Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (31)

Photos c. VeloImages/Michelin

Everybody loves free speed, right? Based on the latest trend to incorporate everything aero, it seems that the ability to shave a few seconds off your time by simply switching components is too tempting for a lot of riders to resist. Now what if you could gain more speed than an aero wheel set would provide, just by switching your tires? Not to mention you get better grip and puncture protection as well?

Sounds to good to be true, right? It’s for real. Or at least that’s why Michelin invited us out to their proving grounds in Laurens, SC. We were there to ride the new Michelin Power tires and see for ourselves whether their claims held true….

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (11)

Superseding their previous Pro series, Michelin positions the Power range the new reference. That’s due to the fact that rather than just making the tires faster, they also provide better grip and even increased durability and puncture resistance in line with Michelin’s Total Performance approach to design. It’s clear after spending a little time with Michelin that there is a lot more to their engineering than meets the eye.

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (13)

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (17) Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (1)

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (13) Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (12)

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (2) Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (3)

In order to experience the tire claims for ourselves, we were invited to the Michelin Laurens Proving Ground in Laurens, SC, which is a short drive from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Greenville, SC. The sprawling test facility is over 3,000 acres with nine test tracks that include multiple surfaces, pot holes, a wet test track, an asphalt lake, even an ingrained camera that is able to see the tire foot print of the contact patch when a vehicle drives over it. The track is so big that they allow deer hunting during the proper season to control the deer population around the tracks. Having Bambi walk out onto the track during top speed testing would be no good at all.

The Laurens facility is joined by two other main testing centers which include Clermont-ferrand, France, which is a 1,200 acre facility mainly used for motorcycle testing, and Almeria, Spain, which is a gargantuan 7,400 acres where Michelin tests much of their agriculture and earth mover products. The point Michelin was trying to drive home was that they are a world leader in tire technology and make tires for almost every vehicle including the now retired Space Shuttle (above with the Tweel). With something like 22,000 employees in North America (120,000 world wide), Michelin is certainly a large force in the tire market. And while you may think that their advancements in other tire markets aren’t necessarily congruent with cycling, the bicycle team has drawn a lot on Michelin’s varied experience, including MotoGP.

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (21) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (19)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (17) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (23)

The real reason we were at MLPG was to get our own crack at testing one of the Power line’s greatest claims – that the Power Competition will save you an impressive 10 watts of rolling resistance. Michelin calculates that of an average rider’s energy, 10-15% is lost to rolling resistance. For motorized vehicles that can be upwards of 20% and in an era of improved fuel efficiency standards, you better believe that Michelin has been doing everything they can to reduce rolling resistance without harming performance.

Just what is 10 watts? According to Michelin, 10 watts is equivalent to 1 min 04 seconds on Alpe du Huez, 8 meters in a 30 second sprint, 4 min 37 sec on the Ironman bike leg, 3x times the benefit of the average pair of aero wheels, 54 seconds on a time trial, or 776 meters in an hour record attempt. All by changing tires. Compared to the Pro 4 Service Course, the Power Competition boasts 25% less rolling resistance, 20% better puncture resistance, and 15% better grip. Those gains in rolling resistance are thanks to a new Race rubber compound that consists of a blend of natural rubber, elastomers, and silica that was created with knowledge gained from MotoGP, but also through the optimization of the new 180tpi casing with an Aramid breaker.

But how to test those claims? Michelin has already extensively tested the Power series through external machine tests independently run through Wheel Energy labs in Finland. And they verified the claims through both internal and field surveys of 200 riders on three continents. But as they say the proof is in the rubber compound (something like that), so to see for ourselves we were set up to do the same test that Michelin has performed countless times.

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (16)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (18) Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (7)

Set up on the T2 Max Dry test track, we would ride two 3.2km laps for a total of 6.4k per tire. Our Scott Solace 20 Disc test bikes were set up with two sets of wheels, both Rolf Prima Vector Discs. On one wheelset was a pair of Michelin Pro 4 Service Course, on the other – the new Power Competition. The tires were the same size, and inflated to the same pressure. The goal was to maintain a constant average of 180 watts around the track which was tracked with a Stages power meter synced to a Garmin GPS. To make sure we remembered to start and stop the lap on time, we had some lovely assistants from Michelin with signs at the start/finish. All of the bicycles were also chipped with a timing system tracking each bike. After a warm up to familiarize us with the track we tested on set of tires, switched, then tested the second.

