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Pirelli may not be the most popular tire in the AMA Supercross/Motocross paddock, but one look around the MXGP circuit and you will see more Pirelli tires than any other brand. I tested the Pirelli MX32 MId-Soft back in early 2018, but since then, the MX32 Mid-Soft tires are said to have an improved spec, so I grabbed a couple to test for a few weeks. While I don’t have much information on what was improved or why, I did get confirmation that all of the old MX32 Mid-Soft spec tires have been out of circulation for a while. This was a concern to me as I thought some may still be floating around, but I was reassured that if a consumer purchases any Pirelli MX32 Mid-Soft tires, you will in fact be getting the updated versions. Pirelli also noted that they have dropped their pricing down on all their motocross tires $5.00-$15.00. They even have a “MX Extra” tire that has a price reduction of $50.00 a set.
Once out on the track I quickly found out that one of the first things that impressed me the most was that the Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid Soft’s carcass gives the rider a blend of comfort and control on choppy/square edge terrain. I am usually on Dunlops around these Southern California test track, so I am very familiar on what these test bikes feel like when they get rough. When the track does get rougher, the Pirelli MX 32 Mid-Soft rear tire (120/80-19) gives more cushion than the Dunlop I have been riding on lately. The Pirelli carcass acts like another piece of your bike’s suspension and can really help a rigid feeling chassis become slightly better on choppy terrain. It impressed me so much that I tried it on a 2020 Honda CRF450R and it gave me less of a harsh feel. To me that was impressive on this machine, because the Honda needs more comfort and the MX32’s carcass did just that.
Pirelli also offers a 120/90-19 size rear tire as well that was even better on square edge cushion feel, but the 120/90-19 also puts more weight on the front end of the machine, which increases front-end steering, but negatively affects the ride height. If you do decide to go with the 120/90-19 and feel like your rear end is too high after installation, I do recommend dropping your sag 1-2mm to prevent a high feeling rear end on de-cel (stink bug).
The Pirelli MX32 Mid-Soft rear tire offers great traction on soft/intermediate terrain through ruts and coming out of soft corners. The MX32 works well under lean angle and that lean angle traction is one of Pirelli’s rear tire strong suits, as the rider is able to get on the throttle sooner (while leaning) without washing out. The contact patch that I get with a Pirelli at Glen Helen is unmatched. I feel like my lean angle is more controlled and that sudden line changes are easier with the Pirelli. When riding you want the largest “feeling” contact patchiest you can find from a tire and Pirelli has done this well with the MX 32 Mid-Soft.
Not only do you have a more controlled lean angle, but you are also able to start your lean sooner (compared to a MX33). Braking predictability gives the rider confidence to pivot and throttle out of flat corners without much hesitation. If you’re a predominately front end steering rider the Scorpion MX32 rear tire will provide you with less sliding ability and let you steer with the front tire more than the rear. If you’re a rear end steering rider that likes to drift the back end around, this tire may not suit you as much as a Dunlop MX33/53. The only complaint I had is when the track surface was on the harder side, I could feel the side of the tire carcass roll when accelerating from flat corners. This gives me a pushing or loose feeling rear end that caused me to be more less aggressive with my throttle hand. To combat some of this it’s very important to run the correct air pressure (between 13.5-14.5 psi) for the Pirelli’s softer style carcass. I noticed that when the Pirelli tire gets half worn, the performance isn’t as good if you don’t pay attention to the tire pressure. When the tire gets worn, going to 14.5-15 psi helps the structure of the carcass stay firmer on its sidewall when under lean angle. I ran 13.5 on a half worn rear Pirelli and it felt very “washy” or vague so going up to 14 psi helped this roll sensation. Chunking wasn’t an issue with the set of Pirelli’s I had, as I got well over 10 hours on a rear tire. You will also have to understand that Southern California conditions are much harder than east coast conditions, so lifespan would dramatically be better in softer east coast based dirt.
Attention! I am a picky son of a bitch when it comes to front tires! The Pirelli MX32 front tire is great for front-end feel and lean angle traction especially in heavy dirt. The softer the dirt the more responsive this front tire is. I prefer a tire that really digs into the dirt and lets you carve underneath blown out berms or ruts (happens a lot here in Southern California). The Scorpion MX32 Mid-Soft front tire actually makes the steering feel heavy at times because the tire is at maximum grip under initial lean in corners. Like I mentioned above, the MX32 is tailor made for a front wheel steering rider and can be leaned into corners earlier than you would come to expect. It took me a couple rides to fully trust this tire, but it has treated me well once I began trust it more. The only other front tire that has as much front end lean angle traction is a Hoosier MX25. This Pirelli front tire does suffer from predictability when the track is freshly watered while broken in/slick on top (think 1PM at your local track). The MX32 would give the front end a vague/push feel as the bike would have a tendency to slide unexpectedly through flat corners. Again, adjusting the air pressure can remedy some of this, so going up to 14 psi helps the tire not to roll so much.
To me this is a pure soft natured front tire and if the conditions are soft to loamy this tire works great, but if the track gets hard pack, you will get some uncertainty when pushing the front tire’s limits with 13.5 psi. The wear of the MX32 front tire is superb and unlike most soft terrain tires, the Pirelli will NOT chunk. I typically get 10-12 hours on a MX32 front tire before I start to see some of the performance life start to dissipate. This is a performance based tire and should be purchased knowing this. 14 psi is a good baseline for this tire, but be sure to check the pressure after a couple motos. Tire pressure will rise with heat so make sure to have a good tire pressure gauge handy in the tool box.
The updated Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid Soft is one of my favorite sets of tires to put on for Southern California tracks. The Pirelli tires will require more attention during the course of the day with your tire pressure gauge, but if you stay on top of the air pressure, you will be rewarded with a tire that rivals spec tire cushion feel. Look for a small tire shootout soon as we will take the top MX tires and put them to the test under a 10 hour evaluation soon!
If you have any questions about these tires please feel free to email me at email@example.com.