MXA PRODUCT TEST: PIRELLI EXTRA TIRES: Finally A Tire That Doesn’t Tire From The Braintrust At Pirelli

July 8, 2009
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WHAT IS IT? It’s a new tire from Pirelli designed to be their bread-and-butter offroad tire.

WHAT’S IT COST? $86.95 (front), $103.95 (110 rear), $90.95 (other).

CONTACT? or your local dealer.

WHAT’S IT DO? Pirelli’s line of off-road tires is straightforward and conveniently named for the terrain that each tire is designed to work best on. The line includes Soft, Mid-Soft, Mid-Hard and Hard. It may seem as if these tires would cover all the bases, but Pirelli knew that one of the biggest demands of the offroad market was for a durable tire with decent all-around performance.

Cost plays a major role in the buying plans of many consumers, and tires are no different. Although every racer wishes he could run the whiz-bang tires that James Stewart and Davi Millsaps use, he can’t live with the short life span of those special tires (or the price tag). Pirelli took a long hard look at some of the sport’s most successful tires and realized that tires with reputations for long life were big sellers (read Maxxis Maxxcross IT). They decided that they needed an offroad tire that offered similar durability at a reasonable price. Their goal was to make a long-lasting tire that was lighter and better performing than anything else in this category. So, the Pirelli eXTRa was born (at Pirelli’s Brazilian plant). We were happy to put some race time on the new eXTRa tires to see how they measure up.

WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the Pirelli eXTRa tire combo.

(1) Tread. Believe it or not, the tread pattern of the eXTRa is exactly the same as the Mid-Hard. That’s good news, because the Mid-Hard is an excellent tire that works well on a wide variety of terrain.

(2) Rubber compound. The Pirelli Mid-Hard and its high-end brethren utilize dual-rubber compounds to give the tire the appropriate gripping surface, sidewall strength and carcass properties. In the development of the eXTRa, Pirelli figured out how to construct the tire while using only the more durable rubber compound. It isn’t a dual-compund tire, but it uses the best rubber to make a less expensive and more durable sneaker.

(3) Weight. Rotating mass and unsprung weight are huge performance factors. We bring this up because value-priced tires tend to be hefty. The eXTRa is on par with the best in the business at 11.9 pounds (120 rear) and 8.15 pounds (front).

(4) Performance. We can live with this tire. The Pirelli eXTRa offers good traction on intermediate through loose hardpack terrain. As with all durable tires, the eXTRa works best in good soil as opposed to the extremes. This is most noticeable on concrete starting pads and in hard-packed turns. All in all, the eXTRa is effective and predictable. It doesn’t let go in a scary way, but loses traction with plenty of warning. For riders who ride on intermediate and loam tracks, this is a good tire. Hardpack, as always, puts greater demands on all but the specialty rubber.

(5) Durability. Skip the smoky burnouts on the starting line and the eXTRa will keep its knob edges for a very long time. The knob height/tread depth is very resilient, as the Mid-Hard tread pattern features deep knobs for transitions into soft terrain. If you are the type who looks at your tires and says, “Well, they’re good for one more ride,” you’ll be saying that for a long time with the eXTRa.

(6) Air pressure. We ran lower air pressure in the eXTRa than we did in the virtually identical-looking Mid-Hard. We felt that the stiffer sidewalls of the eXTRa worked better over square-edged bumps with a cushier feel.

WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? The tradeoff for the more durable rubber compound is that the tire has stiffer sidewalls and offers mediocre performance on rock-hard dirt. There are better Pirelli tires, but not longer lasting ones.

If you give priority to performance over durability, then you would favor the Mid-Hard over the eXTRa. If, however, you’re willing to give up a little performance in specific areas, the eXTRa is a good compromise tire on a dollar-per-lap basis.


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