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (26)

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (10) Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (11)

I wish that the tires weren’t labeled so we didn’t actually know which tires we were riding, but I will say that without even riding the Pro 4s yet, I swear that I could feel that it was faster. Test conditions were a bit challenging for us due to the wind speed, but at 4 m/s they were lower than Michelin’s typical cut off at 5 m/s. The wind made it a lot more challenging to maintain an even 180 watts, but at the end of each ride my average was 180 on the dot. Note that the photo above was taken after testing was complete which is why there is no Garmin – they were immediately collected as we crossed the line to compile the data and make the charts below.

our results internal testing mlpg

Ladoux results copy Ladoux Internal results

Not surprising, the Power tires did prove to be faster than the Pro 4s. Personally, I was just over 20 seconds faster on the Power Competition, with a group average of 14.3 seconds and 0.5km/h faster.

Our group showed the smallest improvement (still an improvement) which Michelin attributed to the challenging wind conditions. Michelin ran a control tire with a rider in both sessions that showed a small time change due to the wind from one session to the other, but since some riders were on one tire while others were on another, the average time difference should be fairly accurate. Clearly there is some variance and even a few that were slower than the Pro 4s, but Michelin chalks this up to errors either with the operation of the Garmin or inability to maintain a constant wattage. The takeaway is that test after test, the majority of riders showed a large improvement over just 6.4km.

If that speed advantage also includes a tire that is more durable and has better grip than the previous model, it looks like a win, win, win.

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (9)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (32) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (42)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (34) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (29)

While we were at MLPG we also had a chance to take on the wet test track by both bike and by car.  Thanks to low sprinkler heads every 5-10 ft and a consistent 0.5% slope, the Wet Road Course maintains an average water depth of 1.5mm over low friction asphalt. It’s WET. Even so, with the Michelin Power Endurance or All Season, there was no breaking the tires loose unless you forced it by over braking and power sliding the bike. It was interesting to see how well you could pull a stoppie on the wet track as this seemed to illustrate Michelin’s “Disc brake ready” claim. It might seem crazy to think that a tire would need to be disc brake ready, but they’ve found that in order to cope with the higher braking power without just skidding, the tires needed some changes that were also evolved from MotoGP tires.

Realistically, the threat of crashing kept any of us from exploring the true limits of traction (which is scary high), but Michelin has this covered with their special test bike they use in France. Essentially an E-Bike without cranks, the rider wears full motorcycle protection and rides in circles on a wet track to find the limit of the lean angle.

Michelin tires are also thoroughly tested in the lab with wet brake traction (flat rock surface tarmac) where the higher the force, the better the grip. Compared to Brand A (their closest competitor), the All season scored 34.2kg compared to 26.8kg from Brand A. Down the line, the Competition scored 26.9, the endurance at 26.7, and Brand A’s competition tire coming in at 24kg. That’s a lot of numbers and information, but it boils down to the fact that all of the new Power tires have improved wet grip, but the All Season sees a 15% boost in traction thanks to 13% of that from the compound and the remaining 2% due to tread design.

To sort of highlight the same concept but on a larger, faster scale, we were given the chance to drive two vehicles around the short Wet Road Course. Our rides included a minivan (Boo.), but with stock Michelin tires (Yay!). And a BMW 3 series (Double Yay!), but with what Michelin considers a tier 4 tire -Rikens to be exact (Boo.). The minivan’s tires were slightly used, but exactly what you’d find on the lot. The BMW was fitted with aftermarket wheels and brand new tires.

We jump in the mini van and instantly feel like Michael Schumacher taking the kids to soccer practice. The vehicle is composed, easy to push the limit, and also easy to recover once we pushed past that limit. The BMW on the other hand was terrifying – especially if you’re in the back seat. The tires were extremely unpredictable and resulted in a completely vague feeling at the wheel. And if you pushed past the point of traction? Good luck.

