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The top 10 best Japanese road bike tires

In this article I’m going to cover the best Japanese road bike tires. I’ve ridden two brands in my life: IRC and Panaracer. Since I’m no longer a fan of IRC, or rather I’ve become a fan of Panaracer tires, this article could just as well sum up their entire tire lineup compatible with road bikes.

The reason I’m such a fan of the Japanese brand is that they offer the lightest tires on the market, with a good price, with excellent build quality, great puncture-protection, supple riding characteristics, and great looks.

Also, as the name of this site implies, I also do some bike restoration in my spare time. And Panaracer offers true skinwall versions of their tire with fantastic-looking tan sidewalls. So they’re also the best option to finish your vintage ride.

For this list I went with tire widths up to 28mm. Any wider than that and you’re going to get into trouble with frame clearance.

Let’s see what tires made it on my list of the best Japanese road bike tires.

Panaracer Agilest

Panaracer Agilest
Panaracer Agilest

The Panaracer Agilest is the newest addition to the Japanese tire manufacturer’s road bike tire lineup.

The standard clincher variant is one of the lightest tires available, with the “wide” 28mm version sitting at just 210 grams per tire.

They’ve achieved this weight with the new and much lighter ZSG Agile compound, which is a combination of a single 120 TPI ply with a puncture resistant breaker.

Coming in a variety of color combinations, including a gorgeous amber one, and being a long-time fan of Panaracer, I can do very little but instantly count this road bike tire among my favorites.

Expert Experience

Steve Williams | Product reviewer – May 2, 2023

I don’t suggest you go gravelling with these, but they’ve proved confidently tenacious and communicative on dirty, gritty and often badly potholed back lanes, while still accelerating and rolling well. In these aspects they match the tubeless versions, which use the same ZSG Agile compound.

They’ve resisted punctures in the same way too, despite the poor conditions wrought by spring tractor action and winter ice, and inevitably their handling feels identical – hard climbing and braking grip is good, wet grip is great and they steer very neutrally.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer Agilest Duro

Panaracer Agilest Duro
Panaracer Agilest Duro

The Panaracer Agilest Duro is without a doubt, the most puncture-resistant, yet lightweight road bike tire on the market.

The puncture resistance differs markedly by including the ProTite Belt, a breaker Panaracer also uses in their touring tires. On top of that an extra bead-to-bead breaker covers the entire casing.

By adding the extra breaker, they’ve bumped up the weight just a bit, but the 220 grams for a 25mm version is incredibly impressive.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer Agilest Light

Panaracer Agilest Light
Panaracer Agilest Light

What do you get when you take one of the lightest road bike tires available, and decide you want to make it even lighter? You get the Panaracer Agilest Light.

I know of only one tire which is lighter than the 160 grams 23mm version (or 170 grams 25mm). That tire specifically states it’s meant for either the track or a time trial.

This one does not. And, on the other hand, still offers the same 120 TPI casing, and breaker as the clincher version. It only comes with less rubber, but obviously something had to go to get into the weight class this tire sits in, which is quite frankly, anorexic. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.

Sure, it might be less durable, but who cares? This tire is a weight weenies’ dream come true.

Expert Experience

#REF!

Pros and Cons

Panaracer Agilest TLR

Panaracer Agilest TLR
Panaracer Agilest TLR

The Panaracer Agilest TLR is the tubeless-ready variant of the standard Agilest clincher.

It offers the same lightweight ZSG Agile compound, but instead of the breaker, has a bead-to-bead air proof layer to ensure a flatless ride.

And just as the clincher is one of the lightest in its category, the TLR, having the same type of casing, also offers the lowest weight for a tubeless-ready road bike tire. With the 23mm version at just 220 grams.

This one only comes in black though. But if you’re looking for an extremely lightweight tubeless-ready road bike tire of the highest quality, you’ve found it.

Expert Experience

#REF!

Pros and Cons

Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)

Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)
Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)

The tubed version of the Panaracer GravelKing inherits the compound and puncture protection technology of the entire lineup, but is offered in road bike tire dimensions.

This means you have your standard 23 to 28mm variants, with the durable ZSG compound, and the very reliable ProTite Shield Plus breaker. Which is a step up from their standard ProTite breaker, and also reinforces the sidewalls.

