Pirelli is a well-known brand in tires — for high-performance tires for race cars and motorcycles. That, and their classic series of calendars. They’ve been expanding into the bike world, joining brands like Goodyear, Continental, and Maxxis in the cycling category with the Pirelli Velo range. After testing the waters with a road cycling tire, for 2019 they’ve entered the MTB world with the introduction of the Scorpion MTB line.
Inspired by the Scorpion MX series and tread shape, the MTB range is currently divided into four models based on the intended terrain and use: hard terrain, mixed terrain, soft terrain and rear specific.
A set of Pirelli Scorpion MTB treads were dispatched to Bermstyle HQ so we could see what the fuss was all about. But first I had to decide which model to ride, based on what would suit my needs. Looking at the tread options, the square blocks are modestly sized, aimed at XC and long distance trail riding. Pirelli offers models in 29 and 27.5 wheel sizes with 2.2″, 2.4″ and 2.6″ inch widths in 29″, and 2.4″ and 2.6″ widths in 27.5″.
That suits me, as I’ve been riding large, aggressive treads on my all mountain bikes, and have been looking to diversify the quiver a bit more. We’re past winter, and a faster rolling tread for the XC bike is an optimal choice for fast-paced, multi-surface urban rides on a 29″ hardtail.
The Scorpion appears well suited for our urban park riding and a great fit for training rides as well as the local short track series. Looking for efficiency on hardpack, I elected to go with the Scorpion H in 29 x 2.2″ for both the front and rear.
The Scorpion H tread is designated for hard terrain. The knobs are similar in shape to the mixed and soft terrain offerings, but more tightly spaced for better rolling efficiency and speed. It’s also a firmer rubber compound for better grip on hardpack. I could have gone with a Scorpion M for a front tire, to add versatility for a wider range of conditions, but my goal was to transform my carbon Honzo hardtail from winter riding mode into an XC race rocket.
The Hard Terrain models are offered in a standard and LITE version, which has even lower profile knobs, is dedicated to racing and weighs in a tad less. I chose the standard.
- Scorpion Hard Terrain 29 x 2.2 listed weight: 695g
- Low profile, tight compact knob spacing
- Rip-resistant SmartGRIP rubber compound
- 120 tpi TUBELESS READY casing designed to dampen vibrations
Out of the Box & Installation
I’ll be the first to admit, it was pretty cool to peel open the box to unveil Pirelli rubber. The big question, would the experience of the MTB product live up to the brand hype? I mean, the novelty of it was one thing, but how were they going to actually work?
Tubeless setup on a set of FSA Afterburner WideR wheels was fast and painless, which is always a great sign. The Afterburner WideR is a good match for the Pirellis, being lightweight and wide, but not too wide at 27mm internal. Following my usual installation procedure, I began with soapy water on the bead, slipped them on, and massaged the bead towards the sidewalls, and pumped them up until the familiar “pop” signified the bead was secure. After adding sealant, and re-inflating them, and installing them on the bike it was time to hit the dirt.
My first few hours of ride time mostly consisted of pavement on my commute to work, with detours on dirt routes through the local parks. With over 35 psi, they rolled quickly on the pavement and I had a good time getting loose anywhere I could.
While they obviously don’t roll as quickly as the gravel tires on my cross bike, they’re considerably more capable while still feeling very fast around town.
In comparison to the substantial 2.4 knobs I had been running on my carbon Honzo through winter, the bike felt way faster. After spending a few hours on the bike I’ve come to the conclusion that lightweight XC tires are a much better fit for the riding I actually do on the bike. I had initially conceived of the Honzo as an “all trail” or all mountain hardtail, but I’ve come to appreciate it far more as an XC rocket that rides like a bike I actually enjoy riding.
With each ride I’ve been steadily been lowering pressures, looking for that sweet spot. I find myself damaging rims when running lower pressures, so I’m overly cautious when it comes to air pressure. I prefer to run a firmer tire than most, relying on bike handling skills over tire deformation for traction on turns, which gives me a bit more confidence when it comes to high speeds over rough terrain.
On a recent XC ride in Cascade Locks I ran 22 in the front with 25 in the rear and liked how it was feeling. I could potentially go a bit lower, but I’d seems like I’m getting close.
If you’re looking for some new go-fast XC tires, the Scorpion series is definitely worth taking a close look at. Check them out and learn more at www.velo.pirelli.com