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Pirelli P Zero Race 28mm road tyre review

Pirelli has updated its P Zero tyres with its new Smart Evo compound which is claimed to offer better all-weather grip and lower rolling resistance

Pirelli P Zero Race
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Our Verdict

The Pirelli P-Zero Race is a dependable race-ready road tyre which blends all-weather grip, rolling speed and durability, just don’t expect buttery smooth damping

For

  • Very grippy in the dry
  • Good wet-weather grip
  • Fast-rolling
  • Durable
  • Easy to fit

Against

  • Undamped ride feel

In late 2020, Pirelli released a new tubeless race tyre with a new Smart Evo compound for improved wet and dry grip. Unchanged since the original launch, Pirelli has now brought its tube-type tyre range up to date with the Smart Evo compound to create the P Zero Race. 

Pirelli, who re-entered the cycling market in 2017 after a 25-year hiatus, made some big claims on release, stating that the P Zero race tyres outperform all of its tyres - including tubulars - which would make them the best road bike tyres that the Italian tyre manufacturer produces. 

We have been riding the P Zero Race tyres in a 28mm to see how they perform.

Pirelli P Zero Race

Subtle graphics will suit most bikes (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Specifications 

The P Zero Race comes in 24mm, 26mm and 28mm width options, and we opted for the 28mm size for a balance of speed and comfort on the local rough roads and cobbles. The Smart Evo compound has been developed for road cycling using Pirelli’s experience in producing tyres in motorsports and Pirelli claims it rolls faster and grips better in the wet than the older SmartNET compound used on the original P Zero tyres. To keep punctures at bay the 120tpi casing has a cut-resistant layer that Pirelli uses for its Techbelt protection.

Our test samples weighed in at 230g and 227g which is acceptably close to the stated weight from Pirelli. That also puts it a touch lighter than other tubed clincher favourites such as the Panaracer Race A Evo 4 and our benchmark champion Continental’s GP5000.

Unlike tubeless tyres, the P Zero Race slipped onto the wheels easily without the need for any tyre levering, painful thumbs or profanity. Inflated up to 80psi, the tyre popped nicely into place on the Enve SES 5.1 rims we were using to test.

Graphics are pleasingly understated although the tyres are available with red or yellow coloured logos if you prefer a colour scheme. The 26mm and 28mm sizes are also available in a trendy classic tan wall too if you want a throwback vibe.

Pirelli P Zero Race

The tread pattern uses compressed-Z-tread pattern for the Race tyre (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance

I like to run my tyres a little soft to maximise grip and vibration calming. With the Pirelli P Zero Race tyres I found it difficult to find the perfect pressure. It took a few trial and error rides that either felt too hard and unforgiving or were a puncture risk from rim strikes. I settled around 80psi and, while the ride was still harsher than other 28mm tyres, this pressure offered the levels of grip I was seeking. Pirelli actually offers a table of recommended pressures on the box, with the adjustments for rider weight, road conditions and rim width. The pressure I ended up settling on corresponded perfectly with what Pirelli recommends so it’s worth using the chart as an accurate starting point. 

Grip in the dry is superb with a noticeable level of traction giving confidence for aggressive line choices and hard cornering. The grip didn’t drop off too much when the weather turned wet either, allowing you to take all the lines that you would in the dry. They roll pretty quick as well, so when you are pedalling at the limit, they don’t feel like they are holding you back.

The tyres are surprisingly tough; while some racey tyres feel as if they need an element of coddling when riding across sections of rougher tarmac, that’s not the case with the P Zero Races. After some significant rim strikes when dialling in the pressures, the following month of bi-weekly cobble torture and a route diversion that turned a road ride into a gravel ride, there were zero punctures, nicks or scuffs.  

Pirelli P Zero Race

Pirelli provide a pretty comprehensive tyre pressure guide (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Verdict

The Pirelli P Zero Race tyre is an impressively tough, fast-rolling tyre with reliable grip whether it’s wet or dry. As a bonus, Pirelli’s pressure suggestions are accurate and comprehensive for an easy setup and less guesswork. The Pirelli P Zero race tyres are an excellent choice for those looking for an all-round performance road tyre, just don’t expect cushion levels of comfort.

Tech specs: Pirelli P Zero Race tyre

  • Weight: 227g (28mm, actual) 
  • Colours: White, red, yellow, classic (tan wall)
  • Size: 24mm, 26mm, 28mm (tested)
  • TPI: 120tpi 
  • Price: $69.90 / €59.90 / £54.99 
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