TESTED: The XC, Marathon & Down-Country focused Pirelli Scorpion tyre

Pirelli expanded into the cycling world a couple of years ago and recently released its mountain bike range, the Scorpion.

Pirelli Scorpion mountain bike tyre shot on location for Bike Network in South Africa with Myles Kelsey.
The Pirelli test team clocked an incredible 30 000km, on 800 different tyre prototypes using 7 different rim sizes during the development of the MTB range.

Headquartered in Milan Italy, Pirelli has over 1 000 dedicated researchers around the world, with 11 research centers and says they allocate over 200 million Euros each year to the development and innovation of its complete tyre range: car, moto and bicycle. Now, if you like numbers, then how about these: Pirelli currently employs over 31 500 people, has a whopping 6 500 patents, has 35 years experience with motorcycle tyres and the company dates back to the late 1800’s.

The Scorpion™ MTB range of XC, marathon and trail tyres was developed by a team of dedicated testers who carried out 450 tests on different surfaces recording the data along the way. In total, the Pirelli test team clocked an incredible 30 000km, on 800 different tyre prototypes using 7 different rim sizes during the development of the MTB range.



PIRELLI SCORPION MTB – THE TECH

SMARTGRIP Throughout the Scorpion MTB range, Pirelli has opted for a single rubber compound for the entire depth of the knoblies. As a result, tyre performance doesn’t fade as the tread begins to wear. Additionally, Pirelli use a variety of compounds specific to every tread pattern and tyre size to optimize their performance. SMARTGRIP also incorporates advanced chemical technology which means all the Pirelli Scorpion tyres work in wet or dry conditions.

TERRAIN SPECIFIC RANGE For consumers, the Pirelli Scorpion MTB range is simple and easy to understand. The range is terrain or applicationspecific, and is labeled accordingly. Pirelli offer a Hard Terrain, Mixed Terrain, Soft Terrain and Rear Specific option in a variety of widths and wheelsizes.



THE RANGE

HARD TERRAIN

Designed for race circuits that feature gravel, smooth areas, exposed roots, wide sections of asphalt. Rocky ground with stones fixed in place and cobblestones. Artificial or urban ground including bitumen, asphalt, cobblestone, porphyry, artificial trails, steps made of wood or stone. Surfaces made of hard compacted earth, walkways, paths in city parks, unpaved roads that are open to vehicular traffic, cycling paths.

The Hard Terrain tyre consists of low, densely packed knobs and is made with a rubber compound that guarantees grip, high adaptability to the terrain and resistance to wear. The height of the knobs is reduced to increase smoothness and limit deformation when cornering on terrain hard surfaces.

The LITE version of the Hard Terrain is faster and weighs less, while offering elevated puncture protection. A version designed for racing, dedicated to the more lightweight and precise racers who seek ultimate performance.

SOFT TERRAIN

Designed for sandy surfaces like beaches, snow-covered trails, grassy fields, unused trails, clay or untrodden soil.

The tread of the Soft Terrain option is made up of deeper, more widely spaced knobs that guarantee excellent penetration into the terrain. This tyre has a rubber compound suitable for aggressive riding styles. The depth and rigidity of the tread pattern yields a responsive feel under braking and cornering. The spacing of the knoblies helps shed dirt or material that can build up at lower speeds.

The LITE version of the Soft Terrain is faster and weighs less, while offering elevated puncture protection. It is designed for racer’s who are seeking the ultimate in performance.

MIXED TERRAIN

Designed for moderately compact terrain like dirt roads and paths. Mixed unpaved paths typical of fields and parks. Moderately soft surfaces such as undergrowth, clay soil and poorly compacted trails. Race circuits that feature different sections where the consistency of the terrain varies widely

The tread of the Mixed Terrain is of average depth, with standard knob spacing to ride quickly and boldly on every type of mixed terrain, whether wet or dry. The Scorpion MTB™ Mixed Terrain offers very high puncture protection and handling.

The LITE version of the Mixed Terrain is faster and weighs less, while offering elevated puncture protection. A version designed for racing, dedicated to the more lightweight and precise racers who seek ultimate performance.

REAR SPECIFIC

The tread of the Rear Specific was developed for use on the same terrain as the Mixed Terrain, with an average height and spacing of the knobs and a wide range of uses in mixed conditions, whether dry or wet. The specific design of the central knobs, derived from Pirelli’s experience in the world of motocross, increases grip and stability both when braking and pedaling.