I use these tires for my daily driver, which is basically a road bike with panniers and fenders. They look great, ride even better, and though after many miles, there are small cuts on the well worn carcass, I haven’t had a flat.

All Panaracer tires are very low weight, including these ones. So whether you’re going to use them for a fast commuter, or a puncture-proof 4-season option for your road bike, know that these are some of the best road bike tires out there.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer GravelKing SS (Tubed)

Panaracer GravelKing SS (Tubed)
Panaracer GravelKing SS (Tubed)
Pros and Cons

Panaracer Pasela ProTite

Panaracer Pasela ProTite
Panaracer Pasela ProTite

Panaracer makes very nice mid-level priced tires. And they also offer some of the best-looking ones for retro builds. I choose the Panaracer Pasela ProTite over the normal Pasela, because it’s lighter, comes in a folding version and has better puncture protection.

The ProTite bead-to-bead protection covers is a tightly woven fabric covering the entire width of the tire, and sits in a mid-tier casing, offering a great combination of puncture protection, and low weight.

In general the Pasela ProTite are lightweight and true skin walls, that’ll look great on your bike.

Expert Experience

Shaun Audane | Technical writer – December 24, 2017

I still rate the Paselas and reckon they’re a good bet for training – especially on older bikes where preserving originality is welcome. The wide range of sizes also means they’re worth considering for cyclo-cross or gravel bikes that double as winter trainers. That said, I’d stick with the wire beads and save £30 a pair (at RRP); while likeable, the folding versions are outclassed on value by faster-rolling, higher-pressure contemporaries.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer Race C Evo 4

Panaracer Race C Evo 4
Panaracer Race C Evo 4

The true racing offering from Panaracer in a tan-wall jacket. The Panaracer Race C Evo 4 is quite a mouthfull, for one of their lightest road bike tire offerings. The 26 mm width is just 220 grams.

The Race C Evo 4 is meant for speed. Besides the weight, the tire has a tread pattern light enough to provide just a bit more grip than a true slick would have. It’s faster, grippier, and more durable than previous iterations of the tire.

Panaracers look good on any retro build, and this tire is the must-have choice for people looking for speed.

Expert Experience

Guy Stevenson | Bike tester – March 12, 2021

I already praised the Panaracer Race A Evo 4 tyre for its steadfast grip and tough construction that made it more of an all-rounder than ‘Race’ rubber. Panaracer has always been a great brand to look for when dependable control is high on your agenda. The latest Panaracer Race C Evo 4 Classic maximises grip and protection without killing smoothness or adding excess weight and it adds a retro skin wall aesthetic too.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer Race D Evo 4

Panaracer Race D Evo 4
Panaracer Race D Evo 4

The Panaracer Race D Evo 4 is the 4-season option from the Japanese brand’s race lineup.

The tires feature a 3D casing (Double Dip Duru Cover). That’s a fancy name to tell you that they offer dual breakers, the ProTite Belt sitting underneath the center tread, and a bead-to-bead one which reinforces the entire casing including the sidewalls.

That’s impressive, and certainly helps to prevent punctures and snake bites even more, making this a very solid contender and a high-quality all season option.

Expert Experience

Stu Kerton | Senior Product Reviewer – April 15, 2021

I found the Evo 3 tyres quick and grippy, and these Evo 4s are no different. The tacky feel to the ZSG compound really grabs on as you fly through a fast corner or tight roundabout.

The bike I swapped these onto was originally wearing Continental’s GP5000s, one of the best out there when it comes to grip and performance, and I can barely feel any difference at all. They both offer confidence-inspiring grip and impressive speed. The ride quality of the Panaracers is good too – very supple, even at high pressures.

Pros and Cons

Panaracer RiBMo

Panaracer RiBMo
Panaracer RiBMo

At 26 x 2 inches and 560 grams the Panaracer RibMo is among the lightest tires for its size on this list. Its minimal tread pattern moves it into the direction of being a slick tire, perfect for fast urban commuting.

The Panaracer RiBMo uses their proprietary ProTite technology, which is an extra puncture-resistant layer which runs the entire length and width of the tire. And they offer a more durable, commuter-friendly compound.

