, the tube I’m using is cheap, so I’m going to try one that’s a bit more up-market and see if that makes a difference.
Also, I can mount the Pathfinder to my rims with hands alone and mild swearing, but it will not come off without tire irons. Took me some time to find them, since the Clémente 700X40s I was using before shucked on and off like rubber gloves.
FYI, for those with similar rides.
Yeah, these tires are preferably run tubeless. And, rim tolerances vary. I’ve put these tires on/off three different rims without any tools. I hope you get yours sorted out!
Hi Jason, thanks for the comprehensive & informative review as always!
What pressures have you been happy with on the pathfinder pro 700/38, for mostly road? I run them around 70psi (78kg rider) – maybe that’s too high?
thanks in advance for your advice 🙂
Hi – I run mine around 50psi on the road and find they roll great. I have them set-up tubeless and am 75kg.
Angui… yes, that’s really, really high for those tires — especially if you’re running tubeless. Even with tubes, you wouldn’t want them anywhere near those pressures.
For mostly road duty, I’d say 50 psi as Daniel suggested would be a good starting point and about the most I’d inflate those to for road duty. Don’t overpressure your tires. I’m running pretty low pressures on all my tires these days since most rims are wider and we’ve come to realize that lower pressures is better, faster and more comfortable.
Hi from Belgium ! (language errors included)
I bought the 700X42 version. Bad match with my Mavic Allroad (22.8 mm inner width) or Crossride (21 mm inner width) rims : impossible to get the tires on them. I tried with even cheaper and narrower rims (19c and 17c inner width) on old spare wheels and… bingo, no problemo ! One plastic tire lever needed, no swearing during the process an the tires gently went seated into the rim beads.
You are warned : Mavic + Pathfinder = problem ! 😉
As a comparison, I had no problem to install Panaracer Gravelking SK 43c on the same Mavic rims…
Hi from Belgium again…
I must apologize for writing my former opinion in a haste.
After a bit of googling, I came across a very simple and efficient method to tame tight tires !
As a result, I was able to mount my 700×42 Pathfinder pro on my Mavic Allroad wheels (22.8 mm inner rim width) without tools!
I had a test ride today and fully agree with Jason’s review. Thank you, by the way.
Although they are heavier than my former Panaracer Gravelking SK 700×43, they feel faster and definitely more suppler. I don’t expect the same performance on rougher surfaces but for that, I use my XC hardtail.
Glad you got things sorted out and thanks for your experience. Yes, the Pathfinder Pro tires are awesome for road and gravel. That center channel makes them fast for hardback and tarmac, but (as you said and as I mentioned), it does pose some challenges for technical terrain. I still dig these tires — even with those slight limitations.
So Christophe, what method are you using? Is it soapy water, or…?
Well, Rik, I just followed what Omar from Allrounder Bicycles demonstrates in this video :
Running my tires tubeless possibly made the operation even easier with no tube to get in the way… and without using soapy water ! 😉
im curious if you have compared the Pathfinder Pros vs the Trigger Pros?
Christie… sorry, but I haven’t ridden the Trigger Pro. It looks like a very versatile tire that’s likely got better grip for when things get tricky.