Pirelli has unveiled the latest in its line of road tyres, the P Zero Race 4S, which will sit among the brand's performance 'Race' range, but with a focus on maintaining performance in all conditions, rather than solely on race day.
It replaces the existing P Zero Velo 4S, which in terms of total sales have been the best road bike tyres since Pirelli's return to the sport, and comes with a full-house of claimed improvements over its predecessor, covering weight, durability, speed, puncture resistance, comfort and grip. Pirelli says that it will be aimed at road cyclists who are interested in the performance benefits of its faster P Zero Race TLR and P Zero Race SR, but also want something akin to a fit-and-forget solution, such as racers who want one tyre for the whole season.
It is constructed using the same SmartEvo compound found on others in the Race range, and the tyre's casing is designed to be more compatible with the wider rim standards of today's modern wheels. As such, the actual width on a new P Zero Race 4S will be greater than that of the outgoing P Zero Velo 4S, in turn resulting in a wider and shorter contact patch to aid grip and rolling resistance.
What makes the P Zero Race 4S interesting is its journey to existence, and to help explain this, we'll first take it back a step to the beginning of Pirelli's modern foray into cycling.
In 2017, the brand returned to cycling with the P Zero Velo range, but much of the construction was outsourced to rivals. Pirelli retained the use of its own patented chemical construction of rubber compound, but turning that compound into a usable tyre required tools and machinery that Pirelli didn't have, so Hutchinson was contracted to manufacture the road tyres, while Vittoria was chosen for all things mountain biking.
Fast forward five years to today and the brand has recently switched on production in a newly repurposed factory on the outskirts of Milan. The new Race 4S is the first product to be, as the brand proudly moulds onto the tyre's sidewall, "made in Italy".
Until now, Pirelli's investment in its cycling portfolio has been vanishingly small in comparison to the size of its overall business. Pirelli is a company with over 30,000 employees, but among those just 30 are in cycling. One of those is the Sport Marketing Manager, Davide Valsecchi, who explained to Cyclingnews that the multi-million-Euro investment into the factory allowed the brand to really ramp up - or in his words, "go full gas" - on research and development to create new technologies, before admitting the brand "kept things off the table" with regards to innovation and research, for fear of imitation.
Going forward, Pirelli will continue to use Hutchinson and Lyon Tyres (Vittoria) to manufacture certain products in order to expand the Pirelli range to a wider range of price points, but the goal is to bring the manufacturing of its "highest technologies" into its own facility.
The P Zero Race 4S marks a new step in Pirelli's history then, and a slice of that history will set you back £61.99 / $84.90 / €69.90 / AUS$109.99 per tyre.
Unfortunately, tubeless converts will have to wait a little longer, since the P Zero Race 4S is available only as a tube-type clincher at launch. Tubeless will follow, but exactly when is unknown and timescales ranged from 'in a month' to 'later in the season' when asked.
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Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.