Pirelli claims the Scorpion XC M tyre is the most versatile in the cross-country range, offering speed, grip and cornering support. Despite being designed for mixed terrain, it is one of the lower profile tyres within the Scorpion range and there are some compromises. In such a small competitive market, how does it rank among the best XC tyres?
- Pirelli Scorpion XC H tyre review
- Michelin Jet XC2 review
- Schwalbe Wicked Will Super Race tyre review
Pirelli Scorpion XC M ProWALL tyres – Technical details
Considering that Pirelli only started manufacturing mountain bike tyres in 2019 the range has extended into almost all styles, with XC, Trail, Enduro, Downhill and e-MTB lineups resulting in a total of 22 different tyre models, exceeding those of many far more established brands. The Pirelli Scorpion XC M is designed to tackle a wide range of conditions, featuring a wider-spaced tread compared to the Scorpion XC H we previously tested, which was aimed more towards firm conditions.
The Scorpion XC M is available in both 2.2- and 2.4in sizes, with the 2.2in version also in a choice of Lite or ProWALL casings. We have the 2.2in ProWALL version on test, with a claimed weight of 720g, and our pair weighed in at 734g and 747g, within a reasonable amount of the claimed weight. This makes them lighter than the XC H tyres (760g actual weight), which is surprising given the XC H has a lower claimed weight.
Pirelli Scorpion XC M ProWALL tyres – Fitting & performance
The tyres were mounted to a pair of Fulcrum Red Zone 3 rims, which have a relatively narrow 25mm ID, and they were both fitted and inflated very easily, and I didn’t need to use a tyre lever to fit onto the rim.
Once fitted the tyres had a very round profile and just like the XC H the tread depth remains the same across the tyre. The relatively narrow rim ID perhaps does not help with the profile but they did measure up to the stated width of 2.2in. Initial rides on firmer tracks, roads and trails didn’t give the biggest impression of speed, and at times quite the opposite feeling fairly slow, and having a constant hum while rolling. Coasting on flatter sections the speed feels to drop off quickly and made flatter rides feel harder work compared to some other cross-country tyres.
Some areas were more positive, and the grip uphill was good despite the reasonably low-profile tread, I was able to tackle several steeper and loose climbs, many of which I was not expecting to summit. On muddier tracks, they do slip out, which is perhaps to be expected for what is still a low-profile tyre, and while they do clear while speed begins to increase, they are not a tyre to consider if thick, or slippery mud is a common surface for your rides.
On initial rides, I found the cornering grip was disappointing and struggled to get confidence on both drier and damp trails with little feedback, and the front tended to slide out. Braking traction at the rear also suffered.
The initial setup was with 22psi front, and 24psi rear and these are typical pressures that I run for general rides for my weight at just over 60kg and the mix of riding that I do. With more time on the bike and feeling a need to find more grip the pressures were lowered, and I settled on just 18psi front, and 20psi rear. At these pressures, they felt slower on the Tarmac, although this is quite likely to be more 'feel' than actual increased rolling resistance.
With the pressures lowered the cornering grip in all conditions was improved with the front wheel feeling more settled through the corners and berms, which helped to increase confidence. One area the tyre suffers at all pressures tested is a very numb feel, with little feedback and this is one element of why cornering traction feels limited.
One reason is likely to be the thicker ProWALL carcass with puncture protection, and this proved durable with no punctures across all rides and no evidence of wear or marks. For some, the increased puncture resistance will make up for the lack of feeling and handling issues that can lead to a compromise. Durability is one of the strong areas for the tyre, with no visible wear to the side knobs from cornering, or the main central tread from general use.
Pirelli Scorpion XC M ProWALL tyres - Verdict
The Pirelli Scorpion XC M is priced at £60, which is pitched right among some of the most popular tyres available such as the Schwalbe Racing Ralph and Ray combination at £60 each (Evolution level) and Michelin Jet XC2 also at £60. It is a little less than some, including one of the most popular cross-country tyres, the Continental Cross King Protection at £65, and some Maxxis tyres including the Ardent Race 3C EXO TR retailing at £70 each.
When a tyre claims to be an all-rounder, compromises will usually need to be made and that is the case here for the Pirelli Scorpion XC M, with speed and grip being the elements that suffer the most against the competition. The weight and cost are comparable to rivals and durability and puncture resistance have been very good during testing. For pure performance, it can feel slow with stiff sidewalls that give very little feedback on levels of grip. With time to experiment the level of grip on offer can be improved, but the XC M still feels a little way off the best tyres available.