The holy grail for adventure riders is a tire that offers long lasting wear, as well as great grip on and off the road. And while there’s no such tire that truly meets all three criteria and probably never will be (that is until someone develops a tire that can morph from road tire into a knobby on the run) the new Pirelli Scorpion Trail II provides brilliant road grip, long lasting wear and does a pretty decent job on the dirt too.
Pirelli offered me the opportunity to test their new Scorpion Trail II tires recently which had been affixed to a Suzuku V-Strom 1000 – a machine that’s actually pretty capable of hitting the odd trail. In addition to hitting some twisty roads at pace, I was keen to see how far I could push the tires off road as well.
Dirty chicken strips
Pirelli is aiming this tire at the ever expanding adventure touring segment and is an evolution rather than a revolution over the previous version. The aim is to create a tire with good road performance, while still capable of tackling unpaved surfaces. It is designed for motorcycles such as the Ducati Multistrada, Aprilia Caponord, Kawasaki Versys and Suzuki V-Strom and in fact is starting to come standard on a number of such bikes.
The tread pattern of the tire takes cues from the Pirelli Angel GT which is aimed at the sport touring segment, but with modifications to provide more off-road grip. The side grooves of the new Scorpion Trail II have been modified to ensure optimal drainage in case of rain, while the layout and “binary open” shape of the central ones not only contribute to the drainage of water but also ensure better traction, greater stability and more regular wear.
Compared to its predecessor, the new tire has a wider central section which retains a compound developed for high mileage without compromising cornering performance, and especially developed to offer excellent wet performance. The side compound was designed to optimize the balance between performance on dry and wet roads. Pirelli states that they think mileage will be around 30 per cent higher on the Scorpion Trail II range compared to its predecessor without any reduction in grip levels – a sizable improvement.
That all said, these tires aren’t designed as off road specific boots. In fact, they’re really a 90/10 ratio offering of road/off-road and so if you’re planning on going through the mountains or forests where you won’t see asphalt for days a time, this isn’t the right tire. What they are designed for is the adventure tourer who expects good amounts of grip but with the ability to hit hard packed dirt roads with confidence should the need present itself.
There’s even little scorpions on the tire. Aww…
So how do they go for what they’re expected to do 90 per cent of the time? Very well. Tire technology has come ahead so far over recent years that it’s almost a case of every new tire coming out offering grip levels that far surpass what most mere mortals need for the road. In fact you could take your adventure bike to the track with these tires and be assured they will perform effortlessly.
After racking up a many hundreds of kilometers of aggressive riding over a few days, they didn’t once miss a beat. I found that turn in performance from the tire to be pretty much spot on for what I personally like on an adventure bike – not too aggressive that sees the bike lean over too quickly but still enough to really let you throw the bike into the corners.
But what i really wanted to do was test them off the black stuff. Unfrotunately the weather was against me. Day after day there was light to moderate rainfall and I wasn’t particularly enthused with the idea of taking these tires attached to a 250kg V-Strom onto muddy roads – I’m just not that competent an off-road rider. But as the deadline to me returning the bike grew ever closer I bit the bullet and headed out to try my luck.
Despite a few hairier moments, the Scorpion Trail II tires were surprisingly good in light mud.
Over the course of the day I road over packed dirt, light gravel and some rather wet patches that caused me to reconsider what the hell I was doing. That said, the tires performed admirably. Yes, I had a number of moments where the back end stepped out when on muddy patches in corners but every time I just held the throttle open and waited for the tire to hook back up. Again, not my tire of choice for the mud but it did far better than I expected it to. I’m sure that with a better rider at the helm and perhaps dropping the pressures down, those moments might have been avoided all together.
Overall, the new Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires offer good value given their grip levels and based on the previous Scorpion Trail range, provide a good amount of life before needing to be replaced. Best of all, they’re now available in a 90/90 21 size for dual sport riders wanting another option. Prices start at $169 for a front and reach $308.95 for a rear, depending on size.