Review: Pirelli Scorpion Enduro Tyres

Motorsport powerhouse Pirelli borrowed technology from its car and moto racing divisions to develop the Scorpion MTB range.

With that technology comes a somewhat unique approach to its choice of compounds and tread design which heightens the appeal of the range.

Inside the comprehensive list of Pirelli cycling tyres is the Scorpion MTB Enduro range which has recently landed in South Africa. There are three options in the Enduro range. A Mixed Terrain that is suited to wet or dry trails and from hardpack to loose over hard type conditions. It can be used on the front or the rear. The Soft Terrain option is better suited to soft sand, loamy trails or muddy conditions and is equally at home on the front or rear. A Rear Specific (not on test here) is the third option that completes the Enduro Range. I have been testing the Mixed and Soft options around Cape Town’s gnarliest trails and although there are lots of rivals in this space, I think the naysayers need to pay Pirelli some respect. These tyres are really good, but there is a trick to unlocking their full potential.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
These tyres are really good, but there is a trick to unlocking their full potential.

THE TECH: Scorpion Enduro for Mixed Terrain

From shoulder to shoulder there is no less than eight square or rectangular shaped knoblies that are of a medium profile, in other words, not tall. There is no distinct channel between the center and shoulder knobs. Interestingly, Pirelli use a single compound rubber throughout and say the knoblies are siped, bridged and shaped with this in mind. A single compound rubber, in theory, should extend the lifespan of the tyre whilst providing consistent performance despite wear.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
1137 grams for a 29 x 2.6 makes this a solid option for more than just Enduro bikes. It is likely a good option for anything under 20kg’s. Think eMTB’s, Downhill bikes and even shorter travel trail bikes that need extra grip.

Details: Pirelli Scorpion Enduro for Mixed Terrain

  • Size: 29 x 2.6
  • Intended for: Mixed Terrain
  • Weather: Wet or Dry
  • Application: Enduro
  • Casing: 60TPI in Hardwall structure
  • Compound: Smartgrip / Single compound
  • Weight: 1 137g actual
  • Use: Front or Rear
  • Retail: R1050
  • More: capecycles.co.za

Sizing extends across a 27.5 in 2.4 and 2.6 widths or this 29 x 2.6. Mounted to 30mm inner diameter rims this 29 x 2.6 I am testing measures exactly as specified; at 2.6 inches wide. The profile of the tyre is round – as opposed to a square-like shape and similar to a Maxxis Minion DHF, Schwalbe Hans Dampf or Bontrager XR4.

For hard-hitting Enduro, the carcass or casing of any tyre needs to be robust and supportive. To that end, Pirelli has added a multi-layered bead-to-bead reinforcement (shown in grey) with a hard rubber insert (shown in yellow) placed just above the beading. This technology has trickled down from Pirelli’s motorsport wisdom and contributes to the stability of the carcass at lower pressures whilst also boosting durability.


RIDE IMPRESSIONS: Scorpion Enduro for Mixed Terrain

Last year I spent a few months riding the lighter cross-country version of this tyre and was very impressed with the fast-rolling speed and sure-footed ride feel. KOM’s happened. However, Enduro riding places a lot more emphasis on corner speed and without a tall shoulder knob I was a little apprehensive about this tread pattern. Exercising caution is a good thing when riding mountain bikes and especially when testing tyres. Needless to say, I started this test with the Mixed Terrain tyre on the rear before getting the confidence to switch it up to the front.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
The round profile of the Mixed Terrain tread pattern gives a positive cornering experience and reduces drifting in off camber conditions.

The burly carcass does mean there is the extra weight when climbing but it is the same weight as the tyre I was previously using so I didn’t notice it. The first performance highlight is the sheer rolling speed of this tyre. It carries speed really well – almost as well as a pure semi-slick. The strong and supportive carcass means softer than usual pressures are possible. The softer pressure increases the contact patch and unlocks its propensity for speed. Without tall knoblies the tyre doesn’t necessarily cut into the trail for grip. It moulds into the shape of the terrain to deliver grip. It does everything a rear tyre needs to do for Enduro riding. I think it’s an excellent option for most trails. Of course, it is not designed for loam and will float around a little on soft trails.

