- Published: Friday, 07 April 2017 17:13
The Pirelli Diablo Rosso III shows Italy can make a superb sport tyre for Singapore’s tropic/catastrophic tarmac
SINGAPORE - Traditional thinking used to mean that going the Japanese route spells for predictable, everyday performance and bang for the buck. If you want excitement and snarl, go for something Italian - but be prepared to make some compromises and to pay a little extra.
It’s a mentality that extends to cars, bikes and even tyres. But tyre manufacturer Pirelli proves that you don’t have to do much of the dreaded c-word, at least when it comes to the company’s latest sporty road tyre, the Diablo Rosso III.
New Diablo Rosso III on the left replaces the Diablo Rosso II on the right
We’ve already explained the positioning of ‘sport road’ tyres in our Bridgestone S21 review - handy, as the two are direct competitors - and in a nutshell, the Rosso III is the tyre for people who want high-performance road rubber that facilitates fast riding and the occasional scraping of the knee pucks on track too.
As the name suggests, the tyre replaces the Rosso II, which had a reputation as a decent but not outstanding set of rubber. This time round, Pirelli has brought every weapon it has to the rubber fight. Pierangelo Misani, Pirelli’s R&D head says, “The performance chart (hasn’t been widened), it has been exploded!”.
The tyre's grip and longevity impressed us at its product debut in Sepang last year
We tested the Rosso III at its track launch at Sepang last year and came away impressed. Again, we covered most of the new developments of the tyres in that story, but in summary: A new compound which sees improvements in mixing technology, a dual-compound layout, stiffer construction, a taller and wider profile, improved lean angle, improved tread pattern.
That track session proved an accurate prelude to the behaviour of the Rosso III on Singapore’s roads. We fitted a pair of 120/70 front and 190/55 rear at retailer Hodaka Motoworld to our MotoBuyer test mule, the MV Agusta Brutale 1090 RR.
New tyres always perform better than used ones, obviously, but it’s worth mentioning that the Rosso III really transformed the riding experience with the MV over the old set of rubber, which were ageing Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa BSB, a less expensive variant of the popular Diablo Supercorsa model.
Some negative traits could be attributed to the older tyres, including harsh ride quality and the inability to absorb bumps progressively, and they were quickly erased by the new Rosso IIIs. We often forget what a huge difference a fresh set of rubber can make, and new ‘aftermarket’ tyres will always perform better than OE rubber that comes with a new bike from the factory too.
Wet weather performance for the Rosso II was often a negative point - not so with the new Rosso III
While the new crown profile of the Rosso III claims to be even sharper than before, for quicker turning, the low-speed maneuverability is excellent, thank to them deliving admirable stability, allowing for easy lane-splitting and carpark navigation.
In fact, stability seems to be a key plus point for the tyre, not something you’d expect from racy Italian rubber, but something that allows increased accessibility of bike performance by a wider spectrum of riders. It's something often understated in terms of importance, given it's vital even in the top levels of racing.
One of our favourite characteristics of the Rosso III was its predictability and stability even while turning at high speed. Given the largely urban context of usage, there was no chance to test the tyres at extreme angles of lean, naturally, but there’s plenty of feedback such that you can ride as you wish and where you want without fear of it wandering.
For example, in a left-handed turn on a highway where you want the bike closer to the right for better visibility, tyres with less direct feedback encourage you to keep left, or away from the barriers. The Rosso IIIs allow you to place the bike confidently and even tackle mid-corner bumps at high speed with no drama - the direct opposite of our old set of rubber, which induced sphincter-clenching wobbles in those situations.
The rate of turn is not super-quick, although the profile might imply the contrary, but this is of limited use in a street setting, and as tested on track the tyres have no issues with slow turning either.
Where Pirelli has really pushed the envelope, we feel, is in wet weather performance. The Rosso IIs were a decent tyre, but not good when things got damp, in contrast to Bridgestone’s offerings since the BT-016. Now though, the Rosso IIIs offer plenty of feedback and the ‘nailed down’ feeling which can allow you to ride just as quickly when it’s wet, if you so wish.
A photo from the 2016 track launch of the rear Rosso III on a BMW S 1000 RR after four hours at Sepang. Impressive
One other characteristic of the Rosso III we noticed at Sepang was its longevity - it looked pretty lightly used after 16 sessions and a whole day at the track. That could have been due to the new tarmac, but our test set, used over 2,600km on Singapore’s roads, have very little signs of wear in both compound and tread, though of course we didn't attend any track days with them.
The only big compromise here is the same as noted with the Bridgestone S21 - like other sport-biased rubber with a stiffer carcass construction - is that bumps are quite evident. It’s never followed by a loss of control and is, in any case, far superior ride quality to a set of older tyres of any sort with an aged, hardened compound.
Here's our rear Rosso III after 2,500km of regular road use - it's got plenty of life left in it and confirms the suspicion that the Rosso IIIs are very long-wearing tyres
The Rosso IIIs are still Pirellis in that they’re priced with a premium, but given the overall performance as well as increased longevity of the tyre, in our opinion the Rosso III offers a fantastic mix of sporty all-weather performance with increased durability that offsets the higher pricetag.
The Pirelli Diablo Rosso III is available at Hodaka Motoworld and other authorised Pirelli dealers in the usual range of sizes, prices range from $320 to $420 sans fitting.