By Simon Smythe
Pirelli has launched a new tubular tyre equipped with a special inner tube that it says guarantees a reduction in overall tyre weight of more than 10 per cent while maintaining the same grip, smoothness and reliability. The Italian brand says it will be the “ace up the sleeve” of its sponsored WorldTour teams – BikeExchange, Trek-Segafredo and Ag2r Citröen – at the Giro d’Italia, which starts on May 8.
While Pirelli acknowledges that the future is tubeless, it recognises that most pro teams still use tubulars, which is why it’s not halting development of ‘tubs’ but is instead, it says, "raising the bar even higher for a product which, in the course of its history, has rarely seen major technical innovations."
So Pirelli claims the P Zero Race Tub SL is an innovation that will redefine the bicycle tubular tyre.
Whereas pro-level tubular tyres have traditionally used latex inner tubes, the new Pirelli P Zero Race Tub SL uses TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane. TPU is already used notably by inner tube manufacturer Tubolito to make its signature orange tubes that weigh as little as 23g, but Pirelli says the material is being applied to a tubular’s inner tube for the first time, claiming it required two years of development before it gave the expected results.
According to Pirelli, TPU offers the same speed, performance and puncture protection typical of latex tubes, but with a significant weight reduction and complete airtightness, eliminating the gradual pressure loss of traditional tubulars with latex tubes.
The P Zero Race Tub SL's casing is Corespun with a TPI count of 320. It uses Pirelli’s latest-generation SmartEVO Compound, which the company says was developed and tested by the road teams to improve handling, ascent speed, offers excellent protection against punctures and greater control at high speeds.
The Pirelli P Zero Race Tub SL is only available in a 26mm size and weighs a claimed 275g. The original P Zero Velo tub weighed 300g in 25mm and 320g in 28mm – Pirelli appears to be basing the overall weight savings on the 28mm version.
For comparison the butyl-tubed Continental Competition tubular weighs 280g in the size 25mm – but the Pro LTD version, which has a latex tube and is not readily available to the general public – is likely to be lighter.
All of Pirelli's WorldTour team partners were given the opportunity to choose the new version of the tubular ahead of the Grand Tours and Pirelli says it’s likely that the GC riders such as Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves for BikeExchange or Vincenzo Nibali for Trek-Segafredo will be riding them.
Kevin Tabotta, performance manager of the BikeExchange team, said: “This new Pirelli tyre is a great way to reduce bike weight by 100g – which is quite a large improvement, and not normally easy to find in a top end race set up. Really impressed actually, we did some blind testing. The tyres performed exactly as we hoped they would, but now lighter!”
Pirelli says the P Zero Race Tub SL will be on the market shortly, priced at £99.90.
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