Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Reflections on the rubber

It has been around 2 years since Pirelli released the Scorpion line of MTB tyres. Initially I tried the XC tyres and loved them for grip, feeling of rolling along easily and durability. They also held air extremely well.
Pirelli expanded the line to include trail and enduro tyres too. Back in October my new Slash arrived and I put new Scorpion Enduro tyres on it. An "M" up front and an "R" in the rear. I wrote not too long ago that I was going to discontinue my habit of running less tread in the back. My recent trip to Tasmania only reinforced that intention. But for the moment, I have a rear-specific rear tyre on the Slash.

It was wet in Derby. Like riding in the bathtub wet. Our first day out it didn't rain much, but it had rained VERY heavily overnight and there was flowing water everywhere. The second day it rained all day. All day. Days three and four were actually much more sunny, but still oh-so-wet. As I haven't been anywhere in the past 2 years to ride (thanks Pandemic) this is my first experience with the Scorpions in the wet. The rubber sticks well on wet things. That's "chemical grip". Obviously I don't know how well another brand might have gone (Maxxis, Schwalbe, Continental, Kenda and WTB all having been used at some point in the last 10 years), but the chemical grip was tops. The tread itself provides the "mechanical grip". That is, the knob edges dig into soil and other soft substrates to grab on. The front tyre was excellent. The rear one, not so much. The Slash is a long bike - only 2 cm less wheelbase than my DH bike. If I put my weight forwards to keep the front tyre weighted and gripping, then the back tyre is a bit free to do what it wants. Sam Hill is possibly the best ever at ignoring what the back tyre is doing. I'm not Sam Hill. Having the back slide around too much concerns me.

I thought it was amusing. When we drove up to our accommodation in Derby, the owner was just departing having done some prep-work for our arrival (firewood and smoke alarm batteries he said). He had dirt all over his face. He said he'd been for a ride just prior and thankfully it was raining. I don't think the locals like riding in the dry. Late summer in Squamish can be slippery with all the dust loose on top of things. Your tyre might grip the dust, but the dust doesn't grip anything. Those big rock slabs (like on In N Out Burger) go from reassuringly grippy to sketchy and a bit unpredictable. Derby rocks (there are big slabs here too) get covered in mud dragged by the bikes and that makes them slick. Unless it is raining (or dry enough to have zero mud - I'm sure it happens, sometimes). I knew then that I was in for a four day mud-fest. I was.

To be fair, my partner was on an Assegai and DHR2 combo and had zero issues with sliding (except in the really slick mud). So I'm not suggesting that the Pirelli tyres do things that others cannot, but I am suggesting they are excellent at what they do. Pirelli makes the spec tyre for Formula One, for World Rally Car, and for some top motorbike competitions both on and off road. They know rubber. I think they got these pretty "right". Even if they are only as good as other tyres, they are a similar price, hold air better (in my experience with numerous examples of each brand run tubeless) and show lower rates of wear (and are also nearly immune to tearing off knobs).

And yet, having read they recently finalised their new enduro and DH tyre tread (same tread, different carcass) after 2 years of testing I see a bike from the Pirelli-Canyon DH team using a non-Pirelli tyre. What's that about?

Next time you need some tires, consider the Scorpion. You might be pleasantly surprised.