Pirelli have jumped into the mountain bike game - but not without some proper research befitting the high performance brand.
Pirelli have added to their tyre line by bringing the winning Scorpion marquee across to the world of mountain biking. We were invited to the global launch in Sicily, Italy, to learn more about the tyres and test them on the volcanic terrain of the island.
Having jumped back into the cycling world in 2017 with their range of PZero Velo road tyres, mountain bike tyres were the next logical step for the premium Italian tyre brand, and they have brought four tread patterns to the trail for two wheels sizes, with three widths and two different casing options.
The Scorpion name comes from the performance motorsport range, and even some of the tread shapes will look similar to those who know motocross. But this hasn't been done on a whim, Pirelli have done their research into what works. And their range is designed to be far simpler to choose from than what other brands offer, with one rear specific tyre, then one for hard conditions, one for mixed, and one for soft.
“The DNA of Pirelli is based on products that perform,” says Piero Misani, head of Business for bikes and motorbikes. “We spend more than any one else on research and development, we spend 6.5% of our turnover in R&D.” And that is one reason why we are sat on the side of Mt Etna in Sicily. Pirelli has one of their major testing centres on the island, and given the altitude differences afforded by having a huge, active volcano, Pirelli have about 6 different ecologies to test their tyres in. Be that for two wheels or four. While Pirelli supply F1 and the Superbike World Championship, the Pirelli Velo business looks after tyres for people like us – mountain bikers.
Pirelli Velo is concerned with bike tyres, but it doesn't change what is at the heart of the Italian tyre company. “The DNA of Pirelli is based on products that perform,” adds Misani. In developing the Scorpion range of mountain bike tyres, Pirelli had over 1400 engineers work in the research and development for the tyres.
The Scorpion name has heritage for Pirelli with 70 world titles in motorsport. “It gives an expectation of performance. It was a pretty bold decision to use this flagship name,” said Samuele Bressan. He went on to explain that choosing mountain bike tyres and categories of riding can be difficult to understand, especially for brands offering different casings, treads, rubber compouns and of course sizes. Instead, Pirelli define their tyres by the riding style.
“We won't be talking about XC, all-mountain and enduro – more about the riding style,” says Bressan. The idea is that the tyres are easy to choose, and easy to use. “We aim to have riders choose a tyre based on the consistency of the terrain they ride.” And so while there is a tyre optimised for use on the rear, there are then front tyres for Hard conditions, Mixed conditions, or Soft conditions. Of course, you can mix and match.