Pirelli’s legacy as a tyre manufacturer is legendary across motorsports, so when the Italian brand announced its entry into bike tyres expectations were high.
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We’ve had three riders testing the PZero Velo, Pirelli’s top-end road slicks, on two continents over the past few months, collectively putting thousands of miles into the tyres.
With a 127tpi casing, the PZero features a moderate tread pattern derived from the brand's Diablo Supercorsa motorcycle tyre. Pirelli has made heady claims about its Smartnet Silica compound, saying it has solved the wet weather grip or rolling resistance trade-off.
According to Pirelli, the molecules in this compound organise themselves in sticks rather than random balls, which is said to decrease rolling resistance and heat generation.
Interestingly, the PZero's are made in France by an established tyre manufacturer, with the Supernet Silica compound shipped directly to the factory. Pirelli was reluctant to say which brand its working with but we'd guess it rhymes with 'Shmuchutchenson'.
Our 25c test tyres weigh 210g, and when mounted on a set of Corima Carbon 32s with an internal rim width of 17mm the casing measured 27mm wide.
On the road, the PZeros are fast and quite supple. They don’t match the floaty feeling of an ultra-high tpi rubber, such as a Vittoria Corsa or Specialized Turbo Cotton, but the ride is on par with similar high-end tyres such as Conti's GP4000S II or the Michelin Power Competition.
On smooth tarmac, they spin along effortlessly at speed and when the road surface deteriorates the PZero does well to absorb imperfections, but also to not get bogged down by the rough surface.
Sunday morning slasher
We've been impressed by the way PZeros fend off punctures, and between the three testers we’ve only had one flat thanks to a massive shard of glass that likely would have bested even a bulletproof tyre such as a Conti GatorSkin or Specialized Armadillo.
When it comes to durability, we found the soft compound on the PZero is prone to cutting. Even after months of testing, the tread itself shows little to no signs of wear, however, the tyres are pretty cut up for the amount of riding we’ve done.
It is worth pointing out that we’ve taken the PZeros on a few gravel roads, including a wet weather jaunt, which would be hard on any tyre. However, they are a bit more sliced and diced than we expected to see.
The grip the PZero offers on the road is tenacious, and diving into tight corners at breakneck speed makes for road rash-free results.
Something that’s regularly discussed with MTB tyres, but rarely mentioned with road slicks, is braking traction — meaning how big a handful of brake lever can you grab before the tyre locks up. With the PZero, the Supernet Silica compound provides for impressive results before they break loose.
In the wet, the PZeros are confidence-inspiring and manage good traction on moist road surfaces. Is it better than other high-end tyres on the market? That's hard to say, but it's good none the less.
Overall, the PZeros are a fantastic set of high-end road tyres, but they’ve missed the mark in two key areas.
The first is the lack of a tubeless road clincher. With all the things the PZero Velo does well, being able to ditch the tube and drop your tyre pressure is where they would really come into their own.
However, this is Pirelli’s first cycling tyre in over 100 years, so we’d venture a guess a set of tubeless PZeros will hit the market in due time.
The other big miss is Pirelli’s decision not to use the yellow and red logo on the sidewall as the brand does with its F1 rubber. It’s a nitpick yes, but that logo would give these tyres that indescribable cool factor associated with the brand.
The last time that Pirelli produced bike tyres was in the early 1900s, and it's done quite well with its re-entry into cycling. Throw the PZero Velo into the ring against big-name performance clinchers and they will hold their own.
If you’re looking for a fast riding set of dependable clincher tyres, the Pirelli PZero Velo is hard to pass up.