Pirelli Night Dragon - First Look

Italy goes cruising.

Pirelli may be known best for its racing efforts, cheeky umbrella girls and those infamous, politically incorrect calendars, but this Italian company wants to take what it’s learned from years of roadracing and graft it elsewhere. Current target: the cruiser market.

Three years ago, Pirelli set out to build a performance tire that could handle the increased horsepower and handling demands of the modern cruiser. The result is the Night Dragon, with a larger contact patch (up to 10 percent, says Pirelli) than is normal in the category. Rubber compound and tread pattern were optimized to provide quick warm-up, good grip and discourage hydroplaning on wet pavement.

In Daytona Beach for the Night Dragon’s press intro, I found that the tires do indeed warm quickly—due in part to a thinner tread pattern with smaller traction blocks compared to the company’s previous MT66 Route cruiser fare—allowing for maximum floorboard scrapeage with minimum wait time. Easy-steering and good feedback, too. No rain in the Sunshine State for the ride, but the tire techs on hand told me that the front tire is designed to quickly disperse road water, giving the rear contact patch a better shot at grabbing traction.

From the looks of Pirelli’s own chart comparing the Night Dragon to other cruiser rubber, it appears to have a slightly shorter lifespan than that of conventional, high-mileage tires. But lifespan isn’t the goal here; this tire is about performance.

More comprehensive testing will provide better information about the usability of the new Night Dragon, but from first impression Pirelli has done exactly what it set out to accomplish. Its next-gen cruiser tire looks like a winner.

CW?s testbed for this tire intro was a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.

Infared tread analysis shows good heat dispersion across both tires, no hot spots.

Contact patch has been increased for additional grip.

Small-block tread pattern gives this tire its unique style and performance.

Pirelli's Night Dragon comes in most of the standard metric and Harley-Davidson sizes.