Pirelli Diablo Rosso II Tires | MC Tested

As the spec tire supplier for the World Superbike Championship since 2004, Pirelli has learned some valuable lessons about developing sportbike radials. Supplying a single set of tires that works equally well on seven different motorcycle brands—each with a unique chassis design, engine configuration and traction-control strategy—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 street tires to roadracing slicks. The Diablo Rosso has been one of our favorite street/sport tires since its ’08 release, so we were pleased to be the only U.S. magazine invited to the world launch of the redesigned Diablo Rosso II at Magny-Cours, France, this past 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 increased 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-weather performance. Integrated Contour Shaping (ICS) and Enhanced Patch Technology (EPT)—sophisticated profile-mapping techniques developed for SBK—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 day-long test started with a street ride on the country roads surrounding Magny-Cours, still wet from overnight rains. The Rosso IIs’ 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 zero-degree steel-belt structure, optimized by ICS and EPT, rewarded us with stable, predictable steering characteristics across the carcass.

The weather was warm and dry for our afternoon track session. The Circuit de Nevers is a very fast, flowing racetrack with a thrilling, Parabolica-like bowl that leaves you on the edges of your tires for a long time. Compared to the Rossos, the Rosso IIs feature a wider center rib and revised shoulders with a larger slick area and a stickier compound. We rode everything from a Ducati 848 to a Honda CBR1000RR, but learned the most aboard a Yamaha YZF-R1. Its muscular yet easy-to-manage Crossplane engine highlighted the exceptionally predictable behavior at the limit—spinning without sliding—that makes the Rosso IIs so confidence-inspiring. And although they’re advertised as street tires, on-track durability impressed. A final, 25-lap endurance session on the rubber-munching BMW S1000RR revealed no appreciable degradation in grip or excessive wear.

Critics claim spec-tire rules kill innovation by quashing competition between tire brands, but satisfying the SBK paddock has consistently improved Pirelli’s sportbike offerings. With outright performance rivaling the track-specific Diablo Rosso Corsas and enough versatility to handle wet, dirty country roads, the Diablo Rosso IIs suggest race-bred technology continues to trickle down.

Pirelli Diablo Rosso II__ Tires
Price: $159-$167 front, $196-$260 rear
Contact: Pirelli
Verdict 4½ out of 5 stars.

Who needs race tires with street tires that grip this well?

Pirelli’s “My Tyre” program allows buyers to create personalized labels that can be applied to special sidewall recesses. The Italian company hopes to bring this program to America soon.
The rear Diablo Rosso II uses dual compounds: The dark-red center is formulated for mileage and wet grip, while the “nude” (slick) shoulders deliver maximum traction in dry conditions.