Pirelli P Zero Velo external rubber test

The renowned motor sport tire brand recently returned to the bicycle market by introducing several high-end road tire models for demanding cyclists. Among them is the all-purpose race tire P Zero Velo, which we choose for this review.

Pirelli is not a newcomer to the bicycle market, they had been manufacturing cycling tires for long time in the past, but during the last decades, the Italian firm focused solely on motor sport and produced performance tires for those applications. It needs no mentioning that the Pirelli brand is a major supplier of Formula-1 racing. It’s quite evident that Pirelli has accumulated a vast knowledge of rubber compounds and compositions while developing top-tier tire models for motor-driven vehicles. Most of this know-how can be utilized for road bikes as well, their engineers know exactly how each mixture behaves under wet conditions, or how to produce a good, but relatively low-wearing tire compound. All this and many more technologies are a second nature for Pirelly’s development team.

As we have already mentioned here at Bikemag , the first phase of the Hungarian distribution will provide the complete Pirelli’s road tire range, all three models, the P Zero Velo (all-purpose racing), the P Zero Velo TT (time trial) and finally the P Zero Velo S (wet weather) will be available in shops nationwide. For this review we chose the P Zero Velo in 700x25c size and 127 tpi casing.

The exquisite black packaging is a fashion statement in itself, reminiscent of a true luxury product. The words on the box states that the tires are made with SmartNET Silica technology to ensure low rolling resistance, excellent cornering stability and relatively low wear – all at the same time. There is also a detailed mounting guide in case someone is unsure about tire installation. Once the box is opened, we find a surprise gift: the tires are held together by a Pirelli labeled silicone rubber bracelet that can also also be worn. This is a kind thought from Pirelli, allowing riders to show off their tire choice, both on the wheels and on their own arms.

But now let’s talk about the P Zero Velo! The first thing I did was to put them on the scale: one measured 204gr, the other’s weight was just one gram more at a nominal width of 25 mm. These can be considered extremely low figures, so weight-weenies, rejoice! Unfortunately the tread is a little narrower than what we are used to seeing on the competitors’ models. I hope the long-wear Pirelli promised stands, then only the puncture protection might be compromised by the lack of material facing the road. On the other hand the casing is somewhat larger than the nominal width: hence when I mounted the tires on my 15 mm rims, I measured a maximum of 26mm width with my caliper. So on a more modern 17c rim the P Zero Velo will be even wider, which is good news, and shows that Pirelli does not play the weight-cheating game with the tire size. This makes the weight of 205 grams for this tire model even more exceptional!

Before the first ride, I had to make small tweaks to the tires, since the “hairs” from the manufacturing process on the side walls were touching the brake calipers and even the frame. So I cut them off one by one, and I recommend this process to everyone, since it not only causes unwanted drag, but may even put some wear into the paint.

I used these tires my own bike on a daily basis for the last one and a half months, putting all in all over 1500kms into the Pirelli P Zero Velos. So I gained quite a bit of experience with them, and have absolutely no reason to complain. They have good tractions and corner well in both wet and dry conditions. I have used many top-of-the-line tires from several major brands, and the P Zero is no worse than any in this regard. I hold this as a great success for a 1st generation product on the market. It is difficult to test rolling resistance, especially when the tires are pumped up to 7 bars. Independent lab tests published stated that these Pirelli tires are at just a fraction slower than top-of-the-range models from other manufacturers. I had no sense that they were any slower than what I’m used to, and I dare to say that these difference are so small, that only fine instruments can pick them up. If you were to run these tires against the test winner, you might loose half a second in one hour of riding on a dead straight road.

The front tire after 1500 km

Durability is surely a more important factor for a bicycle tire at this price level than rolling resistance. It would be great if one didn’t have to replace an expensive piece of rubber every month! The Pirelli P Zero Velo was tested for way more than a month, and the rear tire showed no signs of developing a “brick” shape. Concerning the front tire, the middle fin from the production process has just worn off, so there is really something in what Pirelli says: they are certainly capable of producing long-lasting, durable rubber compounds!

I have yet to mention puncture protection. On the second ride with these tires we went to Kékes mountain, the highest peak in Hungary. The road quality is far from perfect on the downhill, there are some huge potholes on the upper section, which are not visible due to the shady forest road. The tires received all kinds of abuse, everything was thrown at them, marls made by some derbies are still visible on the sidewalls. Fortunately I got to the bottom of the slope safely, and so did the tires without a puncture or major damage to the casing. I had only one flat during the whole 1500 km test period, a thorn made its way through the tread. I was not too happy about this, since it happened at a race, but that’s what you get when riding roads maintained by the forest service.

The rear tire after 1500 km

I’m truly happy with the Pirelli P Zero Velo both in terms of performance, durability and weight. In fact I kept in on my wheels even after this review has been completed and I do not intend to replace them until they remain usable. The Zero Velo is a good choice for those cyclist who are looking for a high-quality tire for both racing and performance-oriented general riding, touring and training. They won’t wear out in a month like other top-tier tires from other manufacturers!

Soon MTB and trekking tires will also be available from Pirelli!

Recommended retail price: from HUF 12900
Distributed by Patai Szabó Kft.



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