Pirelli’s black wall Cinturato Gravel S has been around for a few years as a reliable winter option in a 40mm width. It’s now been joined by a ‘Classic’ BrownWall version in 40, 45 and 50mm for those who need more width and a fashionable flash of tan from their tires. To keep things comparable with other rubber I’ve used in this category such as the WTB Resolute and Specialized Rhombus Pro I stuck with the 40mm width for this test.
Design and build
The S classic uses the same carcass construction as the other Cinturato Gravel tires. This uses a 60TPI (Threads Per Inch) material wrapped to create a triple overlap under the tread. This is further reinforced with a cut resistant 120TPI TechWALL sheet that wraps right over from bead to bead. There’s another rubber reinforcing layer around the bead too.
The tread is a selection of similar sized and height, multi-faceted mid spaced blocks with a hint at some directional arrows in places. It uses the same SpeedGrip ‘rally derived’ rubber compound as the other Cinturato tires too. Pirelli tell us this is from the same polymer matrix as their MTB SmartGRIP mix but tweaked to be slightly more efficient and faster rolling.
Sturdy construction and lots of lugs mean it’s relatively heavy for a 40mm tire at 565g and the Classic version is slightly more expensive than the blackwall.
Tubeless installation is easy on most rims, with just a single lever needed for persuasion on some tighter rims. It blows up close enough to stated size on a 25mm internal rim too and Cinturato tires have always been good at holding that pressure even with sub par sealants. Incidentally, Pirelli’s own signature yellow sealant has been giving us decent results so far so look forward to a full test of that soon.
Unsurprisingly the more open, ‘old school XC/CX’ style tread definitely clears faster and bites better than the vast majority of gravel options. There’s no noticeable increase in lug size – and therefore grip – on the rounded shoulders. As a result it can slip or drift more than you expect on off-cambers, in ruts, or on more aggressive cornering angles. We are talking about a gravel tire though so it’s rare most riders will be leaning a narrow, drop bar, high seat bike hard in the mud and expecting to get away with it. The rounded profile means it’s also more predictable in terms of turn in and grip on harder surfaces/wet roads than really grippy, MTB derived ‘gravel’ tires.
The more open tread is definitely slower than most gravel tires though, so expect a significant speed penalty if you run the S both ends. I actually ran it with the semi-slick Cinturato H on the rear to keep pace alive, but even then I could feel the drag ramp up whenever I got over the front out of the saddle.
While the TechWALL construction has made Pirelli my go-to answer when someone asks for a durable, puncture resistant gravel tire, the S definitely feels damped and sturdy rather than buoyant and lively. Add the relatively hefty weight and it definitely feels like you’ve put wellies on your bike instead of trail running shoes.
The sturdy construction means you can run lower pressures (or more rider/cargo load) without worrying about burping instability though. Puncture resistance seems good despite the bigger spaces between tread blocks. so it's a good choice for wet / winter bikepacking.
Pirelli’s Cinturato Gravel S Classic is definitely one of the better brown wall options for brown trail conditions. It grips well and clears fast in filthy conditions even if it’s not the most tactile or tenacious edging tire for really pushing the limits. Gappy tread, carcass construction and weight make it a trudge on harder, firmer surfaces. However, it’s puncture resistance, low pressure stability and general durability make it a wise choice if the last thing you want to do is stop and fix a flat or split on a cold wet ride. That toughness and a long lasting compound also partially offset the high purchase price.
Tech specs: Pirelli Cinturato Gravel S Classic
- Price: $69.99 £66.99, €69.99
- Sizes: 700 x 40 (tested), 45 and 50mm
- Options: Classic brown or blackwall
- Weight: 565g (40mm tested)