Pirelli Tyres - Everything you need to know

Pirelli Tyres - Everything you need to know

More brands are making great MTB tyres than ever before, but finding a suitable replacement for your old favourite isn't always easy when each brand uses a different language to describe tread patterns, casings, and rubber compounds.

Let's dive in and unpack what's on offer from one of the newcomers to the MTB scene. Pirelli.

Jump To Section:

  1. SmartGrip Compound
  2. Choosing The Right Tyre
  3. Casing Types
  4. Tread Patterns
  5. Jargon Buster


Any motorsports lover will know all about Pirelli. They are an innovative brand with a long history of success and have been the exclusive supplier of tyres to Formula One since 2011. They've also claimed an impressive 76 World Motocross titles with riders using their Scorpion MX tyres.

Pirelli is still quite new to the mountain bike world with only a few years under their belt, but the Scorpion MTB family of tyres has a broad range of models catering to the demands of XC, Trail, Enduro, and E-MTB's, with tread patterns to suit most trail surfaces. A gravity range is currently in development with the assistance of three-time DH World Champion and legend of the sport Fabien Barel.

Scorpion tyres all use SmartGrip single compound rubber instead of the multi-compound treads most riders are familiar with, but don't let that turn you off.

1. SmartGrip Compound

It's a bold move for Pirelli to go with a single compound over the multi-compound treads we all know and love, but don't lump it in with the stuff you'd typically associate with el-cheapo tyres. These things are made out of premium rubber.

Pirelli's experience with decades of motor racing has taught them a thing or two about compound development and they have used their expertise to tailor the performance characteristics of each model in the range to match its footprint and intended use. The tyres might all use SmartGrip rubber, but each variant has a slightly different flavour.

The key advantages of using the same rubber throughout the tyre are that you won't experience a sudden reduction in performance as the tread wears through the soft outer layer into the harder rubber underneath. You'll be less likely to tear knobs off, and the performance should remain consistent throughout the life of the tyre.

SmartGrip is also resistant to tears and provides consistently high levels of grip in both wet and dry conditions.

2. Choosing The Right Tyre

To simplify the process of choosing the right tyre, Pirelli wants you to start by thinking about what type of riding you do (XC, Trail, Enduro, E-MTB), what the trail surface is (mostly) like where you ride (hardpacked, mixed, soft), and then choose the width of the tyre based on how rowdy you want to get.

3. Casing Types

Pirelli breaks their range into categories based on riding discipline, and each range has a different casing with a layup designed to suit the demands of the intended riding style. The casings are multi-ply, and the amount of sidewall support and puncture protection increases as you move up the range from XC to E-MTB.

Each casing is tubeless-ready and should seal up nicely with just a track pump on most rims. They are also very robust, with plenty of support in the sidewalls to maintain the tread profile and prevent the tyres from folding under hard cornering.

The stiff casings might produce a firmer ride than many riders are used to, which might call for a bit of experimentation with air pressures to get the same feeling as comparable options from other brands.

Lite (XC):

  • The lightest casing option in the Scorpion MTB range.
  • Dedicated to maximum speed and efficiency for XC racing.
  • 120TPI with no additional sidewall protection.

ProWall (XC):

  • An additional nylon fabric layer is applied over the casing sidewalls for extra puncture protection, improved cornering stability, and better support at lower pressures.
  • Similar to the heavier duty ProWall (Trail) but with 120TPI ply for lighter weight and a more supple feel.

ProWall (Trail):

  • An additional nylon fabric layer is applied over the casing sidewalls for extra puncture protection, improved cornering stability, and better support at lower pressures.
  • Similar to the lighter duty ProWall (XC) but with a more robust 60TPI ply for more sidewall support and puncture protection.

HardWall (Enduro):

  • A bead-to-bead layer of nylon fabric is added and a hard rubber insert is placed right above the bead for extra flat protection for aggressive riding styles.
  • The extra reinforcement improves structural reliability and provides more support at lower pressures.
  • 60TPI

Hyperwall (E-MTB/Gravity):

  • HyperWall is the most robust casing offered by Pirelli.
  • Intended for the most demanding off-road applications such as gravity racing and E-MTBs.
  • Provides better stability and puncture protection than HardWall, with a larger rubber sidewall insert and an extra nylon fabric strip in the bead area.
  • 60TPI


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4. Tread Patterns

Now that you've used your riding discipline to pick your casing, it's time to choose your tread pattern based on the type of trail surfaces you ride on the most.

