Pirelli MT32 Tires Review

MotorcycleUSA Staff | October 17, 2003
The MT32s inspired cornering confidence while offering excellent feedback at a race pace. The tires exhibited marginal tire wear  even after six motos and plenty of practice sessions.
The MT32s inspired cornering confidence while offering excellent feedback at a race pace. The tires exhibited marginal tire wear, even after six motos and plenty of practice sessions.

Traction, durability and price are usually the most important factors when shopping for an off-road tire. But a fourth requirement is often overlooked by the frugal off-road community: application. Every manufacturer develops tires with specific terrain in mind, so choosing your tires wisely will give maximum traction and the best durability.

Pirelli has been on an industry-wide rampage lately, releasing new street and off-road tires with abandon. Their dirt offerings apply lessons learned on Grand Prix motocross tracks of Europe and transfer that into real-world applications. The MT 32 was developed during the 2001-2002 World MX GP campaign to meet the demands of world champion racers Mikael Pichon and Stefan Everts in the soft-terrain common with tracks like the sandy Zolder circuit that hosted the recent 2003 Motocross des Nations.

The MT32 was designed as to work best in terrains that vary from soft to semi-soft. We spooned a set onto the 2003 Honda CRF450R of fast guy Jeremy Hamblen for him to thrash to his heart’s content. He reported back that the Pirellis provide plenty of traction in the loose stuff and are quite durable as well.

Hamblen is a privateer MXer who knows a thing a two about destroying berms from his battles becoming the 2002 CMC 4-stroke champ in the Intermediate-Pro class. The Pirelli MT32 front and rear combo was tested during a grueling assault from the torque-dispensing CRF on a pair of the Pacific Northwest’s finest circuits.

Airway Heights in Spokane, Washington was the first venue to take a shot at the Pirellis. Hamblen raced his CRF in the Intermediate class in both the 250cc and 4-stroke series during the Loretta Lynn’s qualifier weekend. Airway Heights consists primarily of loose sand and gravel, consistent with the high deserts of Eastern Washington. From the moment the gate dropped and the CRF slammed into and through the first turn, it was obvious these Pirellis are an exceptional choice for this terrain.

“Coming out of the gate I hit the dirt and my bike took off,” explained 19-year-old Hamblen. “I came into the first turn a little hot – I had to hold it on just a little more to get a good start – and just laid the bike over. It dug down, slammed into the berm, hooked up and went.”

The MT32s inspired cornering confidence while offering excellent feedback at a race pace. The front tire dug in and never let go, and the tires exhibited marginal tire wear, even after six motos and plenty of practice sessions. Hamblen managed a top-10 finish in the 4-stroke class despite a crash due a mid-corner pile-up.

We left Spokane believing that the MT 32 combo definitely works great in the sand and loose granite, just like Pirelli’s literature said it would. To our surprise, though, the sticky tire was proving incredibly durable.

Heading to the second test venue at the Albany Supercross in Albany, Oregon, annual home of the AMA Western 4-Stroke Nationals, we would be riding on the infamous mulch with the same set of Pirellis. The loose, loamy dirt tilled in with wood chips and bark from the nearby paper plant can offer plenty of traction on the fast flowing track, if you’re on the correct tires.

Once again, the MT32s worked incredibly well. The rear in particular provided all the traction you could ever hope for, hooking up with authority at the loamy Albany circuit and instilling confidence thanks to consistent and plentiful traction with 12 pounds of air pressure.

However, Hamblen was less impressed by the front tire at Albany. It seemed a little vague in the soft dirt, which came as a surprise after how well it performed in the sand at Airway. That’s not to say it didn’t stick, because it did. It was just not as hooked up as the rear. Hamblen, however, was running the same 13 pounds of air pressure in the front that he had at Airway. A tire pressure increase may have negated the vague feeling he experienced.

Despite his reduced confidence in his front end at Albany’s local races, Hamblen was able to log a third-place in the 4-stroke Intermediate class and a fourth place in 250cc Intermediate. Not a bad result for someone who was looking for a bit more front-end feedback.

The Pirelli MT32 front rear combo worked great on our 2003 Honda CRF450R.
The Pirelli MT32 front/rear combo worked great on our 2003 Honda CRF450R.

As the day set on his second weekend on the Pirellis, Hamblen had ridden another half-dozen practices and motos on the MT32 combo, bringing their tally to an amazing 14 motos plus practice. The lack of significant tire wear was impressive.

Jeremy arrived at the office with a good understanding of the capabilities of the MT32s. “I would recommend this tire to all serious motocross racers,” vouched Hamblen. “I like the tires a lot, but in my opinion the rear tire works a little better than the front. They’re better than any other tire I have ran so far, but I did have to fight with the front a little.”

Hamblen added that he wouldn’t consider using the MT32s tire for trail riding or on hard-packed tracks. “I would suggest running this tire only on loamy tracks because hard tracks will just rip it alive.” One day on the brutally hard Rogue Valley MX track wore the soft-compound knobbies down to such an extent that the tires became trash.

The MT32 combo proved to be a worthy choice for soft-terrain tracks. Pirelli literature boasts their new designs have extended knobby life on all their latest offering of off-road rubber and, so far, we agree. We’ll be testing Pirelli’s MT450 intermediate to hard-terrain tires in the coming weeks.

Our conclusion about the MT32s is easy: We would happily run the MT32 front and rear on any of our bikes. They are incredibly durable and provide traction to spare in the kind of conditions that can be sketchy on the wrong tires. Once familiar with the MT32’s characteristics, an experienced rider should have no problem crushing the competition with these knobs on the job.

MSRP will range from $51.95 – $86.95 for a rear and $44.95 – $73.95 for a front.

Check out moreĀ Pirelli Tires andĀ Motorcycle Tires at the Motorcycle Superstore.

MotorcycleUSA Staff