Pirelli decided to expand their tire offerings to the mountain bike crowd in 2019, and since then they have more than doubled the lineup to include several XC, trail, and enduro options. The Scorpion Enduro S is currently the most aggressive tire from the Italian brand, with deep, widely-spaced lugs, patterned to bite hard at speed. Two other Scorpion Enduro models include the rear-specific Enduro R and all-rounder Enduro M tread.
The HardWALL Scorpion S casings snap into place smoothly with a hand pump, and I haven’t had any issues with the folding beads burping or the sturdy sidewalls weeping fluid. The tires have maintained their sealant level well, and hold air splendidly with a weekly top-off.
Despite trying, and failing, to break the carbon rims they are mounted on, I have yet to puncture these tires. A friend managed to cut one that was mounted on the rear wheel, though admittedly he was riding with far too little pressure for the given trail. With appropriate PSI, the dual-ply HardWALL carcass is plenty strong for most enduro racing and it will prevent punctures as well as many of the top gravity tires on the market. That’s an impressive feat for a rubber circle that weighs 200 to 300g less than tires with similar intentions, at roughly 1,100g in the 29×2.4″ size.
That same tough sidewall also stands up nicely in the corners, providing plenty of squirm-free support when grip and speed are both maxed out. A pair of rubber inserts at either bead add to the tire’s lateral support and help prevent snake-bite punctures. The Scorpion Enduro S is neither the most supple nor stalwart tire on the market, rolling somewhere between a full-on DH race tire and the lightest dual-ply options. There’s enough flex to give it a natural feeling rebound without being wishy-washy on rocky trails.
The tread on this tire doesn’t resemble a Maxxis DHF much at all, which breaks from some of the new enduro tires we’ve seen lately. I have been using the Scorpion Enduro S as a front and rear combo, and the ramped knobs feel fast despite their wide spacing. With plenty of room between lugs, the tire sheds mud quite well, though it’s by no means a “mud-spike.”
Departing further on the trend-o-meter, this tire uses a single tread compound that Pirelli calls SmartGRIP. The rubber compound is the same one used in the brand’s wet-weather road motorcycle racing tires, and it’s notably harder than any other MTB tread that I have jammed a fingernail into. Pirelli says that the durable knobs will dig hard into the earth, while their chemical makeup increases the grip in a manner similar to that of softer compounds. The result is a faster rolling, easier climbing gravity tire that offers good grip in most situations and lasts a reported 3x longer than comparable gravity tires.
The lower rolling resistance of this toothy tread is noticeable on every climb, even if you’re not paying attention. I have reached the top of my local trails faster on these than any other gravity tire, with a few calories to spare for the rest of the ride. They bite well on ascents, and should appease the most discerning technical climbers.
All of that free speed and durability should come at the cost of traction, right? The Scorpion Enduro S profile is somewhat rounded, with a noticeable transition from the center to side knobs. The tire doesn’t break loose while leaning it over like some, but you can feel a difference between the point the tall shoulder lugs hook up and the moment prior. It’s a subtle transition that’s easy enough to get used to. From there, the tire’s braking and cornering traction are fantastic in most conditions, which I didn’t know was possible with a single compound tread. It hooks up on most off-camber tracks and does well on the super-steep grades in the Alps. Bravo Pirelli!
The one place I would prefer to have a different tire is on the slick stuff. While this compound works well for gluing motorcycles to wet asphalt at 200kph, mountain bikes on soggy sticks and stones are quite a different thing. Very few tires can perform on wet and slippery trails and the ones that can all have lugs so soft you can almost tear them off with your fingers. If you watch the start gate of a wet World Cup DH race you might see little chunks of rubber flying behind the rider as they leave the covered hut. Those elite athletes have the strength to sprint the knob edges off their tires, and that rock-climbing-shoe rubber is what it takes to find a modicum of traction on wet wood and stone.
In summation, Pirelli has done something impressive with this new tire, and it will work well in most conditions for most folks. Given how fast it rolls I don’t see a reason to mount up the lighter or rear-specific models, unless that’s what your local trails demand. Keep your eyes peeled for a new Pirelli DH-specific tire, with an all-new rubber compound, tread, and casing in 2021.