As it turns out, switching the Mixed Terrain to the front was an interesting experience. Pirelli has clearly done their research here and the performance on the front is still a little bit puzzling. In my head, this tyre just shouldn’t be this good as a front specific option. Again, it definitely doesn’t suit the lesser spotted loamy and soft conditions where a taller knobbly performs well. The ride feel is a lot like the Hans Dampf, with a gradual or constant drift, which is not unsettling. That huge contact patch is likely the reason for better than expected grip on the front. I would definitely race with this as a rear tyre on almost any trail and for hardpack trails, I like it as a front option too.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
The strong carcass and lower air pressures improve stability in chunky sections of trail.

What I really like about this tread pattern is its versatility. Run it on the front or the back, in the wet or the dry and it hooks up. At 1137 grams it is meaty enough to use at any of the gnarliest stages in a South African Enduro and would have come in handy at the SA Enduro Champs in Jonkershoek last year.



THE TECH: Scorpion Enduro for Soft Terrain

The Soft Terrain tyre has a tread layout which is unlike any tyre I know. It has a series of tall, widely spaced knoblies which are both stout and aggressive. Again, Pirelli have used a single compound here with the same carcass technology as on the Mixed Terrain tyre.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
As was the case with the Mixed Terrain, fitting and inflating the tyre was pretty hassle-free

Details: Pirelli Scorpion Enduro for Soft Terrain

  • Size: 29 x 2.6
  • Intended for: Soft Terrain
  • Weather: Wet or Dry
  • Application: Enduro
  • Casing: 60TPI in Hardwall structure
  • Compound: Smartgrip / Single compound
  • Weight: 1 174g actual
  • Use: Front or Rear
  • Retail: R1050
  • More: capecycles.co.za

The Soft Terrain is available in four sizes. As a 2.4 or 2.6 in both 27.5 and 29-inch wheel sizes. The profile is slightly more squarish with a narrow channel between the shoulder and center knoblies. As was the case with the Mixed Terrain, fitting and inflating the tyre was pretty hassle-free. There was no need for a high-pressure pump and the tyre seated perfectly, on the first attempt.


RIDE IMPRESSIONS: Scorpion Enduro for Soft Terrain

Put simply, the technology in the carcass of this Enduro range is pretty special. Running those same lower pressures as on the Mixed Terrain variety also brings this tyre to life! The grip is phenomenal but the trail does need to play its part and be soft enough to allow the tall knoblies to serve their purpose of biting in. In my experience, the softer the trails get, the better this tyre bites. The cornering and braking grip is ridiculously good in very loose conditions.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
The softer the trails get, the better this tyre bites.

I didn’t get to take the tyre through the wheel-stopping peanut butter gloop style mud that riders in Mpumalanga and KZN can experience, but for the most part, I found it does well at staying unclogged. Incidentally, the Enduro casing is strong enough to use on most of the DH tracks in SA. It will also double up as a good option for any eMTB that is under 20kg – particularly as a rear option where I have a feeling it will deliver good climbing on technical trails.


MY RECOMMENDATIONS

To get the best out of these tyres I recommend lowering your pressures by as much as 30% from your normal setup. The traction, rollover and braking power is sublime when you do. To give you an idea, on my Enduro bike I dropped the pressures to 22psi rear and 15psi on the front. I think lower pressures are feasible too. You might want to use a tyre insert if you are going to run that kind pressure on your eMTB but then again maybe the better option is to go with the stronger eMTB specific carcass from Pirelli.

Mountain Biker Myles Kelsey tests the Pirelli Scorpion Tyre on a Trek Slash bike in Tokai just outside of the city of Cape Town. Photograph by Gary Perkin
The Scorpion Enduro range is very appealing. Kudo’s to Pirelli for innovating and presenting riders with something that is vastly different in design, yet similar in performance to the established patterns.

| IMAGES: Gary Perkin | LOCATION: Tokai MTB|


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