Tyres are essential for the performance of any motorcycle, that cannot be denied. A rider’s safety as well as enjoyment of the ride depends a lot on the tyres fitted to the motorcycle and Pirelli has now entered the small bike market with premium rubber in the form of the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Sport.

While the small bike market – we’re talking about motorcycles in the 400 cc and below segment here – tends to lean towards the longevity over grip side of things, premium rubber has always been available. Pirelli, with their expertise in sports rubber for high-powered motorcycles, now has the Diablo Rosso Sport in small displacement motorcycle sizes.

This means riders from kapchais up to middleweight sports bikes can now avail themselves of the same rubber superbike riders use. The benefit is, of course, the grip Pirelli is renowned for at the top levels of motorcycle competition made available to small bike riders who want that sort of performance.

To this end, Pirelli invited paultan.org to Buriram Circuit, Thailand, for a tyre test of the new Diablo Rosso Sport. For the one-day test, a range of motorcycles was provided, from 300 cc downwards, covering sports bikes, naked sports and kapchais from various manufacturers.

There were two segments to the test, a track session with a variety of motorcycles ranging from 150 cc, such as the Yamaha MT-15 and a selection of 300s, including the BMW Motorrad G 310 R, Yamaha YZF-R3 and MT-3 along with the Honda CBR300R. The second part was a slalom test with underbone motorcycles fitted with Rosso Sport tyres using bikes such as the Yamaha Y15ZR V2.

When we were briefed about the new Rosso Sport by Pirelli, the first thing that caught our attention was the words “bias-ply.” It is accepted, in this day and age, that radial motorcycle tyres are superior in high speed performance, handling and heat management, but bias-ply construction still has a place, notably in the heavy cruiser and big touring bike market, as well as off-roaders who need to run tubes in their tyres.

Thus, what we have with the Rosso Sport is a bias-ply tyre carcass, shod in two different compounds and a tread pattern lifted off the Pirelli Super Corsa race/sports tyre. The compounds are divided into the underbone or kapchai tyre, which features a balanced ratio of rubber and silica for fast warm up while the compound for the bigger tyres, above 100 mm in width, comes with up to 30% silica in the mix for better wet weather grip.

Above this, water dispersion for the Rosso Sport is close to that of the Pirelli Angel CiTy scooter tyre, something we find notable for what is ostensibly a tyre for fast road riding in the smaller classes. Sidewall construction and carcass lay up is also intended to provide homogeneous wear and reduced compound stress, giving better wear and mileage.

That is the technical brief from Pirelli, but what is the Rosso Sport like to ride? Starting off, we took the Rosso Sport for a spin around Buriram on the Honda CBR300R, in a group of six riders on various bikes.

The first thing we noted was the straight line stability of the Rosso Sport. Considering the author is about half the weight of the bike, the Rosso Sport tracked true and there was no hint of nervousness or wandering, even at full throttle and tucked in over the fuel tank.

Coming into corners, we tried different braking styles – single, two-fingered and full hand – to see if the front would wash out or show signs of the sidewall of locking the front suspension rigid. None of this happened, and diving into the corner with lots of body language did nothing to upset the bike’s handling.

Even mid-corner course corrections would show a touch of wobble as the rider’s body weight shifted and then things settled down quickly. Drive out of the corners was confidence inspiring and the author was, by the end of the morning’s session, only using the rear brake a touch to settle the suspension while diving in before charging out on full throttle.

Switching bikes between sessions, we took the Yamaha MT-15 out, wanting to see if a lighter, slower bike changed things any. What we found was with the 100 km/h or so average speed we were taking the circuit at, we just kept the throttle pinned and stayed off the brakes, trusting the Rosso Sport to carry the corner speed.

Which it did, with aplomb and no signs of being upset. The lean angle stayed stable through the turn and the suspension did give that hint of wallow, but that was a sign the tyre was doing its job and more damping was required, especially for the author’s plus-size.

Coming to the slalom course where a variety of kapchais and scooters were standing ready for us, riders were briefed on the proper fast and tight cornering technique to safely navigate the course. Scooting off, we were surprised to the the lean angles achievable on semi-smooth concrete with the Rosso Sport.

To be fair, the day was hot and the concrete was baking but the level of grip available was not far short of amazing, especially when we were coached as to where to place our body weight for maximum effect. On a side note, Pirelli arranged for some of the motorcycles on the day to be fitted with a prototype tyre for small bikes based on the Rosso Corsa compound and construction.

Designed for the more competitive small displacement motorcycle rider, the prototype tyre is scheduled to hit the market “maybe some time next year.” Riding the prototype, we found that it had a lot more grip when leaned over than the Rosso Sport, and handled being treated aggressively well.

However, we noted an instance when we braked hard enough to completely compress the sidewall coming into the final corner, with the bike not wanting to turn in, repeating the event on the next lap. To Pirelli’s credit, our feedback was taken on board immediately and the test rider took the bike we were riding out on the track, confirming our findings.

Pricing for the 2019 Pirelli Rosso Sport starts at a recommended retail price of RM100 for the 70/90-17 size, increasing in size up to the 120/70-17 going for RM265. For rear tyres, pricing starts at RM275 for the 130/70-17, with the 140/70-17 and 150/70-17 retailing at a recommended price of RM305 and RM330, respectively.