COMPLETE RANGE AND SIZE CURVES

Pirelli Scorpion mountain bike tyre shot on location for Bike Network in South Africa with Myles Kelsey.
Pirelli Scorpion mountain bike tyre shot on location for Bike Network in South Africa with Myles Kelsey.


RIDE IMPRESSIONS

The Mixed Terrain, LITE, 29 x 2.4″

Blurring the lines between cross country, marathon, down-country and trail riding, this 2.4″, 120TPI option weighs in at 810grams. Pirelli recommends a pressure range from 29psi to 58psi but running it on the front of a 120mm bike I was able to go down to 17psi which optimized traction for the trails I was riding.

The tyre’s profile when mounted to 25mm inner diameter rims is best described as more round than square. I found that the rounder profile helps the Pirelli bite in nicely on off cambers and also provides consistent traction when tipping the bike into corners. The straight-line rolling speed on most surfaces is good too.

With a rubber compound and tread pattern aimed at a broad spectrum of riding conditions, my initial impressions were perhaps it was a good tyre but that it wouldn’t really excel anywhere. In fact, after a few rides on varied terrain and over eight hours of total test time, I can confirm the tyre performed really well, perhaps even above average ability across a variety of conditions. Whether on very rocky terrain, loose over hardpack conditions and even hardpack, I found the Mixed Terrain Scorpion to be really impressive. Whether in the 2.2 or 2.4 width, it’s a good option for most of the trails we have across South Africa. It is a great option for the type of terrain typically ridden in the North like at Van Gaalens, the Spruit and The Cradle. For the Western Cape and Eastern Cape where the conditions also tend to vary a lot, it’s a great option!

In terms of protection, I took the Pirelli’s through some terrain which a short travel bike is just not meant for – the tyre cutting, rim smashing and bike breaking trail of Pat’s Track on Signal Hill in Cape Town and I had no flats, no cuts or sidewall slices. If a cross country tyre survives the Pat’s Track trail, in it’s current state, then by anyone’s standards it is robust.

If you wanted to you could use it on the rear too, but considering the level of expertise and attention to detail at Pirelli, it’s likely that the compound is not designed for the rear and therefore won’t be as durable (or fast) as the REAR SPECIFIC option from Pirelli. Although I never tested the 2.2 version, I think that will really be popular with riders looking to save every gram of rotational mass and similarly for riders who stay on the less technical trails.



The Hard Terrain 29 x 2.2″

Weighing in at 695grams this 2.2″ Hard Terrain is only 35grams more than the LITE version but still fast AF. I used around about 18psi which is under the manufacturers suggested pressure range but had no issues with burping.

The knoblies on the Hard Terrain Pirelli Scorpion are a lot smaller and packed a lot closer together with the cente knoblies having very little space between them which gives a better contact area on hardpack surfaces. Like the Mixed Terrain version, the shoulder knoblies are slightly broader and taller for cornering support.

Don’t tell the Italians but I did try this Hard Terrain on the front and the rear to get a good feel for it. In terms of feel, this tyre rolls really quickly on hardpack terrain and the low weight gives it great acceleration too. Corner support and braking traction is as good as you are going to get on a 2.2″ tyre and it does definitely behave better on harder packed surfaces. If you roll onto sandier, dusty or loose over hardpack surfaces you can feel it squirm around a little, there is nothing violent here – just a mild dose of drifting.

This is a great tyre for most of what will be ridden at Joberg2C, Sani2C, Holla Trails, the Hilton area and even around Knysna. In fact on most roads or trails which are well compacted (wet or dry) this is going to be a great option for all riders. As far as durability, well I have only clocked about 8 hours on them and they still appear virtually unused. I had no issues with burping, cutting or any flats and overall the protection seems to be really good.

Video: The Tech |On Test POV | #FromTheTrail



BOTTOM LINE

Personally, I am not a massive fan of F1 car racing but there is something cool about knowing that the SmartGRIP Compound on the Scorpion MTB range was developed in the same Pirelli Racing factory as the well-known F1 tyre compounds. Likewise, the 70 World Titles that Pirelli has achieved in Motocross over the last 35 years affirms the companies position as class-leading. The Scorpion MTB range has already claimed a medal at the Marathon World Championships under Samuele Porro and after spending time on them, exploring and understanding the technology behind them, I think they are a top choice for South African riders.

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