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Pirelli Scorpion XC M and H Team tires

The famous Italian brand has launched a whole range of new XC tires, and we’ve been testing two of them for the past few months

Pirelli Scorpion XC M and H Team tire review
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Not as ultra-fast feeling as the tread and weight would suggest, but still very rapid, tougher and more trail-worthy as a result. Definitely for harder and hotter conditions than damp and dirty though

For

  • Fast-rolling
  • Low and very low weight
  • Durable compounds
  • Usefully ‘trail’ tough
  • Stable at low pressures
  • Acceptable dry/hard grip

Against

  • Damped rather than dynamic feel
  • Limited lean aggression
  • Slippery when wet

Pirelli’s Scorpion Trail and Enduro range are already conspicuously quick tires, but there’s a whole family of lighter-weight Scorpion XC options. We’ve tested the Team version of the XC M and H tires which create a good balance of speed, traction and toughness for racing or fast trail riding. Compared to the best mountain bike tires, they lack the edge bite and outright grip for a really dynamic ‘downcountry’ attack though, and they’re not conspicuously quick rolling. 

The full Scorpion XC range stretches from the multipurpose centerline tread XC RC which comes in 29 x 2.2in, to the chunkier, wider spaced, shouldered block of the XC S and R which come in 29 x 2.2 and 2.4in versions. The first three all come in minimal mass unprotected carcass ‘Lite’ for win or bust responsiveness or ‘ProWALL’ reinforced sidewall construction versions. All tires get their own ‘SmartGRIP’ single compound, motorsport-inspired rubber mix that Pirelli has chosen to match the target use of the tire. Team versions also get Pirelli’s signature yellow logo for extra visual pop.

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Pirelli Scorpion XC M Team tire review

The Scorpion XC M doesn't have huge side knobs so you'll need something more aggressive if you really want to rail the corners (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Scorpion XC M tire review

We found the Scorpion XC M came up narrower than its 2.2 in quoted size when fitted on a 24mm internal rim (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Scorpion XC M 

The XC M occupies the middle of the pack with a mid-spaced, small block pattern that sits on a ‘Lite’ carcass in 2.2in or ProWALL carcass in 2.4in or 2.2in, which is the version we tested. Even with sidewall protection, the M comes in at 718g, which is nearly 30g more than Pirelli claims, but usefully light for a tire that’s shrugged off a lot of rock scuff and impact abuse without damage or pinch flats. The sidewall protection also gives it a more stable and predictable feel at lower pressures, and although the 2.2in is relatively narrow at 56mm on a 24mm internal rim, we’ve ridden it more like a trail tire than an XC tire in terms of aggressive/survival expectations. As long as things aren’t too wet and your lean angles and braking aren’t too enthusiastic, traction is predictable, although it clearly prefers hardpack/summer singletrack or rock-based, man-made trails to random natural, loamy conditions. The rounded profile means it tips into and out of turns easily on twisty singletrack sections as well and while it’s not a dramatic speed booster, it’s usefully quick. It’s quiet on-road too which is always good for morale on marathon-style events or mixed surface epics. 

The side knobs aren’t much bigger than the center blocks though, so while they wrap around OK, you can’t push the XC M too far before it starts scrabbling and gasping for grip. As a result, we wouldn’t describe it as a tire you can rail on if you’ve got a slack-angled, low-slung downcountry bike to make the most of. For more aggressive riding, check out the Pirelli Scorpion Trail and Enduro tires. The SmartGRIP compound is definitely geared more to durability than damp conditions grip so you’ll need to rein things in a bit when the rain comes down or switch to the XC S, which is the designated wet conditions option. On the plus side, it’s still got most of its moldings on even after a lot of miles, so you’re going to get a lot of ride hours out of it.

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Pirelli Scorpion XC H Team tire review

The Scorpion XC H's grip is limited in loose and loamy conditions (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Pirelli Scorpion XC H Team tire review

The Scorpion XC H small knobs make it the fastest tire in the Pirelli XC line up (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Scorpion XC H

The H is the fastest tire in the Pirelli XC lineup, with a very shallow multi knob, siped and ramped center tread for quiet, quick-rolling performance. As is often the case with designs like this, it holds onto in-line driving grip better than you’d expect, although like the M, the compound is clearly designed more for speed and durability than damp adhesion. While the intermediate and side knobs grow in size and depth, they’re still fairly small and low profile so leaning grip is definitely limited in loose or loamy conditions. That means it works really well as a speed booster on the back, but it’ll need to be a hot and hard environment to ride hard with one on the front. 

While it rolls well from a tread POV and the 653g weight means it accelerates very quickly for extra pop from the pedals, the ProWALL carcass still has a grounded rather than giddy feel. That means no hysterical sense of effortless speed but makes it much more likely to stay connected when things get lairy, and it’s still stable and predictable at lower pressures rather than crumbling and folding. Impact and puncture damage hasn’t been an issue either, despite some deliberately aggressive testing to try and provoke problems.

Verdict

Pirelli’s Scorpion XC range doesn’t come across as incredibly fast and flighty like some cross-country race rubber, but they’re still definitely quick and light enough to noticeably boost responsiveness. The extra element of damping and low-pressure stability actually makes them a lot more versatile for fast trail use outside the tapes. It’s worth remembering the old “to finish first, first you have to finish” adage too, and we certainly didn’t feel like we held back on our aggression when riding them. The M and H are a good front-rear combination for summer riding in UK/northern European conditions as long as you’re not wanting to rail corners too hard. When conditions change there are tread/compound options on either side of them in the Pirelli mountain bike tires range. Impressive toughness for weight and durable, dry weather optimized rubber compounds improve value for money for high mileage riders.  

Tech specs: Pirelli Scorpion XC M and H Team tires 

  • Price: £56.99/$69.00
  • Weight: XC M 718g, XC H 653g
  • Width: 56mm (2.2in)
  • Options: Black, Tan, XC or Team
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He got an archaeology degree out of Exeter University, spent a few years digging about in medieval cattle markets, working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit he’s also coughed out a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too. We trust Guy's opinion and think you should, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel Ltd MTBs, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Di2 Disc road bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg