Pirelli are one of the world’s biggest names in tyres. You’ll see their logo on the sidewall of F1 cars, rally cars, superbikes and, strangely enough, super boats, such as the America’s Cup Prada Pirelli team. More recently, they have come into the cycling market - though their presence in New Zealand retail cycling shops has been somewhat minimal.
I’ve had the Pirelli Scorpion XC RC tyre on review since summer. The Scorpion is an XC race tyre that we tested in the 29 x 2.2 120TPI Prowall version. It comes in a 2.4 option as well, and a creatively named lighter ‘Lite’ version, which is also a 120 TPI casing. For comparison, our 29 x 2.2 ProWALL weighed in at 650g, whereas the Lite comes in at 610g.
The ProWALL version benefits from sidewall reinforcement technology that increases puncture protection and improves handling at low pressures. Essentially this is an additional layer of nylon fabric applied over the casing sidewalls for extra protection and improved cornering stability. The Lite version omits this, so you save 40g and get a more supple tyre, but you lose some sidewall protection. Both versions roll on the same rubber compound that Pirelli call Smartgrip, designed to provide constant high grip performance in both wet and dry conditions. If the bright yellow Pirelli team logo doesn’t match your bike’s colour scheme, they are also available in a plain black logo too.
A quick look at the tyre and it’s obvious who the target market is for this tyre - Iow profile central knobs offer minimal rolling resistance. The side knobs are still quite decent bits of rubber, though, so I was hopeful this would still be a tyre that gave confidence when pushing through the corners.
I was pleased to get these tyres a few days before I set out on the 1100km Kopiko Aotearoa bikepacking event, in February this year. I don’t have much interest in XC racing any more, but a lot of the same products - tyres especially - appeal to the bikepacking segment of our sport. I was looking for a lightweight, fast-rolling tyre that was also strong enough to give me confidence when taking them into the remote areas that the Kopiko route followed. The tyres arrived only a few days before I was due to leave, but the tread pattern looked ideal in my eyes, and squeezing and pinching the sidewalls, well, they seemed to be sturdy enough, so on the bike they went and we set off for the East Cape.
One thousand one hundred kilometres later I am really happy with these tyres. They mounted onto the rims incredibly easily, and I had them setup tubeless in no time. Unlike some other tyres, they didn’t seem to leach any sealant and held their set pressure straight away. In fact, over the nine days of riding, I didn’t top up either tyre pressure once. By the time we arrived at Cape Egmont, the rear tyre was showing some obvious sign of wear, but was still well within what I consider acceptable for 1100km of loaded bikepacking. The side walls on the front and rear tyre don’t show any signs of damage which is also encouraging. The Smartgrip compound seemed like an excellent compromise for being fast-rolling on the seal and still grippy enough to ride the more technical parts of the route, such as the Timber Trail, without holding back.
Since then, I have used them for a number of laps around our local mountain bike trails and have been impressed with their ability. Clearly a low profile tyre like this is best suited to dry, hardpack conditions - in the wet, the side knobs still offer control and confidence, however the thin centreline knobs have limited ability to support braking as soon as it gets wet.
For their intended purpose, the Scorpions are a great tyre and I think they’re especially suited to multi day bikepacking rides.
Distributed by FE Sport
Reviewed by Lance Pilbrow