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This is the latest version of the Pirelli P Zero Race TLR, a tyre that Pirelli claims is a massive 24% smoother than its predecessor while also reducing the risk of punctures. Those are some big claims, and while difficult to prove away from the lab, they certainly feel impressive out on the open road. The only problem is that the performance isn't the only thing that has risen by a large percentage, the price has also been inflated by quite a degree...
If you're looking for other tyre options, check out our best road bike tyres buyer's guide.
I last reviewed the P Zero Race TLR in 2020 and was impressed – and I clearly wasn't the only one. The amount of brands that send in their high-end race bikes fitted with these tyres shows their wide-ranging appeal alongside the likes of the Continental GP5000 and Schwalbe's One.
That 24% increase in smoothness has been recorded in-house by Pirelli testing the old and the new versions in a 28mm size. I've also been running them both side by side – not a perfectly scientific test as the old tyre is 26mm, the new one 28mm, but I've tried to balance the pressures to make it as accurate as possible. And I'd definitely say the latest version is more comfortable on dimpled, broken sections of tarmac – and that's really saying something, as I was very impressed with the previous model.
That's because the biggest change to these new P Zeros is in the casing, creating a very supple tyre that can roll through the rough sections even at the higher tyre pressures I prefer.
Early tubeless tyres didn't have a lot of feel to them when compared to something like an open tubular with a high thread count of around 300 TPI (threads per inch). Take a look at Jamie's review of the Challenge Criterium RS Handmade TR tyres if you want to know more about this.
But tubeless tyres have improved over the years, with many now giving a ride quality similar to that of standard clinchers, especially at higher price points. These Pirellis take it to the next level though, exceeding their comparatively modest 120 TPI count.
Pirelli calls the casing SpeedCORE and, for the moment at least, Pirelli is only using it on this Race TLR tyre.
Pirelli says that it's a unique design, which adds an aramid layer within the tyre's rubber, giving a more supple feel than the more common separate bead-to-bead aramid layer. You then get the nylon casing layers for added puncture protection.
I can't vouch for the effectiveness of SpeedCORE against punctures, as I tend to suffer very few punctures and, true to form, I suffered none during the review period.
Greater suppleness from a tyre also makes for greater speed, as the tyre spends more time in contact with the ground on rough road surfaces. We're not talking night and day differences here, but it's a subtle improvement over the earlier tyre, and one that's definitely beneficial if you like a lot of feedback from the road.
Pirelli has stuck with the SmartEVO rubber compound, which I feel is a good thing. It's not as tacky to the touch as some tyres, but out on the road the grip is very good in both wet and dry riding conditions.
Their rolling resistance feels low, which in the real world makes them both fast and responsive.
The TLR logo highlights the fact these are tubeless, and I found them simple to set them up. The sidewalls don't leak sealant when they're first inflated, and once I'd done a quick five-mile loop to make sure everything was seated correctly and to fling the sealant around, they required little in the way of pressure top-ups.
So, it's all good news then, is it? Well, apart from the elephant in the room that is the price. These cost £78.99 each, which equates to £157.98 a pair, which is how most of us would use them...
But their performance is awesome, and close enough to justify buying over the £90 Challenge Criteriums I mentioned earlier.
The Continental Grand Prix 5000 AS TR tyres that I reviewed, the newest version of its GP5000s, are even more expensive at £89.95, so the price of the Pirellis isn't out of kilter with some of their competitors.
Steve liked the Panaracer Agilest TLR road tyres which are light and fast – plus tough enough for winter roads. In a 28mm size they are about 60g lighter than the Pirellis too, 245g vs 305g, and they cost just £59.99.
From a performance point of view Pirelli's P Zero Race tyres are awesome – fast, grippy and with a beautiful ride quality. They've a high price tag though, and there are less expensive alternatives out there that offer very similar performances.
Excellent ride quality, suppleness and grip – but these Pirellis are pretty pricey
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pirelli P ZERO Race TLR (Made in Italy)
Size tested: 700x28C
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: "P ZERO Race TLR: designed for Performance, Speed and Grip. The SpeedCORE carcass is a thin airtight later of rubber compound with aramid particles that covers the internal part of the tyre. This construction allows greater flexibility of the rubber compound, creating a faster and more supple tyre with reduced rolling resistance, whilst the use of aramid allows for better puncture resistance. A 120tpi nylon fabric with an additional anti-puncture aramid breaker completes the carcass. The tread pattern uses the most advanced Pirelli SmartEVO compound for the highest level of performance. All these special features of the P ZERO Race TLR are skilfully crafted in Italy providing unique quality and superior performance. P ZERO Race TLR is designed for Performance applications during Spring, Summer and Autumn seasons."
A great performing road tyre, one of the best out there but for a price.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Compound: SmartEVO compound is the latest generation blend of smart polymers to provide maximum grip with a low rolling resistance allowing for maximum speed and control.
Casing: 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.
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.
Made in Italy
Sizes: 26mm, 28mm, 30mm
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A great road tyre in terms of ride, grip and rolling resistance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Their very supple road feel.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
At a smidge under £80 these are very expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are not to dissimilar to the latest offering from Continental, or the Criterium tyres mentioned in the review, but there are many high-performance tyres that cost less, such as the Panaracers also mentioned.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if they were discounted.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They are hard to fault in terms of performance and they are easy to set up – but it's a lot of money for the marginal gains.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!