Keep in mind that the Rikens were considered a performance tire while the Michelin is meant for your average grocery getter, and you start to see what Michelin is getting at. There is a lot more to tire design than just making something that is black and round with a sporty tread pattern.

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (3)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (9) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (49)

Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (58) Michelin power tire launch Brian Hodes Veloimages Hincapie Gran Fondo route Laurens Test Track (55)

Our final day with Michelin was spent around Paris Mountain exploring the roads known for the Hincapie Gran Fondo. Starting from Hotel Domestique in Traveler’s Rest, we essentially rode the Medio Gran Fondo route and it was incredible. Rolling through the beautiful (but cold!) hills of North and South Carolina with a few decent climbs thrown in for good measure, we were on either the Power Endurance or All Season. At one point we rode through a mine field of shredded trees and bushes, and yet not a single flat among the group. Not bad. I can’t say that I felt the same speed from the Endurance tires I rode compared to the Competitions, but they also didn’t feel slow either – and they held up to my skids, wheelies, and “short cuts”. What can I say? I like to have fun on bikes.

Michelin Power road tire launch laurens test track (4)

At the end, I honestly came away impressed. Not just from the improvements offered by the Power range of tires, but by Michelin’s thoroughness in development and testing. It can be hard to tell if those pricey new tires will really improve your ride, but with the Michelin Power series, it looks like the real deal.

Michelin Power tires will be offered in the Competition, Endurance, All Season, and the U.S.-only Protection+, with the Endurance offered in 23 and 25mm with black, white, red, and blue tires, and a 28mm in black only. The Competition and other models will be black only, and available in 23 and 25mm. With the exception of the Protection+ coming on June 1, the other tires are all currently available.

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50 comments

    • keville on

      Tubeless tires typically have more rubber molded into the sidewall casings, reducing how supple they are, which in turn increases rolling resistance.

      The compounds in these tires would presumably lead to well-performing tubeless tires, too, so who knows why there’s no mention of it in the story. BR should have at least asked Michelin.

      Reply
      • Eugene Chan on

        Michelin has been conducting a lot of surveys regarding road tubeless lately, so I think it’s safe to say they are listening. I expect tubeless options before too long.

        Reply
  1. Colin on

    This is awesome. Michelin started this push with endurance auto racing where they need to maximize longevity without sacrificing grip.

    Long story short I run Pilot Super Sports on my car, Pilot Powers on my motorcycles, and Continentals on my road bikes… This might actually change that.

    Reply
    • JBikes on

      Super sports are amazing. The PS2 they replaced, not so much. It’s amazing they are in the same category, more amazing they still sell PS2’s which are more expensive, wear 2x as fast, and become hockey puck like about 3/4 of the way to full wear.

      I 2nd you on Pilot Power for motorcycles.

      Reply
      • typevertigo on

        @JBikes
        Not sure if you get Pilot Sport 3s in North America, but if you do you should try them. They’re an awesome tire for somebody like me who takes their daily driver to trackdays and time attacks. Legitimate 320 treadwear rating and excellent grip. When it does let go, it’s progressive. My only real complaint is higher-than-average tire noise.

        I just replaced mine after four years of use and abuse. Best all-rounder tires summer I’ve had so far,

        Reply
  2. Phil Jones on

    Brand A… should have read Brand ‘C’, the only other ‘big’ brand that doesn’t want to commit to tubeless road tires. Good to see they’ve finally addressed having the slowest tires on the market though.

    Reply
  3. TomM on

    Yeah, time for tubeless road. The new Schwalbe series introduced this year seem great. I am running the 30c S One on my rain/night/training road bike and they are absolutely plush, grippy, puncture-resistant, and feel faster than expected. Can’t wait to try their 25c cousins soon on a new tubeless wheelset, which may displace my long-running 4000S habit.

    Reply
    • xxx on

      Im using the same tire in 28C (30C was impossible to find back then) and they do grip well in dry conditions (not that great in wet compared to some other tires), do feel rather plush and durability isn’t as bad as i though. They get cuts easily but with the sealant, ive been running the same pair for month and miles now.

