Review: Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2
For a mega-miles review of the Pirelli Rossa Corsa 2, Jock takes his twistie-killing Speed Triple 765RS to the Vosges Mountains and Black Forest before heading over to the Alps.
I’ve been conflicted about how to start this review. I wanted to whinge about the complexity of the Diablo / Rosso / Corsa / 1,2,3 combinations used over their broad range. Discussing and comparing each of the tyres leads to tongue-twisting frustrations and genuine ‘fer fecks sake’ moments. I just wish they’d use numbers as Metzeler do, it seems so much easier.
And in truth that there is the worst of the complaints about these tyres, the Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2. (I think I’ve got that right…)
Lots of testing
This is the third set of Pirelli tyres to adorn my Street Triple 765RS. OEM were the superb but overkill SuperCorsa SP V2. More grip than any road rider will ever need in the dry, less grip than any road rider will need in the wet, once hot and in their narrow operating temperature, they are sublime. However you really need a track to get the best out of them, they are that capable.
Then came the more road based Diablo Corsa 3’s. I liked them. A really good all round sports road tyre that would easily survive a few track trips in the hands of novice and intermediate level riders, but would be left a little wanting in the hands of proper quick riders on well set up bikes in the fast group. But at least you could ride to the circuit and back in the rain at a decent pace without scaring yourself witless. On the road, they have a broader operating temperature than the SuperCorsa and really gave me no worries from the first mile to last around 3000miles later.
And now I’m sporting the new Rosso Corsa 2’s. I deliberately ignore official press videos, they tend to have a pro-rider/racer doing amazing things on the tyres in controlled conditions, then enthusing about the tyres as they nervously try to remember the script. ‘Better than before, comfortable, push limits, enjoyed my time on them, blah blah’, before trotting off to their sponsors well laid out lunch, the lucky bastards. (Be honest, we all wish we had their job).
So from an average old greying beardy bloke what’s the craic with them?* Well, they’re fucking good. Really fucking good.
*Ed: Old and greying, true. But for ‘average’ read former racer and track instructor.
These are touted as a significant step up on the ageing, original Rosso Corsa and, as before, pretty much a track tyre developed with road use in mind. Kind of like the bastard child of the SuperCorsa and Diablo Corsa 3’s, they sit with a more 50/50 mix of track and road. And they do a damn good job in both camps.
I’ve had them now for around 1500miles, using them primarily in France, Germany and Italy. A combination of loading the bike into my van for a biking holiday, some bike testing with Biker & Bike and some regular UK road use has me reaching for the tablet to record random musings.
Lots of technology
Black and round was how one friend quickly described them in an attempt to stop me waffling on about compounds and profiles to him. But when he saw the very visible compound differences his attitude changed. Here is a tyre that doesn’t hide its compounds, it wears them unashamedly for all to see. The triple compound on the rear expectedly goes from harder in the centre, softer on the shoulders, sticky toffee apple on the edges. And it’s the edge compound that really catches the eye. Based on an endurance slick compound, it’s this compound that you’ll notice both on and off the bike the most.
Realistically the front doesn’t need the harder centre, so they’ve dispensed with that and given it soft across the top and shoulders, nice and gooey on the front edges. It also creates that same visual distinction you get with the rear. It sure looks good if you’re in the game of ‘look at my tyres why don’t you’, though from a distance beware, the compound differences can be mistaken for a family bucket size of chicken strips to the uninitiated.
Lots of feel
From fecking stupidly dangerous thunderstorm rainfall in the Vosges, to 30C plus track-like roads in the Black Forest, I haven’t had one moment on them where I’ve thought the tyres would let me down. From cold tyres at the top of Col du Galibier to hot tyres knee down around the B500, they give feel, lots and lots of feel. It almost goes without saying, but they give more grip on the road than you might ever need. More importantly, it’s the feel that impresses the most. The tyres let you plan every turn, every change of direction, every flow you do with such light, predictable precision.
The front profile is obviously aimed at track or fast road riding with the tip in being that little bit quicker and more aggressive than more road-focused tyres. If you want to turn in late, then turn in late, the tyres won’t fight you. The bike goes from upright to knee down on the road as quick as you could ever reasonably need.
The rear is aimed at lean angle, plenty of it and is rock steady stable with acres of grip. Getting the power down when on that gooey soft edge compound results in a stupid grin and desire to just do more. On the right roads, with the right temps, it was confidence inspiring to be able to just get on the gas while dragging a knee. Being chased by a Biker & Bike staffer on a litre bike, around the wonderful forest roads that criss-cross the B500, it was the tyres that helped the 765RS get the jump out of every hairpin, helped the ease in which to change from one direction to another, helped zigzag through the shady ribbon of German tarmac on a hot, brilliant day. It’s days like this, on tyres that want more and more, that make biking the pleasure that it is.
