The Pirelli P Zero Race TLR SL is the fastest tyre in Pirelli's range and is claimed to have 'ultimate performance capabilities' while still being capable of 'everyday' riding. During testing, I've found that, although not the absolute quickest tyre out there, they certainly are speedy and very lightweight. If you can stomach the price, they're worth considering as they handle well in both the dry and wet, as well as having more rubber depth for good durability and puncture protection than other pure 'race' tyres.
The P Zero Race TLR SLs are one of two new sets to drop from Pirelli recently. The tyres have been developed with the help of pros from Mitchelton Scott and Trek Segrafredo, so it's no surprise that they are designed for racing. Both of the new sets feature the same smartEvo compound but differ in tread pattern and depth; this results in the SL version that I'm testing being significantly lighter than the non-SLs, which are marketed for more all-round use. (There's a full review of those coming.)
The TLR SL tyres are available in 24, 26 and 28mm sizes, forgoing anything larger as they're designed purely for performance. I've got the 26mm version on test and found that they're even lighter than their 245g claimed weight, coming in at 236g per tyre on the road.cc Scales of Truth. That's insanely light for a tubeless tyre; for comparison, the pretty lightweight 26mm S-Works Turbo RapidAir tyres weigh 267g apiece, and a typical all-rounder tyre such as a Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL weighs 302g per tyre in a slightly smaller 25mm size.
Fitting the tyres was pretty straightforward – they weren't quite as easy to inflate as the new Goodyear Eagle F1s that I've been testing (full review to come), but neither were they particularly problematic like I found the Cadex Race 25s.
During the testing period I fitted the tyres to a set of Scribe Race-D wheels with an internal rim width of 19mm, a Roval CLX50 wheelset with a 21mm internal width, and some DT Swiss R32s with an 18mm internal width. I had no issues and the tyres went on all three sets with a quick blast from a tubeless inflator. It's worth noting that only the 28mm tyres are suitable for newer hookless tubeless rims because of the smaller width tyres requiring pressures which are too high.
Speaking of different rim widths, Pirelli provides a helpful guide for inflation pressures depending on rim width, which tyre size you've opted for, and your weight. As inflation pressure can completely change both the performance and comfort of a tyre, I'm surprised that more manufacturers haven't gone to the same lengths.
As a 71kg rider on 26mm tyres, I followed the guide and went for 88psi on my 19mm internal width rims and 83psi on 21mm rims. For comfort or use in the wet I'd recommend dropping these a few psi but in dry conditions the recommended pressures certainly felt fastest and are a really good starting point.
Out on the road and the tyres certainly felt fast, and this is backed up by independent testing by Bicycle Rolling Resistance (BRR) – but BRR's testing does also highlight that there are faster tyres out there. For example, the Continental GP5000TL is phenomenally fast, especially considering its versatility.
Although BRR testing has found the TLR SL ever so slightly slower than some race tyres, such as the Vittoria Corsa Speed, they appear to be less fragile. Thanks to the lack of racing at the moment I've been using the Pirellis in some conditions which, to be honest, they weren't designed for, and they've handled it very well. Despite their low weight, the Pirellis have ample sidewall thickness to prevent life-ending cuts, and although plenty of tyres are more durable, these haven't fared at all badly for a race tyre.
During the past month I've used the tyres for about 800km of mixed condition riding and they haven't started to square off yet, which leads me to believe I'll get about 2,000km out of them before replacement. This is marginally better than my experience with other race tyres, such as Specialized's Turbo Cottons and Maxxis' HighRoad SLs (review to come).
The tyres are plenty grippy enough and I've not come unstuck despite plenty of slippery descents and greasy climbs. The rubber compound strikes a good balance between grip and durability without sacrificing rolling resistance. Pirelli has plenty of experience at designing rubber compounds – it is, after all, responsible for Formula 1 tyres. Although manufactured in Hutchinson's French factory, the compound is apparently shipped over directly from Pirelli in Italy so can be completely controlled by Pirelli.
The tyres are built on a 120TPI casing, which seems to be becoming the standard for tubeless road tyres and helps give the Pirellis a confident and close road feel. Having such a light carcass often helps to make a tyre more supple and that seems to be the case here. For riding quality, I rate these highly, marginally better than a Conti GP5000 but still not quite able to beat my favourite Vittoria Corsa Speeds mentioned earlier.
A less positive characteristic is the price: the SL has an RRP of £64.99 which is certainly at the premium end of the market. This is especially hard to swallow for a race tyre that isn't going to last as long as other expensive tyres, such as the GP5000 (£69.95). That said, they are less fragile than the Vittorias I keep banging on about while costing exactly the same.
Overall, the TLR SL is certainly a fast tyre and lighter than most of its opposition, which makes them ideal for hill climbs, and the balanced compound means they should be more durable than most race tyres. However, they are expensive, and the non-SL version would seem to give away very little in terms of speed while adding extra tread and puncture protection. On the whole, the Pirellis offer very similar performance to a set of Continental GP5000TLs which is no mean feat, and in my experience they're easier to fit, although the heavier Contis will last longer.
Lightweight and fast – if not quite the fastest – tubeless race tyres
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pirelli P Zero Race TLR SL
Size tested: 700x26
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Pirelli says: "Working closely with PRO cyclists led to our highest performing tubeless-ready road cycling tyre.The P ZERO™ Race TLR SL uses our new lightweight TechWALL construction and a slick World Tour derived tread pattern. The result is a race-day tyre with ultimate performance capabilities that can be used for everyday riding."
I agree that it's quick but independent testing has shown that it may not be the quickest out there. It grips and handles well and is also extremely light. I've been using the tyres for everyday riding and they have indeed coped impressively well for what is in essence a race tyre.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Size tested: 700 x 26
Claimed weight: 245g
TechWall anti-puncture protection
Slick tread pattern
Developed with Pros
Fast and grippy.
Tougher tyres will last longer, but for a race tyre these don't seem too fragile and have a decent amount of thickness on both the tread and sidewalls.
Very lightweight, especially as they're tubeless. AND even lighter than their claimed weight.
On a par with the leaders in the field; 120TPI is fast becoming standard in the tubeless tyre world.
As with all tyres designed for racing, they'll wear out quicker than all-rounders, but price-wise they're on a par with other race tyres.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They performed really well and are obviously quick, but they're not THE quickest, which I was kind of hoping for given the low weight, price and single aim to be quick. They're grippy in both wet and dry and were also okay to fit.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't dislike much, but if I was buying them... the price!
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Not cheap, but £65 is all too common for premium rubber. As mentioned in the review, Vittoria's offering is an identical price, while the Continental GP5000TLs are a fiver more. There are plenty of cheaper tyres out there though – Goodyear's Eagle F1s for example are £15 less, although a little heavier.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No – I'd get the non-SL version.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Some...
Use this box to explain your overall score
A good set of tyres. They're fast and grippy, but for a race-specific tyre they really should be quicker than GP5000s and it seems they're not. The non-SL version is the same price and should last longer thanks to thicker rubber and added puncture protection while not being much slower. Despite these being good tyres, I'd definitely choose the non-SL versions unless I was particularly worried about weight.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,