New range makes it easy to match your tyre choice to the terrain

Pirelli, one of the most iconic tyre brands of all time, has finally taken the leap into the mountain bike tyre market. Pirelli is obviously better known as the tyre supplier for F1, World Superbike as well as for some of the world’s fastest production vehicles and as such should have a pretty good grasp on what makes a good tyre. The Italian company resurrected its bicycle tyre business in 2017 with a range of well received road  tyres that capitalised on technology developed in the aforementioned motor racing segments. This utilisation of motor racing tyre tech has now been been applied to the off road sector with the launch of the Scorpion mountain bike tyres.

Scorpion Need to Know

  • Four distinct versions based on terrain choice.
  • Proprietary SmartGrip rubber compound.
  • Each tyre available in 29″ and 27.5″.
  • Width options: 2.2″, 2.4″ in 29″, 29×2.6″ and 27.5×2.4″ and 2.6″ due later in the year.
  • A Lite version is available in some options – tuned for weight reduction and lower rolling resistance.
  • Each width has size specific tread designs.
  • 29″ sizes available from March/April. 27.5″ coming from September.
  • UK pricing – £46.99 for 2.2″, £49.99 for 2.4″ upwards.

Tread based on terrain rather than riding category

It’s often the case that tyre companies divide tyres into riding discipline or weather based categories, so you will often see tyres labelled XC, Enduro, DH, or even wet condition or mud specific. While this has worked well for many brands Pirelli felt that it could lead to too much choice and confusion for the consumer. Enter the four tyre Scorpion range, where each tyre is based on a terrain type and is designed to work regardless of weather conditions. Each has a completely tailored development, each tyre has different designs for carcass, compound, and tread. All tyres are also designed to work in both wet and dry conditions. The mechanics of the tread pattern is the same, compound is what takes care of the wet performance.

Scorpion H (Hard Terrain)

Pirelli scorpion

Scorpion H. Low profile and fast rolling for hard terrain.

Designed for hardpacked and rocky trails, the Scorpion H has, as expected, a pretty low profile and tightly spaced tread design. Giving it a low level of rolling resistance and high grip when the tyre tread doesn’t or can’t dig into the surface.

Weight: 660g (29×2.2 Lite) – 795g (29×2.4″)

Scorpion M (Mixed Terrain)

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The Scorpion M for mixed conditions.

The M is what Pirelli think of as the all-rounder. It can be used for trails varying from hardpacked to loose surfaces (gravelly fireroads and the such like). It loses a couple of rows of knobs to give it a wider spaced tread for better grip and self-cleaning in looser conditions. Knob height is higher than the H but shorter than the S.

Weight: 695g (29×2.2″ Lite) – 850g (29×2.4″)

Scorpion S (Soft Terrain)

pirelli scorpion

For soft conditions you need the Scorpion S.

Chunky specifically shaped knobs and wide spacing make the S the tyre for soft trails such as loose soil, mud and dry sand. The S also features the thickest rubber bridge between the knobs to enhance knob stability.

Weight: 695g (29×2.2″ Lite) – 855g (29×2.4″)

Scorpion R (Rear Specific)

pirelli scorpion

For rear wheel specific performance Pirelli has the Scorpion R.

The rear specific R has a broad paddle shaped tread design to provide the best traction when used at the rear. A medium height knob profile helps it dig into the trail without compromising rolling resistance too much.

Weight: 740g (29×2.2″), 855g (29×2.4″)

SmartGrip compound – the best for both wet and dry?

At a time when many brands are extolling the virtues of multi-compound tyre construction it is a little unusual to see a company focus on a single rubber compound design. Pirelli’s SmartGrip rubber compound is formulated and produced in its racing factories, the same place responsible for F1 tyres. Its reasoning is that whilst multi compound tyres can use a softer, sticky rubber on the outside for superb grip this does not provide a stable knob and as such needs a harder rubber underneath for stability. At first this type of tyre will offer excellent performance but the sticky rubber wears quickly exposing the harder compound rubber; therefore as it wears performance will drop off significantly.

With this in mind, a single compound tyre should offer the same level of performance regardless of how much wear. The caveat being that the design needs to incorporate enough knob stability to limit the chance of tearing them off with use, something Pirelli seems to think it has done with the Scorpion range.

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Size specific design and Lite versions

On top of the unique SmartGrip compound Pirelli’s design team has also subtly tweaked the tyres to ensure optimal performance for each tyre width. By changing the size and spacing of the tread knobs, as well as changing the knob shape and siping (tuned cuts to allow levels of flex in each knob) a tyre in each category can perform and react the same regardless of width.

pirelli scorpion

Scorpion S size specific details. On the left is the 2.2″ the 2.4″ is on the right.

For the rider or racer concerned with weight and speed Pirelli is also producing a Lite version in each model (apart from the rear). This version offers an increased footprint to reduce rolling resistance, specifically a 4.6% increase in length and 6.7% increase in width. It also uses a lighter and more supple 120TPI casing to reduce weight by around 40 grams per size.

pirelli scorpion

A quick blast around the slopes of Mt. Etna revealed a fast rolling tyre.

What do they ride like?

We were invited to the launch on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, the same location that Pirelli tests all its off-road tyres. Taking our own Canyon Lux 29er cross country full suspension bike, Pirelli fitted a 2.2″ Scorpion M to the front and a 2.2″ R to the rear. Due to weather issues (snow and rain in Sicily!) we were only able to complete a quick 30 kilometres on pretty tame trails and cycle paths, so as a test it didn’t reveal much of the tyres potential. Suffice to say they felt fast rolling but with little to test grip you’ll have to wait for our proper first impressions.

Expect to see the Scorpion range in stock at Pirelli dealers from March onwards.