Having a safety net of wider than track specific operating temperatures means you can get away with a bit of stop-start. No heat cycles to worry about, no need for tyre warmers, no need to worry that the tyres are good enough. Trust me, they are.
Lots of grip
One of the few criticisms I have of the new 765RS is the electronic intrusion in the Road and Sporty riding modes. I’m all for having an early intervention on the road, no one is ever going to complain about a bike’s whizzy bits preventing a high side. But when full gas on bumpy roads brings enough intervention to slow the finely planned / last second decision to overtake the bumbling ‘40mph wherever they drive, regardless of the posted limit’ tossers in bland, samey fucking cars, it can range from annoying to ‘oh fuck, this will be closer than planned’. To avoid it I shape my personal Rider mode choice to have Track throttle response and traction control with Road ABS. This allows better, consistent drive with the occasional bit of slip from the rear, but with nice early intervention when my right fingers are squeezing the brake lever a little too hard on looser, bumpier-than-I’d-like surfaces.
However, and it only came to me last week on a particularly rare but bumpy bit of road on the way to Col D’Izoard, but the grip levels with these tyres are such that until that point I’d not had the TC come on once. Well not until I found myself on some hot and slippy overbanding that is common in the mountains. It’s kind of a tar-like filler to seal the roads after winter temperatures crack the tarmac. Catch this stuff at the wrong angle, speed or throttle opening and you’ll soon know about it. However, a quick shimmy, slight drop in power from the TC intervention, enough to tell me I really ought to be opening the throttle this hard somewhere else, and off we went, onwards luckily, chasing after the local S1000RR HP4 with petite pillion on board, showing me the way to the top of the mountain.
Any negatives? Not as such. I trail brake, can’t help myself, just a thing I do and can’t get out of. These tyres love that though. Load the front, run it into the apex and it’ll give you stability, confidence and no surprises as you finally release the last of the brakes. However, I did find if I trail braked slower than normal, more noticeable when filming some friends taking it easy on a mountain road they didn’t know, the front had a tendency to drop in a little quicker than the pace you were running at. Going into downhill hairpins it was most noticeable but, ironically, up the pace, brake a little later, load the front a bit more, and the sensation disappears. That’s what you get with a more track-focused tyre.
These are not going to rival a Roadtec 01 on a cold rainy night in Stoke, but they did a grand job when Noah was rushing to grab his umbrella in the Vosges region. My satnav said only eight minutes to the Gite, but every single inch of me was wet to the bone by the time we got to back. Thankfully no squeaky bum moments from the tyres in the monsoon conditions, but to be fair when it gets that wet, that quickly, only a fool would try to gun it home.
Not so many competitors
The obvious rivals in this marketplace are the Michelin Power RS and Dunlop Sportsmart TT. Not a broad choice but then again there are so many great all-rounders to cover occasional track riding and secure road riding, as well as a superb choice of track specific tyres these days, that it’s an interesting niche these tyres have created.
Like motorcycles, tyres have developed an identity of their own. Long gone are the days of just buying a set of tyres and getting on with it. And lord forbid you buy the wrong tread pattern, that wouldn’t do at the local bike meet.
For lots of riders
So who are these ‘niche’ tyres for? Well truthfully you as a rider need to be honest, maybe more honest than before cos tyres ain’t all that cheap these days. Buy tyres that really aren’t suited to your use and you could be spending more money than you need on tyres you won’t make the best use of, whether that be a track rider, weekend warrior or a commuter.
These tyres will set you back roughly £290 (see offer at the end), give or take and certainly won’t last as long as a dedicated sports touring tyre such as the Metzeler Roadtec 01 if all you do is ride on roads. (A hot track would lunch an 01 in no time).
If money is no object and having the latest hot poop is your thing, regardless of your skill level, or perhaps lack of, then these are a brilliant choice for bike meet posing. If money is an object and hot poop and farkles can be left to the power rangers and adventure bike geeks, then perhaps you might want to look a little down the Pirelli range at something affordable and most likely a great road tyre for your needs.
If you’re like me, a bit of a dick, you might find these tyres are what you’re after.
Kneedown on the road like it’s all you live for? Dick, these may suit you.
Ride like the road is a racetrack? Dick, these may suit you.
Ride with a Polite Vest, white lid and straight back? Dick, these may not suit you.
Commute in all weathers? Hero, these may not suit you.
Ride to track days for fun, not lap times? Good for you, thank fuck some people still do that, these may well suit you.
Ride fast on the road where conditions if not strictly the law permits, but not like a dick around traffic cos life is too short for extra risks on top of the normal ones? Ride on Euro roads which are a bazillion times better than the UK ones? Nice one, these may suit you. They did me.
Get yourself sorted:
Until the end of August 2018, Pirelli is giving away £30 of Love To Shop vouchers with selected tyres, including the Rosso Corsa 2.