It’s been a rocky road for Pirelli in the mountain bike category, but after several false starts, the Italian rubber giant is finally up there with the best high performance tyres on the market.
This new Pirelli Scorpion M Race model is the result of the brand busily developing new treads, casings and compounds. Also, the much softer rubber blend here stems from testing and development alongside Fabien Barel and Canyon’s enduro and DH race teams. It sounds promising but is it enough to make it into our list of the best mountain bike tyres?
My first day on this new Scorpion tyre was a bit of a baptism of fire riding super steep DH tracks in Morzine. It was immediately clear though, why racers are now happy to use this Italian rubber at the highest level, because the latest SmartEVO DH compound makes for a seriously grippy and well damped tyre.
This M version is an all-rounder targeting mixed terrain and, rated at 42a throughout, the rubber compound is so sticky that the only grip problems you’ll be having is that pedalling it around is a serious workout. It’s even slower rolling than the sticky E*Thirteen Grappler, in ultra-soft MoPo compound – which is seriously draggy in the first instance.
Pirelli’s tyre is graded 2.5in, but blows up tall with a rounded crown and measures even wider across the knobs, so offers a ton of cushioning and isolation. It’s definitely one of the comfiest tyres I’ve tried, with high levels of damping in both the casing and the slow-rebounding tread blocks. The DualWall construction uses two 120tpi layers (like a Maxxis Double Down, but slightly heavier) with an extra rubber bumper to prevent pinch flats around the bead, and feels ‘right’ with a good balance between support and comfort.
With a fairly continuous grip profile, the Scorpion M rides predictably and calmly, with a feel in your hands more like an Assegai than a ‘slip-to-grip’ High Roller II, where the cornering transition is more obvious.
With the bigger inflated size (that’s pushing towards a Plus sized tyre) there’s a blunter steering feel than many enduro and DH tyres, and definitely compared to something like the Schwalbe Tacky Chan. Where the Tacky is razor sharp and really slices in at high lean angles, this Pirelli is more rounded and smears onto the ground, sticking to roots and rocks. It makes for a stable and reassuring ride, and the Scorpion definitely feels like it’s got your back on the steepest, most technical tracks. In a week of Alpine uplifting, I didn’t have a single issue with damage, burps, or punctures, and Pirelli’s wear life was decent too.
Some riders might like a sharper edge bite than this Scorpion M offers though, and I reckon anyone not on an e-bike would wish it rolled faster too. my sole major gripe here is the same as with Michelin’s DH22 then, in that grip is awesome, but the trade-off in rolling speed is significant and needs serious consideration in if you’re planning on doing any pedalling.