Pirelli is best known for its premium automotive rubber frequently featured on Formula One racecars. But the Italian tire brand launched a line of road bike tires in in 2017. Now, the company is bringing its tire tech to mountain biking with four different tread patterns designed for cross-country and trail use dubbed Pirelli Scorpion.
Pirelli Scorpion Tire Highlights
- Four terrain-specific tread patterns
- 27.5 versions in 2.4” widths
- 29er versions in 2.2” and 2.4” widths
- Tubeless compatible
- Standard and light casing options
Rather than using double or triple compounds throughout the tread blocks, Pirelli uses a single “Smart Compound” with good all-around characteristics. The company claims this approach provides more consistent performance throughout the life of the tire.
In developing the Scorpion line, testers noted that several competitor tires had good traction when new, but performance dropped off sharply once the softer rubber wore away, revealing a harder durometer rubber underneath used to support the exterior compound.
It’s also worth noting that each tire in the Pirelli Scorpion line uses a slightly different compound that has been refined for the intended riding conditions to balance traction, durability and rebound characteristics. For example, the hard condition tire uses a longer-wearing compound, while the tire designed for soft conditions uses a softer, slower rebounding rubber.
In addition to refining the tire compound for the intended conditions, Pirelli also alters the orientation, size and siping of the tread blocks as the tires increase in width. We do more than just scale knobs. It’s a matter of optimizing the tread pattern for the tire volume, a Pirelli tire engineer explained.
The Pirelli Scorpion line will be offered in standard and “Lite” versions with 60 and 120tpi casings, respectively.
Pirelli Scorpion Hard
The fastest rolling tire of the line is intended for hardpacked terrain. The low-profile knobs are spaced evenly to provide predictable handling. It also features a harder compound, which the company claims has been optimized for durability and low rolling resistance.
Pirelli Scorpion Mixed
As the name suggests, this is the Jack-of-all trades tread pattern in the Scorpion line. The knobs are spaced wider than the Scorpion Hard with a rubber bridge at the base of the knobs to improve knob stability.
Pirelli Scorpion Soft
The Scorpion Soft has tall knobs with ample spacing. The goal is to create a tire that penetrates soft terrain and is able to shed mud and other debris. Like the Medium tire, it also uses base reinforcements to buttress the knobs.
Pirelli Scorpion Rear
The three aforementioned tires can be run in the front or rear. Pirelli notes that traction and cornering characteristics between front and rear tires are different, which led the company to develop a rear-specific tread pattern that can be paired with any of its Scorpion tires. The Scorpion Rear most closely resembles the Medium, with closely spaced center blocks to reduce straight-line rolling resistance.
Pirelli Scorpion Claimed weights, Availability and Pricing
Pirelli is setting pricing based on the width. The company’s 2.2” tires will retail for $69, while the 2.4” models see a slight upcharge to $73.
Though based in Milan, Italy, Pirelli conducts much of its tire testing in Sicily. The company invited journalist to its global tire launch to get the run-down on the new off-road line and ride the new tires on many of the trails the company used to develop the Scorpion line.
Unfortunately, heavy snowfall on the slopes of Mount Etna covered the test tracks, relegating us to riding a single- and double-track route through citrus groves and quaint Sicilian villages.
Mtbr opted to test the 29×2.4 Scorpion Mixed with a matching 2.4 Scorpion Rear.
These high volume tires had a nice round profile when mounted to rims with a 30mm internal width. I settled on 20psi front and 22psi in the back.
Relating the attributes of new tire is similar to describing the musical stylings of a new band — impressions are often based on what has come before.
Two popular tires immediately came to mind in terms of tread patterns and performance. As a front tire, the Scorpion Medium has similar cornering characteristics to the Bontrager XR 3, while the Scorpion Rear is a dead ringer for Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph.
In both cases the comparison is a compliment. This combination proved to be fast rolling and predictable through turns. It’s a tire set-up I would consider running for technical XC stage races such as the B.C. Bike Race or Breck Epic.
I rode over countless thorns and broken glass without incident, which bodes well for puncture resistance. On the flipside, knob wear seemed unusually fast for a single 15-mile ride. It’s possible this excessive wear was due to the regions volcanic rock and soil, rather than a fault with rubber compound. Still, further testing on familiar trails is needed before delivering a final verdict.
For more info head over to velo.pirelli.com.