Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire review – confident corner carving gravel race tire

Pirelli Cinturato RC is a versatile all-rounder gravel race tire with a penchant for cornering

Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire fitted to a bike wheel and leaning against a wooden door with a Bike Perfect Recommends badge
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Pirelli’s Cinturato RC is a reasonably fast rolling and hard cornering gravel race tire that offers good all-rounder performance in most conditions although the low profile center tread does limit acceleration and braking on loose surfaces

Pros

  • +

    Decent speed

  • +

    Excellent cornering grip across a variety of surfaces

  • +

    Reasonably tough and durable

Cons

  • -

    Limited straight-line grip performance

  • -

    Requires precise tire pressures to get optimal comfort and speed performance

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Pirelli has a Cinturato tire for every gravel occasion with the Cinturato RC gravel tire taking on racing duties. Specifically designed to target races like the World Gravel Series and Unbound, Pirelli has reconfigured its Scorpion XC RC cross-country race tire to offer higher average speed on straight lines and improved grip for aggressive off-road cornering.  Pirelli aims the Cinturato RC as the best gravel bike tire for riders looking for an injection of speed without going to a semi-slick, so how does it perform on gravel roads? 

Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire tread profile detail

Alternating sized arrows for the Cinturato RC fast rolling center section (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Design and specifications

For the fast-rolling center section of the Cinturato RC Pirelli has used a similar directional arrow center pattern to the dry weather Cinturato H and Cinturato Adventure tires. You start to see the Scorpion XC RC influence when moving to the mid and shoulder tread blocks, featuring wider-spaced transitional blocks and pronounced shoulder lugs.

The Cinturato RC features Pirelli’s SpeedGRIP Compound, based on its SmartGRIP MTB compound the SpeedGRIP has been further developed for the fast-rolling off-road requirements of gravel. The TechWALL Gravel carcass adapts Pirelli’s road-specific reinforced casings with the MTB-specific casings, adding a cut-resistant 120tpi nylon fabric from bead to bead to the 60tpi casing for added protection.

Pirelli sells the Cinturato RC in 700c by 35mm, 40mm, and 45mm widths which should cover most fast gravel use cases. Fitted to a set of 25mm Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels the 40mm tires blew up to their quoted width and held pressure well. The tire is available in black or with a Classic tan wall colorway in all three width options. A set of 45mm tires weighs in at 636g on my scales, it's not heavy but in the marginal gains of gravel racing they are carrying a few more grams compared to the equivalent Schwalbe’s G-One RS or Michelin’s Power Gravel tires.  

Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire shoulder lug close up detail

The supportive shoulder lugs enhance cornering capabilities (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance 

The Cinturato RC certainly rolls with a reasonable amount of urgency, it doesn’t feel as quick as the fastest gravel tires on the market but it spins up and holds speed well. While some gravel tires have a wide margin for optimal pressures, I found the Cinturato RC required more pressure precision to get the most from it. I settled on around 37 psi for my size 40mm review tires but even a couple of psi differences would have a noticeable effect on comfort and speed.

Cornering is superb and the Cinturato RC confidently leans into corners and bites into the ground for traction allowing fast lines to be carved through bends. Handling is stable and predictable across various surfaces and conditions too so you aren’t likely to get caught out on fast tight bends or a sudden change in terrain. 

While it would be unfair to expect huge amounts of traction from the relatively shallow center tread, the Cinturato RC has a nasty habit of suddenly snapping free under hard braking in dry loose conditions. It's not the most effective tire for soft climbs either and I found it demanded a little more attention to weight distribution to ensure the rear wheel didn’t spin out.

The puncture protection has been effective and I only suffered a single flat over the 1800km I used these tires, despite battering them down some fast and rough gravel descents around Aberfoyle and other local gravel favorites. That said, if you are riding rocky terrain semi-regularly you may be better served with Pirelli’s Cinturato RC X which adds a touch more sidewall protection for a little extra peace of mind and minimal additional grams. Having put a load of miles on the Cinturato RC, the rate of tread wear has been pretty reasonable too, especially considering this is a race-focused tire.

Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire subtle sidewall branding detail

Understated branding will pair well with any bike aesthetic  (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Verdict

The Pirelli Cinturato RC is a decent all-rounder gravel race tire that rolls quickly and corners confidently when you need to ride fast. It's worth fiddling a little to find your right pressures, but once you settle on a happy balance the Cinturato RC performs well in most conditions. Still, the tread's emphasis on speed means the Cinturato RC excels on more groomed gravel surfaces and rolling terrain, rather than steep gradients with soft or loose over hard track textures. 

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The lowdown: Pirelli Cinturato RC
AttributesNotesRating
GripExcellent cornering grip although limited straightline acceleration and deacceleration in loose conditions ★★★★
WearSmartGRIP compound has proved hardwearing★★★★★
ComfortNot the most complaint tire★★★
Value for moneyReasonably priced★★★★

Tech specs: Pirelli Cinturato RC gravel tire

  • Price: $84.90 / £60.99 / €69.90
  • Weight: 636g (700x45mm)
  • Sizes: 700 x 35mm, 40mm, 45mm
  • Colors: Black, Classic Tan
Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.

Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg