When fellow contributor Jerry Smith reviewed Pirelli’s Scorpion Trail tires in the January 2011 issue, he concentrated on their street performance. After testing the Scorpions on my BMW F 800 GS on local fire roads, I can now relate the “dual” side to Jerry’s “sport” review of these multi-purpose tires.
’Twas a dreary morn that I ventured to yon mountains for the first test, with gray clouds darkening the city below and draping the peaks above in a cloak of mist. After taking turn after turn to the ridgeline through paved corners the width of a driveway, at the top all was wet with drizzle. I leaned carefully at first then added a bit more angle and rolled out with a tad more throttle at every corner to test the traction. The Trails delivered on every turn. On the short straights, I grabbed more and more brake until the ABS kicked in at both ends. To the Scorpions’ credit, the bike was slowing down quickly before that happened.
Soon enough, the pavement crumbled into an ugly mix of hard-topped islands rising from a rough sea of dirt and gravel. A short distance later the tarmac disappeared completely. We banged, we bounced, but we didn’t lose traction in the transition. Over the ensuing rocks and ruts I gained more confidence in the tires and pushed them harder. But when the road climbed into a new world—a wet world of dripping cloud, fogged visor and near-zero visibility—I called a tactical retreat.
Regrouped and advancing again, I attacked another twisty road to another ridge top a dozen miles to the east and found the roadway dry and smooth. The Trails hung tough on fresh pavement as I tossed the GS back and forth through the endless bends. The sticky shoulders that Jerry described worked as well for me as they did for him. Ten miles later the road turned to dirt and the Scorpions continued their surprisingly good off-pavement performance. Surprising because the tread looks mighty street-oriented to me, but Pirelli has somehow endowed them with enough traction to grab onto loose dirt and rocks. All this with a street-ready 35 psi front and rear!
A week later, the sun shone as I rolled up the mountain, determined to ride more dirt. This time I pumped the Scorpions to 37 psi (max is 42). Why so much? I wanted to simulate a touring rider coming across an interesting byway and, without hesitating, turning off to explore it. The pumped-up Trails held tough over miles of rocky dirt and dirty rocks. Ruts came and went and I rode the GS about as hard as the stock suspension and my natural preservation instincts would allow. The tires held up to everything I dished out and provided some nice rear end slides through corners when I broke them loose with the throttle. The longer dirt ride only served to reinforce my earlier favorable impressions. Without mud or sand to test them in, I wasn’t able to give them a complete off-pavement test, but I’m not so sure I’d want to wrestle the GS around in those conditions without a knobbier tread—something like the Trails’ cousin, the Scorpion Rally.
Don’t let their smooth face fool you—with good grip wet and dry, on pavement and off, Pirelli’s Scorpion Trails make a lot of sense for all-around road riding spiced up with the occasional off-pavement excursion.
(This Gearlab article appeared in the August 2012 issue of Rider.)