Pirelli has expanded its tyre range with two new gravel tyres called the Cinturato Gravel, and I got the chance to put them through a reasonably challenging first ride in the 150km Jeroboam gravel race in Italy last weekend.
The new Cinturato Gravel comes in two flavours - H for hard-packed trails and M for mixed-terrain riding. The former has a low profile tread pattern that will definitely suit dry conditions, the latter has a chunkier design with pronounced blocks aimed at providing traction in loose and damp conditions.
I rode the Cinturato Gravel M in 45mm width on brand new Fulcrum Rapid Red 5 DB 650B wheels on a 3T Exploro. The tyre is also available in 35, 40 and 50mm widths with 700c options as well. All tyres are naturally tubeless and I inflated the tyres to Pirelli recommended pressures for a 70kg rider, so 32psi in the rear tyre and 29psi in the front.
Pirelli has worked hard on the casing design of the tyre, trying to achieve the necessary toughness but not at the expense of suppleness to give a compliant ride quality. It has reinforced the casing with a bead-to-bead layer of a tough woven fabric over a softer 127tpi main casing. The bead area has extra material and is shaped to ensure the tyre remains seated on the rim at lower pressures.
Over the top of this is a rubber compound the Italian company has developed called SpeedGRIP, loosely based on its mountain bike tyres but refined to improve rolling efficiency. The compound is also intended to provide good grip in all weathers, whether the trails are dusty or muddy.
The tread pattern of the Gravel M reminds me of an old 90s mountain bike tyre. Ensuring the tyre rolls fast on the road and hard pack, the centre section has a closely packed design of alternating sized blocks. The rest of the tyre has a more open design to provide clearance for mud and grit and ensure the blocks can find traction in loose conditions.
My first ride on the new tyres was the Jeroboam, a relatively new gravel race in northern Italy. It’s headlined by a massive 300km route but I’m no maniac and opted for the shorter 150km option. I had no chance to set the bike up before the ride so followed the recommended pressure guidelines from Pirelli and headed out for a day of adventuring.
The route proved to be unrelentingly brutal. It was so much more than just a gravel ride. It had everything. I toiled up big mountain road climbs, bounded down cobbled paths and old roman roads, and braved super technical rocking mountain bike trails, and smoother gravel paths winding through vineyards.
With so much variety of terrain, the tyre needed to offer good rolling speed on the road yet provide reassuring grip on the loose gravel. The Gravel M tyres delivered, rolling fast and holding firm through the corners and digging me out of looser gravel.
Traction was reassuring on the vast array of terrains, grippy on steep rocky climbs or dealing with fine dirt and loose gravel. The cornering grip was good from the shoulder blocks, allowing me to lean the bike right over in the high-speed singletrack bends, and braking traction on the many sketchy descents was good.
Tubeless is essential for gravel tyres. It lets you run lower pressures for more comfort with a reduced risk of flatting. Thankfully I didn’t puncture during the ride. The tyres took some big knocks with some audible rim impacts, the sidewall integrity remained intact. It’s also clear that Pirelli’s work on the casing has yielded a reasonably supple tyre that mutes a lot of the vibrations, increasing the smoothness of the ride.
I didn’t have any wet conditions or mud, save for a few puddles, to test the ability of the tread design and rubber compound to provide traction when the going gets slippery. Hopefully, we’ll be getting some tyres in for test for an extended evaluation so watch this space. Suffice to say, first impressions are favourable.
The tyres cost £45.90 and you can find out more at https://velo.pirelli.com
Here's the faster looking Cinturato Gravel H for comparison.
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