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First Ride: Michelin Power tire range

Michelin has completely revamped its tire line, introducing four new models that are said to be faster and more durable than ever.

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Michelin is presenting its new line of road tires with a lot of swagger, and after several days of testing at the tire manufacturer’s headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, France, we can agree that the Power tires are something special.

For North America, the new line includes four tire varieties including the Competition, Endurance, All-Season, and Protection Plus. This new range replaces the company’s Pro4 line that has been on the market for three years.

But the Power line is more than a simple upgrade to Michelin’s assortment of tires. It’s a full redesign with new rubber compounds, new tread patterns, and a host of lab data to back the company’s claims of a 25 percent rolling resistance improvement, 20 percent more puncture protection, and 15 percent more grip on the pavement.

Each of the four tire options in the Power range benefits from these improvements but at different levels, depending on the tire’s intended use. For example, the Competition tire adds puncture protection and better grip, but most of its improvements focus on rolling resistance. The same goes for the All-Season and its improved grip, as well as the Endurance and Protection Plus tires with their improved puncture prevention.

It’s this multi-faceted, total system upgrade that has us impressed. Is the new Competition tire faster than all other race tires on the market? We don’t know yet. But if it can compare to the Specialized Turbo tires that won Lennard Zinn’s rolling resistance test in the November 2015 issue of VeloNews, Michelin is onto something.

To validate its own in-house rolling resistance testing, Michelin sent the new tires to Wheel Energy labs in Finland — the same laboratory used for the VeloNews tire test. The lab found a 10-watt improvement in rolling resistance when comparing the new Power Competition tires with Michelin’s Pro4 Service Course tires. The Service Course is more of an everyday, workhorse tire; a better comparison would have been to the Pro4 Comp race tire, but the company maintains that there is still a significant improvement, just not as drastic.

On the road

We had the opportunity to ride Michelin’s extensive network of test tracks to compare the Power Competition and Pro4 tires. Using Stages power meters, we pegged our efforts for both rides at 180 watts, using the same bike, wheels, and riding position. The group of 30 editors averaged 18.7 seconds faster with the Power Competition tires. Perhaps it isn’t the most scientific test, but the results are still notable.

On our second day of testing, we hopped aboard the Endurance tires for a pedal through Clermont-Ferrand’s rolling countryside. The superb grip was noticeable when leaning into sharp corners on a fast descent mid-ride.

While one ride isn’t a predictor of durability, Michelin says 200 riders have put over 200,000 kilometers of testing into these tires with no punctures. Using a newly developed reinforced crown ply, Michelin engineers increased the longevity of the Endurance tires and made them more resistant to punctures without sacrificing grip on the road.

But when it comes to grip, the All-Season tires take the cake. While we didn’t get to test these tires first-hand at the launch, we did get a sneak peak at Michelin’s testing protocol that involves a drenched skid-pad, a motorized bicycle, and a fully padded test rider who looked like the Stig from “Top Gear.”

Riding in tight circles around the skid pad, the rider tests just how far he can lean on different tires when riding through slick conditions before skidding out or falling over. The results are measured in degrees of tilt and with the new Power All-Season tires, Michelin says it can get two to three degrees of extra tilt in wet conditions compared to competitors, or about 15 percent more grip than the Pro4 tires.

Part of this grip comes from the new tread pattern, which features progressively higher density toward the tire shoulders for enhanced cornering in difficult conditions. This added grip takes away from the tires’ rolling resistance, reducing gains to only a five-watt saving over the Pro4 Service Course tires (again, according to Michelin), but these tires are made for security on the road, not necessarily for speed.

The Protection Plus tires with extra sidewall protection are only available in North America, and this range could be mislabeled as a gravel tire. But the French company insists this option is simply for rough roads and patchy pavement, not gravel. The tires’ bead-to-bead protection layer adds more than 20 percent more puncture protection than any previous generation of Michelin tire. The widest tire option for the Protection Plus variety is a 28mm, so maybe Michelin is right to avoid the gravel moniker.

We’re not yet convinced that the Competition tires are the fastest tire on the market, but we’d bet these race tires are some of most balanced when it comes to speed, longevity, and puncture resistance. The other three options look to be superb training tires for riders who pedal in adverse conditions and on tough roads.

Nuts and bolts:

– All of the Power tires will be available to retailers starting April 1, 2016
– Prices have not yet been released

Power Competition Tires
Weight: 195g (23mm) and 215g (25mm)
Colors: Black
Three plies of 180 TPI

Power Endurance Tires
Weight: 220g (23mm), 230g (25mm), 255g (28mm)
Colors: Black, white, red, and blue
Three plies of 110 TPI

Power All-Season Tires
Weight: 235g (23mm), 270g (25mm), 290g (28mm)
Colors: Black
Three plies of 110 TPI

Power Protection Plus Tires
Weight: 255g (23mm), 270g (25mm), 295g (28mm)
Colors: Black
Three plies of 110 TPI