The conclusion is this tire will make your bike feel fast and nimble for many many miles at a reasonable enough price.

Expert Experience

Dave Atkinson | Road.cc founder – October 15, 2015

The tread shape, which is ovalised a bit like the pointy end of an egg, is designed to decrease rolling resistance while still offering good grip when cornering. I can’t say that I ever had any problems with grip, even with the hard compound.

One of the reasons for this is that with a bigger air chamber you can afford to run the tyres at a lower pressure. I’m 100kg and normally put 100psi into a 25mm tyre; I found I could run these RiBMos at 85-90psi without any more danger of pinch-flatting than I’d have with a thinner tyre. That means more grip and extra comfort too, and it didn’t noticeably affect the tyre’s ability to roll.

Pros and Cons

Specifications Japanese road bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
TPI
Panaracer Agilest
700×23
23-622
180
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×23
23-622
180
Black
Amber
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×25
25-622
190
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×25
25-622
190
Black
Amber
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×25
25-622
190
Black
Blue
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×25
25-622
190
Black
Red
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×28
28-622
210
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest
700×28
28-622
210
Black
Amber
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest Duro
700×23
23-622
210
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
TF Super Outer Shield / ProTite belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest Duro
700×25
25-622
220
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
TF Super Outer Shield / ProTite belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest Duro
700×28
28-622
250
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
TF Super Outer Shield / ProTite belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest Light
700×23
23-622
160
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest Light
700×25
25-622
170
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha / TF Super Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Agilest TLR
700×25
25-622
250
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha
tlr
120
Panaracer Agilest TLR
700×28
28-622
270
Black
Black
ZSG Agile
AX-Alpha
tlr
120
Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)
700Cx26
26-622
240
Black
Black
ZSG Natural
AX-Alpha / ProTite Shield Plus
foldable
126
Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)
700Cx26
26-622
240
Black
Tan
ZSG Natural
AX-Alpha / ProTite Shield Plus
foldable
126
Panaracer GravelKing SS (Tubed)
700Cx28
28-622
310
Black
Black
ZSG Natural
AX-Alpha / ProTite Shield Plus
foldable
126
Panaracer GravelKing SS (Tubed)
700Cx28
28-622
310
Black
Tan
ZSG Natural
AX-Alpha / ProTite Shield Plus
foldable
126
Panaracer Pasela ProTite
700×25
25-622
250
Black
Amber
ZSG
ProTite Shield / 400D Lite Extra Cord
foldable
66
Panaracer Pasela ProTite
700×28
28-622
270
Black
Amber
ZSG
ProTite Shield / 400D Lite Extra Cord
foldable
66
Panaracer Race C Evo 4
700Cx23
23-622
220
Black
Tan
ZSG Advanced
AX-Alpha / ProTite Belt
foldable
120
Panaracer Race D Evo 4
700Cx28
28-622
260
Black
Tan
ZSG Advanced
AX-Alpha / ProTite Belt / 3D casing
foldable
120
Panaracer Race D Evo 4
700Cx28
28-622
260
Black
Black
ZSG Advanced
AX-Alpha / ProTite Belt / 3D casing
foldable
120
Panaracer Race D Evo 4
700Cx23
23-622
240
Black
Tan
ZSG Advanced
AX-Alpha / ProTite Belt / 3D casing
foldable
120
Panaracer Race D Evo 4
700Cx25
25-622
260
Black
Tan
ZSG Advanced
AX-Alpha / ProTite Belt / 3D casing
foldable
120
Panaracer RiBMo
700Cx25
25-622
340
Black
Black
Mile Cruncher
ProTite Shield / 800D Strong Cord
foldable
66

Sources

Steve Williams, Panaracer Agilest Folding Road Tyre, Road.cc, May 2, 2023
#REF!
#REF!
Shaun Audane, Panaracer Pasela PT Folding Tyre, Road.cc, December 24, 2017
Guy Stevenson, Panaracer Race C Evo 4 Classic tyre review, Cycling News, March 12, 2021
Stu Kerton, Panaracer Race D Evo 4 tyre, Road.cc, April 15, 2021
Dave Atkinson, Panaracer RiBMo folding 700C 28mm tyre, Road.cc, October 15, 2015
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website. 

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