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The Pirelli P Zero Race TLR 4S tyres are excellent all-rounders that'll cope with winter conditions and feel fast and grippy on long summer rides too.
Our best road bike tyres buyer's guide covers our top rubber choices from under £30 to £80.
Pirelli is keen to paint the P Zero TLR 4S as some kind of diamond-encrusted unicorn of a tyre in its blurb. 'The P Zero Race 4S TLR is our first ever year-long racing tyre with a tubeless technology able to provide high grip in all kinds of weather and offers increased puncture protection, whilst still maintaining the racing feeling characteristic of our P Zero Race range'. So: it's a year-round tyre with winter levels of grip and puncture resistance and summer levels of fast for racing. Sounds good, right?
This tyre is one of the new batch of Pirelli cycling tyres that the Italian company has moved in house; where before the P Zeros were made in France or China depending on the build, now they're coming out of Pirelli's own Italian facility. The tyres use Pirelli's SpeedCORE™ construction, which is a 120TPI casing with a bead-to-bead aramid inner layer, plus another aramid layer under the tread for better puncture resistance. On top of that there's a tread made from SmartNET™ compound (more on that later).
You can have this more burly 4S build in 25mm, 28mm and 30mm widths; our 30mm test tyres weighted in at 380g an end, which isn't especially light but is lighter than the 395g that Pirelli claims.
They're hookless compatible for the bigger two sizes, and tubeless ready. I set them up tubeless on three different rims with just a track pump. Which was nice. They hold air pretty well too, better than most tubeless tyres, though not as well as a butyl tube.
And what are they like to ride? Well, back about a million years ago (well, 2009), Jo described some Conti tyres as having a 'reassuring gummy lean' when turned over into corner, a phrase that has for whatever reason stuck with me all these years. Anyway, these P-Zeros are that. They never scrabble or stutter, they're just planted and they grip like crazy. The slightly wider 30mm carcass and the correspondingly lower pressure is helping I'm sure, but mostly this is about the compound which is among the very best I've tried for grip in all conditions.
Stand up on a steep gritty back lane climb and you might expect a tyre to chatter and complain a bit, and even slip out on a greasy section, but these tyres never have. Not even once. On a dry downhill corner on nice tarmac the level of grip is astonishing: At some point they'd give out but it's a point well above what my handling skills and attitude to risk would ever allow me to approach.
What's the secret? Well, Pirelli says that its SmartNET™ Silica compound 'features microscopic rod-shaped particles, that are arranged systematically, rather than chaotically' and that 'the wide surface of the silica rod molecules enhances its natural water affinity, delivering confident handling in wet conditions.'
So anyway, there's all that. Whatever they've done it works, because grip is right up there. We don't empirically test things like grip and puncture resistance but Bicycle Rolling Resistance does, and its results for the non-four-season version of this tyre with the same tread compound put wet grip and puncture resistance up near the top. And this 4S tyre has a hardier casing, so it should be even better at shrugging off flats.
In the 1,500km I've done so far on the tyres the puncture count is holding steady at zero. Looking at the tread there are a few places where it looks like a thorn or other sharp might have had a go, but I've never noticed any loss of pressure on a ride. And that amount of riding has made a negligible difference to the tread: you can just about see the back tyre starting to smooth along the centre line now, but the front is as good as new. There's no 'tread' to speak of on the centre line of the tyre but it is a textured finish out of the mould and that's still there.
These tyres feel pretty fast for a big slick. Again, rig data from BRR puts the non-4S tyre a lot nearer the top than the bottom in that regard. This four-season build has more material in it and won't be quite as efficient as the lighter summer tyre, but even so they nip along just fine.
The first big ride I did on the P Zeros was a 400km audax across the flatlands of Suffolk and Essex, and they were a perfect choice for that: efficient-feeling with enough air chamber to knock the edge off rough bits and bad line choices when you're tired, and it's dark.