      That said, they’re not really fast for me. I barely beat my times on 32C jet tires.

      All in all, I feel like the S ones are the best road tire you can get right now, but not nearly as good as i’d want them to be – and they ain’t cheap either (120USD for 2 if you look around, more if you dont). My jets in comparison are 60 to 80USD for 2, are a little better in the wet, a little worse in the dry, much better on non-asphalt, and only a bit slower.

      I really wish for more road tubeless choices!

      Reply
  4. JBikes on

    As someone that rides a motorcycle, wet pavement isn’t the issue. People tend to have way more grip than they are comfortable using in the wet. The bigger issue is that pavement tends to have a lot of oil in it, and unless a hard rain washes it out, oil on wet pavement is extremely slick.

    Michelins tests are controlled, I understand that. But wet pavement isn’t a huge traction reducer for the limits most people subject their car, bike, motorcycle to on a day to day basis. Now, I’d wager these may provide more grip in wet, oily environs so I’m not belittling the product. And I love Michelin motorcycle tires.

    Reply
  5. souleur on

    I have a hard time seeing the pie in the sky polly-anna on this one

    Tires do make a big difference and differences have been seen over the past few years on sizes, pressures, concept etc.

    In fact, the recent generation of tires on the market are by far the best group out in my lifetime

    I have seen other studies done, objectively, scientifically in the lab and they can surprise you
    specialized did this recently in fact

    However that said, better and more impactful that carbon hoops…..sorry, I don’t buy it
    the hoops we have today are really pretty significant in terms of benefit to performance

    Michelin provided all the hype, pre printed media, studies, science…and so on for everyone who was on the trip…to pass on in the interest of objectivity….ok, just hard to say these tires will deliver based on the observations made during the camp. That was observation, not science

    Reply
    • Robin on

      They apparently did collect data during the camp, and it appears, according to the images provided by Michelin, that that data supports their claims.

      Reply
    • Lolz on

      The Specialized study didn’t include tubulars, you know, the style 100% of the pro-peleton uses. In that regard it was extremely short sighted.

      Reply
  6. xxx on

    The one thing the french are really good at, the michelin tires. I’m always surprised so few bikes use them. On motor vehicule its always a well regarded choice.
    Not only that but they’re also always the cheapest in their respective categories.

    Now if they could make these tubeless though… (i do run michelin on my XC mtb and and cross, incidentally, while there’s other good tires, they’re extremely good for their price)

    Reply
  7. Craig on

    I’d like to know at what speed a certain tire width is the least rolling resistance. I know there is general info out there from the tire lab in Finland but for a certain tire brand & model it would be good to have a guide. Ie, I ride at an average speed on the flat of 30km so what width should I have for lowest rolling resistance. I’m guessing it’s 25 or 28mm, but maybe on the tire packaging there should be a small chart with average speed vs width rolling resistance.

    Reply
    • TheKaiser on

      Are you sure that relative rolling resistance rankings will vary with speed? I have never seen such a claim. Now if you were trying to calculate a combined “fastest” ranking, that took into account rolling resistance and aerodynamics then speed would become a consideration.

      Reply
  8. jd on

    Used to run Michelins all the time untill I tried Schwalbe one (tubeless and normal clinchers). It’ll take a lot to go back. Way less punctures, great grip on wet roads, fast…

    Reply
  9. Paul on

    Come on, nobody cares how Michelin’s new tires compare to their pretty mediocre old Michelin tires. The only thing anyone really cares about is how their compare to the tire that virtually every one uses now: Conti GP4000S II.

    Reply
  10. Robin on

    I’ll happily replace my PR4 Endurance tires (dandy tires they are) with Power Endurance tires when the time comes this summer.

    Reply
  11. Greg on

    I’d like to see the data from their test in Finland, to compare with the other big players (Conti). Saying they roll 25% better than their marshmallow-like previous generation tire doesn’t really say much.