Pirelli offers a handful of similar tread patterns across each casing type. The size, height, shape, and spacing of the knobs are tuned to match the tyre's footprint and intended use. There are subtle but noticeable differences between each casing type and width with the treads getting burlier as you move up through the range.

Most tread patterns are available across all casing options, but the XC Race tread is only available in the XC Lite casing, and the Hard Terrain tread isn't available in the E-MTB line.

RC: XC Race

  • Intended for modern XC racecourses with a mixture of natural and artificial obstacles with surfaces varying from hardpacked to loose.
  • The tread features low and continuous centre blocks for faster rolling with more pronounced side knobs for reliable cornering.
  • Available in XC Lite and XC ProWall casing.


H: Hard Terrain

  • A low profile tread, designed to provide the best tradeoff between speed and grip when riding hardpack surfaces such as rocky ground, compacted earth, gravel, bitumen, cobblestones, and paths.
  • The tread consists of low, densely packed knobs with reduced height to increase speed and limit deforming when cornering on hardpack terrain.
  • Available in XC, Trail, and Enduro casing.
  • View Pirelli Hard Terrain Tyres

(L) XC Hard Terrain, (R) Trail Hard Terrain

M: Mixed Terrain

  • The most versatile design in the Scorpion range. The Mixed Terrain tread has larger, more widely spaced knobs for better performance across varied trail surfaces.
  • The tread pattern has excellent knob support and mud-shedding in wet conditions.
  • A faster rolling alternative to the Rear Specific tyre when riding flatter trails.
  • View Pirelli Mixed Terrain Tyres

(L) XC Mixed Terrain, (R) Enduro Mixed Terrain

S: Soft Terrain

  • An aggressive tread for loose conditions, including loose dirt, deep dust, rocks, grass, and damp conditions.
  • The tread pattern has excellent knob support and mud-shedding in wet conditions.
  • The tall profile and widely spaced knobs bite deep into the trail surface to find maximum grip and help the tyre shed mud in wet conditions.
  • Not a mud spike so it will have its limits!
  • View Pirelli Soft Terrain Tyres

(L) XC Soft Terrain, (R) Enduro Soft Terrain

R: Rear Specific

  • All of the other Scorpion models are suitable for use on either the front or rear, but the Scorpion R is a rear-wheel specific tyre.
  • Developed for use in the same conditions as the Mixed Terrain tyre
  • Features a medium profile tread created to maximise acceleration and braking grip.
  • Suited to fast, technical riding in varied trail conditions.
  • The Mixed Terrain may be a faster rolling alternative for use on flatter trails where braking performance isn't as crucial.
  • View Pirelli Rear Terrain Tyres

L) XC Rear Specific, (R) Enduro Rear Specific


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5. Jargon Buster

Bead: The function of the bead is to keep the tyre in contact with the rim while the tyre is inflated.

Wire Bead: A rigid metal wire is utilised as the bead material in applications where ultimate strength is needed and transportability is not a factor.

Folding Bead: Foldable beads also keep the tyre secured to the rim but are lighter weight and easily transported. The bead is made of spun aramid or Kevlar fibres.

Single-Ply Casing: One layer of nylon wrapped from bead-to-bead. A single-ply casing conforms well to the terrain and is lighter weight.

Multi-Ply Casing: Multiple layers of casing material are used from bead-to-bead, providing additional protection and sidewall stiffness for Enduro, Downhill, and E-MTB applications.

TPI (threads per inch): The number of threads that cross through one square inch of a single ply of the tyre’s casing. Lower TPI provides better puncture, cut and abrasion resistance but is heavier and stiffer. Higher TPI conforms better to the terrain, offering a smoother, more comfortable ride while reducing the weight of the tyre.

Still got questions?

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