Pirelli Diablo Rosso II | MC Tested

Road tires, racing technology

As sole tire supplier for the World Superbike series since 2004, Pirelli has learned some valuable lessons about developing sportbike radials. Supplying a spec tire that works equally well for seven different motorcycle brands-each with unique chassis designs, engine configurations and traction control strategies-has made the Italian manufacturer uniquely skilled at engineering tires that operate across a broad range of conditions and applications.

All that racing technology trickles down to Pirelli's premier Diablo lineup, which ranges from road tires to racing slicks. The Diablo Rosso has been one of our favorite pure streetbike tires since its 2008 release, so we were pleased to be the only US press attending world launch of the redesigned Diablo Rosso II at Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours, France, this spring.

The technical presentation featured more acronyms than a Pentagon security briefing. The Functional Groove Design (FGD) tread pattern uses new, longer sipes for better draining and increase surface contact. This, coupled with the high-silica/reactive polymer Extreme Cohesion Compound (ECC) center of the Bi-Compound (Bi-C) rear tread, is said to improve wet performance. Integrated Contour Shaping (ICS) and Enhanced Patch Technology (EPT)-sophisticated profile-mapping techniques developed for WSBK-maximize contact area at all lean angles for optimum stability and grip.

This alphabet soup results in a tire that's composed in any condition. Our daylong dynamic tire test started with a street ride on the country roads surrounding Magny-Cours, still wet from overnight rains. The Rosso II's slick edges combined with a torquey Kawasaki Ninja 1000 inspired anxiety, but we experienced nothing but excellent grip once underway. We swapped to an Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 for the return trip, specifically choosing a tall, wide-barred bike that's sensitive to steering inputs. Turn-in remained neutral with no tendency to oversteer-Pirelli's signature 0? degree steel belt structure, optimized by ICS and EPT, maintained stable, predictable steering characteristics across the carcass.

The weather was warm and dry when we returned to Circuit de Nevers for the afternoon track session. This is a flowing, very fast track with a thrilling, Parabolica-like bowl (T2) that leaves you on the edge of the tire for a long time. Compared to the Rosso, the Rosso II features a wider center rib and revised shoulders with a larger slick area and a stickier compound. We rode everything from a Ducati 848 to Honda CBR1000RR, but learned the most aboard Yamaha's R1. The muscular yet easy-to-manage Crossplane engine highlighted the exceptionally predictable behavior at the grip limit-spinning without sliding-that makes the Diablo Rosso II such a confidence-inspiring tire. And though it's advertised as a street tire, on-track durability impressed. A final, 25-lap endurance session on the rubber-munching BMW S1000RR revealed no appreciable grip degradation or excess wear.

Critics claim spec-tire rules kill innovation by quashing competition between tire brands, but satisfying the WSBK paddock has consistently improved Pirelli's sportbike tires. With outright performance rivaling the track-specific Diablo Rosso Corsa and enough versatility to handle wet, dirty French country roads, the Rosso II suggests race-bred technology continues to trickle down.

Pirelli Diablo Rosso II Tires
Contact: Pirelli
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Who needs race tires with street tires that grip this well and wear this long?

Pirelli's "My Tyre" program allows buyers in other countries to create personalized adhesive labels that can be applied to special sidewall recessions. Pirelli hopes to bring this program to America soon.
The Diablo Rosso II rear is a dual-compound design: The dark red center is formulated for mileage and wet grip; Racy-sounding "nude" (slick) shoulders deliver maximum traction in dry conditions.