    Reply
  12. yerfdoggy on

    The mini-van/BMW test is a set up. Brand new tyres (BMW) are covered with “mould-release compound”, slippery snot. Tyres need to be “roaded” to get rid of this. Before “roading” they will be slippery and dangerous, as reported. I note that the Michelin tyres (mini-van) were already “roaded”.

    Reply
  13. bikes_n_whatnot on

    I’ve been using Bontrager R3 tubeless for some period of time now, and have found them to out perform any other road tire I’ve experienced. The corner grip is simply amazing. They do wear a bit fast, but the confidence to dive into a corner fast, lean it over, and never deviate from your line makes the wear worth while. Also, I ran my rear down to the threads without ever pulling off for a flat. (I attribute that mostly to sealant)

    I find it hard to believe there is so much resistance to going road tubeless. I work part time at my LBS and the hardcore roadies push back against any potential improvement. I run 700×26 R3s in the summer and 700×28 AW2s (TLR) in the winter and never exceed 85psi rear and 80psi front. The feel is amazing, the traction is unparalleled. I commute around 4 to 5K miles a year and only carry an inflator.

    When customers ask my opinion on tubeless and discs on the road I tell them “You wouldn’t by a car with four drum brakes and tube tires, why would you by a bike with tubes and rim brakes.” I understand the resistance to electronic shifting, it is essentially installing a motor on your bike (even if it doesn’t “drive” the bike, it does reduce effort, and therefore is tantamount to cheating) But simple improvements, using technology that is well developed (I’ve had discs/tubeless on my MTB since the early 2000s) seems like a no-brainer.

    Reply
  14. MaraudingWalrus on

    I am excited to try the new tires. As soon as my current set of tires wears out, I’m on a set of the Power Endurance in 28mm.

    Maybe I’ve just had outlier bad experiences, but road tubeless doesn’t seem worth it to me. Never had good luck setting up even with supposed tubeless ready rims and alleged tubeless easy tires. (knock on wood) I don’t get many flats to begin with, because I replace my road tires when they need replacing. And how much lower a pressure do I really need?

    Reply
  15. Alvis on

    ‘Clearly there is some variance and even a few that were slower than the Pro 4s, but Michelin chalks this up to errors either with the operation of the Garmin or inability to maintain a constant wattage.’ or possibly just the abysmal accuracy of Stages…..

    Reply
  16. Fraser C on

    Aaah cyclists… So many with few ideas but criticism in spades! All of you just need to take a deep breath, realize that you can embrace or not, and be happy, no gun to your head!! Boy there is SO much negativity in BR comments!

    Reply
  17. bbb on

    Yes, tyres make a big difference but once you get some fast ones like GP4000, One, Corsa etc… they are all just as fast within 3-5W.

    This test is nothing more than misleading and manipulative marketing exercise Specialized style. Factually/technically correct but irrelevant.

    As for overall “rolling resistance” what seems to be completely ignored in calculations is the “suspension losses” – energy lost on vibrations, vertical movement of the bike and rider on imperfections of the surface. Hit the cobbles and you’ll need probably at least extra 50-100 watts of power to maintain the same speed as on a smooth tarmac.

    Reply
  18. evangelos@zoidis.com on

    Is then the Power Competition better than the Pro4 Comp? If so, in what respect? I do run a set of Pro4 Comp and they are very fast, very grippy and very light. At 175g (180g claimed weight) for the 23mm, the Pro4 Comp is lighter than the Power Competition (claimed weight 195g for 23mm). Why opt for a heavier tire?

    Reply
  19. anonymous on

    Yes, wheels make a big difference but once you get some fast ones like ZIPP, ENVE, HED etc… they are all just as fast within 3-5W.

    Reply
  20. Echtogammut on

    Michelin Pro4s were one of my least favorite tires. They wore out fast and the rubber separated from the carcass on a semi-new rear tire during a long decent where I wasn’t braking, which convinced me to toss the lot (I had bought a bunch during a sale). Schwalbe and Vittoria have the most supple tires by a huge margin and GP4000S are just the best all round. Hopefully, Michelin has improved the quality road handling with this tire.

    Reply

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