This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Dirt Rider.
Adventure bikes place incredibly wide demands on tires—road and off-road miles, both loaded with gear and unloaded. Wear and durability are real concerns for those on extended trips in far-off lands where replacements may be impossible to obtain. Pirelli addresses these needs with its DOT-approved Scorpion Rally tires.
The most noticeable thing on the Scorpion Rally rear tire is the shortness of the center knobs (11mm tall) compared to other rear rally tires. The rear tire excels in softer terrain and performs better in mud than other adventure-bike-targeted tires. Sand and loamy dirt are what this tire wants to eat, eagerly digging in during both acceleration and braking. Putting the tire on edge in the soft stuff also yields great results.
Unfortunately, as good as the rear tire performs in these conditions, it struggles on hard-packed dirt and gravel. Hard-based dirt roads with gravel on top exposes the weaknesses of this tire, the rear wanting to slide sideways when decelerating, even without the use of brakes. The tire also drifts sideways under acceleration and spins on the center knobs if starting from a standstill on rock slabs. Airing down to the mid-20 psi range does help but also raises fears of pinch flatting a tube. Highway manners of the Scorpion Rally rear tire are fine, but when loaded with travel gear, the center knobs visibly wear quickly (a lot of this due to the shorter starting point). Wet roads required caution as the feel became vague, especially under braking.
The Scorpion Rally front tire was a welcome revelation, performing well in all types of terrain. Although no performance area was spectacular, it worked well across a myriad of conditions encountered while adventure riding. Hardpack, gravel, sand, loam, and even mud didn’t deter this front tire, always feeling predictable. Both straight-line braking and trail braking are devoid of any surprises. Aggressive lean angles (for an adventure bike) can push the front, and the breaking point is abrupt, but these situations on an adventure ride are rare. Tarmac manners were in line with minimal squirming, but similar to the rear Scorpion Rally, wetness diminished road feel both during braking and on lean.
Neither front nor rear tire suffered a puncture, sidewall tear, pinch flat, or chunking during the 2,000-plus-mile, roughly 50/50 dirt and road testing period (photos are at the end of this period). Testing included both heavily loaded multi-day touring and unloaded day trips. Air pressure varied from 26 to 35 psi, depending on surface, terrain, and loads. The rear tire center knobs show the normal quickest rate of wear; the front tire wear suggests that it can easily last through two rears.
The Pirelli Scorpion Rally is a welcome addition to the DOT-approved tires available for the two-wheeled adventurer. The rear is best suited for those venturing out on mostly softer parts of the planet, while the front is a great all-around choice.