The new Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S is a fast-rolling, lightweight and grippy tyre that offers good durability, but puncture resistance isn't as good as other winter tyres. There's also no tubeless option at the moment. Although it's marketed as a winter tyre, it's more of a year-round option that excels in wet weather with only a modest improvement in puncture protection compared to the regular tyre it's based on.
The Velo 4S is based on the same technology used to develop the standard Velo tyre that Jack reviewed earlier this year. That includes the company's own SmartNET Silica compound, 127tpi casing and construction in the Hutchinson factory in France. This 'winter' version uses a rubber compound that has been tweaked to improve wet weather grip, and there's extra siping along the top of the tyre, though we all know that such grooves make nada difference.
Pirelli has also increased the thickness of the tread, but underneath there is the same aramid fibre puncture-resistant belt as the regular tyre. This belt is only located underneath the tread and doesn't extend to the sidewalls. This does contribute to the low weight; at 250g this 28mm tyre isn't giving away much to the regular version it's based on, but it won't offer the rugged sidewall of some other tyres.
Fitting the tyre was a doddle. There's quite a bit of slack in the bead and I was able to install the tyre without resorting to a tyre lever. Inflate and away you go. Inflated to about 65-70psi for my bodyweight and to suit the conditions, the tyres immediately impressed with a very smooth, supple and fast ride.
Winter tyres can often sacrifice feel and performance for outright puncture resistance but that's not the case with these Velo 4S tyres. They feel nearly as quick and lovely as the best summer race tyres. If you want to retain that summer tyre feel but want a bit more security and confidence in bad weather, these tyres offer that.
The supple sidewall gives a lovely cushioning effect over rough roads and they conform to irregular road surfaces well. While we don't have the means to accurately test rolling resistance, the excellent resource that is www.bicyclerollingresistance.com found these tyres to offer a lower rolling resistance than the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season, a very popular winter tyre.
While grip in adverse conditions and general speed impressions are very favourable, where the tyre disappoints is in its puncture resistance. I got a handful of punctures with these tyres, with thorns (thanks to local farmers cutting hedgerows at this time of year) cutting straight through the centre of the tread. Admittedly, this could happen to any tyre, the puncture fairies can strike at tyre at any time, but a winter tyre really needs to be better than this.
This is the big tradeoff with winter tyres; if you want the best puncture resistance you have to sacrifice weight and that lovely ride characteristic you get from a summer race tyre. Pirelli has clearly opted to retain the performance of its regular tyres and hope that the aramid layer and slightly thicker rubber tread under the tread is sufficient.
Unfortunately, it's not quite up to the task, based on my testing at least. They didn't display the toughness that gives you the sort of faith you want in your tyres when riding grotty country lanes liberally coated in water, mud, grit, stones and foliage.
Durability, on the other hand, has been good. I'm talking here about how well the tyre has stood up to abuse on rough roads. There are no cuts or gashes anywhere in the tyre despite several hundred miles of testing in bad weather and rough roads, including a few off-road excursions. The sidewalls, despite their lack of reinforcement, have been just fine so far but it's an area I'll be paying particular attention to as I continue to ride these tyres through the winter.
If you want the best puncture protection (and don't want to switch to tubeless), I feel there are better options from the likes of Continental, Michelin and Schwalbe. The Continental Grand Prix 4 Season, for example, has a cut-resistant layer from bead to bead and two layers of puncture protection material, and provides a lot more confidence when riding along a road strewn with thorns or stones.
What the P Zero Velo 4S tyre does offer is an all-weather version of its regular tyre. It has a little added puncture protection, while retaining a low weight and the fast-rolling feel close to that of a summer race tyre. Rather than being a dedicated winter tyre, it would make a good year-round tyre in the UK as it does obviously rain a lot.
At retail prices, the new Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S offers good value compared with other choices, but if you shop around you can find the Continental GP 4 Season for around the same money, or less, which would be a better choice if you want better puncture resistance.
A fast, light and grippy wet weather tyre, but as a 'winter' tyre puncture protection is lacking
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S
Size tested: 700x28
Tell us what the product is for
Pirelli says: "Pirelli's PZero 4S Velo Road Tyre is ready to rise to the challenge of harsh weather and cold temperatures. It features three footprint areas consisting of a slick centre, grooved bands on both sides, and semi-slick edges. If you're planning a long winter ride and you're unsure what the weather is going to do, wrap your wheels with the PZero Velo 4S tyres.
"The rubber belt, the design of its pattern and the cross section all are at the heart of the performances of a tyre: the contact point between the ground and the bicycle. It is made of a mix of carefully selected and balanced chemical elements and engineered grooves, that greatly contribute to the tyre's outstanding performance. Made from our innovative SmartNET™ Silica and ICS and FGD technologies, it provides all-round cycling excellence."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Usage: Road training/racing in wet or dry weather
Tyre Type: Clincher, folding
Puncture Protection: Aramid fibre breaker layer
Weight: 220g (25c)
At RRP it's competitive, but at the discounted prices you can find rival tyres it's not so good.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Treat it as a year-round tyre that offers good wet weather performance and not a tough winter tyre, and it's a good choice.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fast and grippy, and lightweight too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Puncture protection isn't that bad, it's just not great for a supposed winter tyre.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a good tyre that is fast and grippy in bad weather, but it doesn't offer the puncture resistance of other winter tyres. Think of it as a lightweight year-round tyre that is good in the rain and you're closer to what this tyre offers.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.