Pirelli’s Cinturato Gravel S is a gravel tyre designed for the most challenging off-road conditions.
A new entry into the Cinturato range, Pirelli had been missing a mud-specific option in its gravel tyre arsenal. The Cinturato Gravel S sits alongside the all-rounder Cinturato Gravel M, the hardpack-optimised Gravel H and the race-focused Gravel RC.
In testing, the Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S proved very adept in the mud and has a hardy construction for impressive longevity.
However, the trade-off is a sluggish and vague ride feel compared to some of its competition, and it should be considered as more of a specialist mud tyre, which may limit its appeal to some.
Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S tyre details and specifications
The Cinturato Gravel S is constructed from Pirelli’s SpeedGRIP compound, a proprietary rubber that’s also used on its other gravel bike tyres.
Pirelli says the compound has been developed specifically for gravel riding and offers a balance of speed and grip both on and off-road. It’s also claimed to have durability comparable to the SmartGRIP compound Pirelli uses on its mountain bike tyres.
The tread pattern on the Gravel S alternates between two closely spaced rectangles and two hexagonal knobs in the centre. Two sets of angular hexagonal knobs run along either side for cornering grip.
The Cinturato Gravel S uses a 60 TPI nylon casing and the brand’s TechWALL Gravel protective belt, claimed to run from bead to bead. Pirelli says the belt protects against cuts without adding excessive rolling resistance.
The Gravel S is only available for 700c wheels and in Black or Classic sidewalls. At launch, 40 and 45mm widths were offered in both sidewall options, but Pirelli also now has a 50mm Classic option.
It’s a shame there isn’t a 650b version, given the slippery surfaces the tyre is designed to excel on. Pirelli offers both the Cinturato Gravel M and H tyres in 650b x 45 and 50mm sizes.
The black 40mm-wide tyre on test weighs 560g, 20g heavier than the claimed weight.
Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S tyre installation
I installed the tyres and set them up tubeless on a Fulcrum Rapid Red 500 rim on my Niner RLT 9 RDO gravel bike with Pirelli’s own Cinturato sealant.
This proved straightforward, requiring one tyre lever to prise the final section of the tyre onto the aluminium rim.
I couldn’t get the tyre to seat using a track pump, but once I used a tubeless pump, it seated perfectly on the first attempt. There were no wobbles or misalignment in the bead.
The tyre measured 39.99mm on the hooked Fulcrum rims at 35psi. These sport a 23mm internal rim width.
Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S performance
My testing took place in predominantly wet and sloppy winter conditions around Bristol, as well as in the Chilterns in the south east of England. There was a two-week period when the temperatures plummeted into minus figures and the tyre was tested in the resulting snowy and icy conditions.
It became evident straight away that the tyre casing seems to be built largely around durability rather than suppleness. As a result, I ran lower pressures than I typically would with a 40mm-wide gravel tyre to try to gain more suppleness and compliance.
For reference, I typically run in the region of 35 to 38psi for a tyre of this width with my 74kg weight. With a fair amount of experimentation, including dipping into the high 20s, I found the tyres to perform best at around 32psi.
As expected, the Gravel S tyres performed assuredly in the mud and handled most obstacles with ease.
Grip was generally excellent, with no noticeable skittishness or any drifting of the rear wheel. The tyres happily overcame the majority of roots and admirably soldiered their way through mud patches, even at slower speeds.
I didn’t have to think twice about attempting to ride extra-slippery surfaces and they’re easy to correct a mistake on if you accidentally venture off-line.
The tread pattern mostly seems to be a winner, with tyres shedding mud easily and dirt not accumulating in the crevices between the various knobs.
That said, I was able to find the limits of the Gravel S on sharp 90-degree flat corners through mud patches, when leaning into it fairly hard.
In icy conditions, where the surfaces became more hardpack-like, grip was sound although unremarkable. I found I had to run the tyres with slightly higher pressures to better conform to the trails.
What lets this tyre down is its portly weight. From the get-go, the Cinturato Gravel S felt sluggish and required a lot of effort to get the bike up to speed.
This isn’t the case with other mud-specific tyres such as the Vittoria Terreno Wet, my go-to mud-specific gravel tyre, or the Specialized Terra.
When swapping between tyres, I generally get used to their speed after a few rides, but this didn’t happen here.
It was particularly evident on group rides, where it felt as if I had to put in more effort to keep up on drier terrain.
The tyres proved a potent weapon once the mud arrived, but it’s worth noting they’re specialists, rather than all-rounders with a leaning towards mud performance.
I wouldn’t label these tyres as harsh, but they are certainly on the stiffer side. Despite my experimentation with tyre pressures, I was never able to achieve a satisfying level of suppleness.
A supple tyre instils more confidence when riding over obstacles and better dampens vibrations.
While a mud-specific gravel tyre is never going to be as supple as a dedicated all-rounder or racy gravel tyre, there is a stark difference between the Cinturato Gravel S and the aforementioned mud-targeted Terreno Wet and Terra.
While this can make for a somewhat vague ride quality off-road, the tyres perform surprisingly well on the road.
One place where the tough construction is of benefit is on the road. I find many gravel tyres have a tendency to feel quite squirmy on tarmac, but not the Cinturato Gravel S.
Most of my rides begin with a short, windy descent out of suburbia and I was able to lean into the twisting corners with relative ease and confidence.
Overall, while it’s expected that a mud-specific tyre won’t perform as well on hardpack or dry terrain, there are other options that impress in varied conditions.
After all, gravel riding encompasses a diverse spectrum of surfaces, where a ride could range from broken pavements to full-on gnar. Ideally, you want a tyre to suit all the conditions a ride can throw at you.
In my opinion, Vittoria’s Terreno Wet is a better mud-specific gravel tyre that works across more surfaces, more of the time.
I haven’t experienced any punctures during the test period and, after 600km, the tyres are spotless and devoid of any cuts. I can’t detect any loss of tread height.
I wouldn’t expect anything less of a tyre with this mileage under its belt, but initial signs are reassuring that the Cinturato Gravel S will last a long time. I’m confident the tyre would outlast many of its rivals thanks to its tough construction.
The Cinturato Gravel S is priced similarly to the Vittoria Terreno Wet and the highly regarded Maxxis Ravager.
This is reasonable given the balance of puncture resistance and performance in the mud it strikes, although I’d certainly recommend factoring in a second set of tyres for drier conditions.
Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S bottom line
Pirelli’s Cinturato Gravel S tyre largely delivers on its soft and muddy condition claims and impresses with its rugged construction and resilience.
This is a confidence-inspiring tyre to run in the mud and proved tough, but not impossible, to fluster.
However, if you like to balance this grip with speed, suppleness and comfort, there are better options out there.