I swapped out some bigger Schwalbe G-One Allrounds – which I don't think are as good as they used to be in terms of rolling – and the difference was immediately noticeable. Pirelli says that its SmartNET™ Silica technology 'delivers high rolling efficiency, thanks to its natural anisotropic orientation, which reduces heating while increasing elasticity, to help minimise energy dissipation.'
Overall, they've been excellent. And I guess for £80 an end you should be expecting that: these P Zeros are up amongst the more expensive offerings out there. Stu was impressed with the Conti equivalent, the GP5000 AS TR, which is £90 per tyre and performance overall is on a par.
George rated the excellent Michelin Power Cup, which comes in a 30mm width and is £15 less than the Pirelli, although it's a lighter build. The Vittoria Corsa N:EXT costs about the same and Aaron described it as fast, grippy and puncture resistant.
Would I buy them? Well, not as a race tyre, because the non-4S version – and the competitor tyres – are hardy enough for that already, and the 4S is a bit heavy. As a fit-and-forget tyre for year-round use on a fairly fast bike, though, they're definitely a good investment. You're not losing out much in terms of speed, and you're gaining a bit of extra durability. And the level of grip you get is certainly right up there with the best.
Really good fit-and-forget tyres for fast riding year round
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pirelli P Zero Race TLR 4S
Size tested: 700x30C
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?
The PZERO Race 4S TLR is our first ever year-long racing tyre with a tubeless technology able to provide high grip in all kinds of weather and offers increased puncture protection, whilst still maintaining the racing feeling characteristic of our PZERO Race range. This result has been achieved thanks to the SPEEDCORE™ tubeless technology, our latest evolution in terms of casing constructions, and the SMARTNET™ Silica which holds the best formulation for wet and chemical grip among our compounds. As with the rest of the PZERO Race range, the PZERO Race 4S TLR is made in Italy in our dedicated Bollate factory.
Pirelli SmartNET™ Silica technology delivers high rolling efficiency, thanks to its natural anisotropic orientation, which reduces heating while increasing elasticity, to help minimise energy dissipation.
Enjoy highly reliable wet grip. The wide surface of the silica rod molecules enhances its natural water affinity, delivering confident handling in wet conditions.
Puncture resistance and extensive mileage. Pirelli's SmartNET™ Silica compound features microscopic rod-shaped particles, that are arranged systematically, rather than chaotically, creating a strong, long-lasting tyre.
The highest-performing tubeless-ready road casing in our range, with a unique design that adds an aramid band within the tyre's rubber layer. This new structure adds strength and support to the tyre casing but retains a supple feel for minimal rolling resistance and maximum grip, compared to a tyre with a full bead-to-bead aramid construction. The tyre also features a 120tpi nylon casing for added puncture protection and maximum security.
SPEEDCORE™ is a new patent-pending technology used in the construction of PZERO Race models with tubeless technology, the choice of the World Tour Factory Teams. SpeedCORE™ is a cutting edge TLR casing technology with an inner layer of aramid compound plus an aramid breaker providing fast yet very comfortable riding.
SmartNET™ Silica compound is the latest generation blend of smart polymers to provide maximum grip with a low rolling resistance allowing for maximum speed and control. 4 Season handling performance and enhanced grip in wet conditions
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Made in Italy
Weight: 26, 28, 30mm / 330, 365, 395g
Hookless compatibility - Sizes 26-622 and below are not compatible with hookless rims - Sizes 28-622 and above are compatible with hookless rims subject to ETRTO 5bar/73psi max pressure limitation.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, a great all-year tyre.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Exceptional grip, good puncture protection, easy to set up tubeless.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive, on the heavy side.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At the top end but not the most expensive out there, quite a lot of very good tyres are a fair bit cheaper though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall: very good. The performance levels are up there with the best, and if you're spending £160 on a set of tyres you'd expect that. These aren't really for racing even if Pirelli claims they are, but for year-round quick riding and training they're a solid choice.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.