Worth the Wait: Pirelli Cinturato

As new technologies go, tubeless tires didn’t have what I’d call the smoothest rollout. For mountain bikes, the improvement was apparent, even if setup wasn’t always easy. Suffering a puncture didn’t automatically stopping to change tubes.

However, with road bikes, the liabilities seemed to outweigh the benefits: The tires were much harder to mount than typical folding clinchers; inflating the tires, once mounted, was more difficult than trying to blow up a hot air balloon with your breath; then there was the fact that the sealant often failed to seal a puncture.

Not exactly what I’d call a marketing plan.

So what’s changed in the last few years?

Some of the credit goes to rim manufacturers for figuring out better shaping so that there is a deep central channel to make getting the tire onto the rim a good deal easier. The shape of the channel as it rises to the bead lock has been changed so that the initial burst of air meant to seat the tire doesn’t just rush out of that channel.

Some of the credit also goes to tire manufacturers for constructing their tires to tighter tolerances and making the squared-off profile of the tire bead more precise.

The upshot is that when I went to mount these tires on a set of Zipp 30s, both tires seated on the first try with 100 lbs. of pressure in the chamber of my pump. Yes, there was some bubbling of sealant, but prior to this, in ever instance where I’ve seated a tire narrower than 32mm, I’ve needed to visit a neighborhood shop so they could hit it with a compressor.

I’m riding the 28mm width of this tire, so I can’t speak to how the 24mm- or 26mm-wide versions seat. Which brings me to another detail: in addition to the 24, 26 and 28mm versions, Pirelli also offers 32 and 35mm versions of the tire. All the different sizes retail for $70.

According to Pirelli, the Cinturato is a puncture-resistant and long-wearing tire that will increase a rider’s comfort at a given tire pressure. The rolling resistance isn’t as good as Pirelli’s P Zero racing tires, but that’s to be expected any time a manufacturer includes a puncture-resistant layer. In the case of the Cinturato, Pirelli includes their Breaker aramid belt which extends the width of the tread, while another high-density nylon belt runs the entire width of the tire, from bead to bead. If that seems like overkill, consider that they bill this tire as good for gravel riding. I’d give it a try for exactly that if only they offered a 38.

There’s a bike path I ride multiple times a week here in town. It is something of a gathering place for locals with no fixed address. Broken glass tends to accompany them and there have been any number of times that I’ve rolled through the stuff on the way home for the simple reason that it wasn’t there on the way out. I think back on the sorts of things that could filet an open tubular and I wonder how many tubes (and maybe tires) I’d have gone through just in the last month. The alternative would have been to get off, pick the bike up and walk 12 feet before remounting; the glass at times is so uniformly spread that there really isn’t any risk-free path through.

I’ve yet to dig any glass out of the Cinturatos in post-ride inspections, and it may be that simply having a tread that doesn’t cut easily, so that glass can’t get worked into the tread so that it can worm its way through the casing, is the most important part of flat prevention.

Talking about cornering on a tubeless tire that is 28mm wide and pumped up to 75 psi after having spend a lifetime (seemingly) riding 23mm tires pumped up to more than 100 psi is a strange endeavor. While I have an inventory of all the different times I slid either a front or rear wheel (and the marks to show for each time I didn’t keep the bike upright), I’ve only slid this tire while actually riding gravel and only nominally at that. But on asphalt? Unless it’s wet, I can’t see ever breaking this tire free.

Final thought: Ima be buying fewer tubes in the future.

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  1. alanm9 says

    Tubeless; still nope.

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