Pirelli's new fastest clincher performs impressively well. It is easy to set up on tubeless-ready rims, it is lightweight, supplies good traction and is surprisingly resistant to cuts. At £54.99 it undercuts its counterparts from Continental and Vittoria, giving it a very good performance to price ratio.
Good puncture resistance
Rivals with cotton casings feel suppler
By Simon Smythe
The new Pirelli P Zero Race is the lightest, fastest clincher tyre in the Italian brand’s range. Pirelli relaunched its P Zero clincher range in March, replacing the original P Zero Velo, released in 2017.
Pirelli claims, perhaps surprisingly, that the P Zero Race outperforms all tube-type tyres it has produced before, tubulars included.
According to Pirelli, after three years of development work with racers at the WorldTour level, including the male and female 2019 world champions, it designed the P Zero with its new SmartEVO compound and TechBelt casing technology to provide its professional riders, as well as all cycling enthusiasts, with a superior product.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.
Pirelli P Zero Race: construction
Pirelli says it developed a blend of three functionalised polymers with "intelligent" behavioural characteristics, which are the basis of the exceptional properties of SmartEVO.
Each of the three polymers provides specific performance, according to Pirelli, ensuring a perfect balance of opposing characteristics, such as grip and rolling, with the result being better grip on dry and wet surfaces and very low rolling resistance, resulting in smoothness and driveability.
Pirelli says the compound has already been tested by the WorldTour teams it partners – Ag2r-Citroen, Trek-Segafredo and Team BikeExchange.
As this suggests, the compound was already available in other Pirelli tyres. Pirelli relaunched its tubeless range with SmartEVO before the clinchers “for reasons of market demand” and the P Zero Race Tub SL tubulars also use it.
However, completely new for the P Zero Race clincher is the construction of the casing. Made from 127tpi Nylon and designed for use with an inner tube this tyre has been adapted to the new, wider ETRTO 19c rim standards. As a result, each size of the P Zero Race has a wider tread than the corresponding original P Zero Velo: a wider and more elongated footprint that Pirelli claims improves rolling performance, puncture protection and cornering control.
The carcass also features a wider protective belt. Called TechBelt Road, this is an additional layer of Aramid fabric underneath the compound.
Pirelli P Zero Race: the ride
The P Zero Race comes in 26, 28 and 30mm sizes, in black or with tan sidewalls (Classic) and there are colour editions planned for the future.
I chose the 26mm size, or to be precise ETRTO 26-622 but was pleased to see Pirelli using WAM (width as measured) information on the box. This tells you the actual width of your tyre on rims with different internal rim widths, avoiding the ‘surprise’ when your tyre measures more than 26mm on a wider rim.
On the Parcours Ronde wheels that I fitted them to, which have a relatively wide internal rim width of 22.5mm, they measured 28.5mm. The chart on the box only went up to 21mm rims, giving a WAM of 27mm, so it made sense.
As for the weight, they were slightly over the claimed 205g, with weights (as measured) 213g and 210g. The Pirellis are lighter than the Continental Grand Prix 5000 clinchers (220g), the Vittoria Corsa Graphene 2.0 (255g) and the Specialized Turbo Cotton (240g) and they certainly feel thinner between thumb and finger than all of those, but also quite tacky thanks to a very finely textured tread.
There’s a very slight tread pattern with small sipes and even a rotation arrow. Of course you’d obey this for the sake of form, but the compound itself is what sticks the tyre to road and not the tread pattern and that goes for wet weather riding too.
The Pirelli P Zero Race tyres went onto the tubeless-ready Parcours Ronde wheels with thumbs only - and as we know, this can turn into a wrestling match, but no such problems here.
My first ride on the Pirellis in the Surrey Hills was on some gnarly, gritty, stony tarmac with plenty of potholes and I was impressed with the grip as well as the resistance to cuts - there wasn’t a mark on them afterwards.
I’ve since done a decent amount of miles on them and I’ve been very impressed with their robustness for such a lightweight tyre. There are still really no significant marks and I haven’t punctured once.
As for ride feel, at 100psi - in line with Pirelli's own pressure recommendation for the 26mm width - I have found the Vittoria Corsa with its 320tpi cotton casing to feel plusher, but of course that doesn’t always mean fastest-rolling on a smooth surface. In tyres, lighter is generally faster and I’d say that although they don’t offer an armchair ride, I would guess the rolling resistance of the Pirelli P Zero Race is pretty low compared to other equivalent-sized clinchers.
I used ordinary butyl tubes but with latex or Pirelli’s own TPU smartTUBEs they’re going to feel even faster.
On wet roads they were equally impressive. I’m never going to test a tyre to the limit of traction in the wet - they don’t pay me enough for that - so I always back off a little in corners, but I didn’t feel any hint of slippage whatsoever at my usual wet-weather cornering speeds and am confident that this compound performs well in the wet.
Value and conclusion
The Pirelli P Zero Race retails at £54.99 per tyre, which is £5 cheaper than the Continental GP5000 (though you can usually find big reductions on the Contis) and £5 cheaper than the Vittoria Corsa G2.0. The Specialized Turbo Cotton is £65.
With the emerging trend for choosing clinchers and tubes over tubeless for faster road riding at higher pressures, the Pirelli P Zero Race would be an excellent choice. The new Pinarello Dogma F that I managed to borrow for a first ride before it was spirited off to London for the big launch came fitted with them, and if that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.
These are tyres fit for the WorldTour, they’re priced slightly lower than their competitors - as a fast, lightweight and grippy race tyre they have everything covered.
|Pirelli P Zero Race|
|Weight||210g (26mm, weighed)|
|Sizes||26mm, 28mm, 30mm|
Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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