Michelin Pro3 Race Pro Review

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Michelin Pro3 Race™ Review Pro Reviewby Steve Cooper

  • High Density Puncture Protector (HDPP) nylon belt.
  • New dual-compound tread.
  • 20 percent more straight line grip than the Pro2 Race.
  • New shoulder rubber offers a huge 40 percent improvement.
  • Weight: 200g.
  • MSRP: $59

Overview:
Reports I’ve read on Michelin’s Pro3 Race are binary. Riders either to seem to praise them or malign them. As far as I can tell, the significant difference in each review seems to have more to do with how soon or frequently the rider flatted versus how the tires handled on the road.

While a tire’s review should be linked to how well it both performs and holds up on the road, it’s hard from this reviewer’s perspective to bash a high performance tire solely based on whether a puncture occurred. Punctures are a risk unless riding on a swept course or a track. And lightweight performance tires are more prone to puncture or cut than a heavy duty training or touring tire. Put a rough and tumble tire in front of me for review, and I’ll shift that focus around to put durability front and center. But let’s be straight up – these are high performance tires first, and second, training tires for those blessed with a respectable tire budget, riding on pristine roads, with an absolute need for every spin to feel sporty.


Pro3s are in the same price range as most other high performance / race clinchers, but the reality is, spend lots of time, riding lots of miles on a lightweight high performance tire and you’re going to be replacing them more frequently. If you can accept that, by all means get yourself into a set of fast, supple, sticky Pro3s, but be forewarned, they’ll erode your tolerance for an average performance tire.

At risk of sounding like an apologist for bicycle tire manufacturers, it can’t be an exact science when it comes time to blend casing weights, rubber compounds and puncture reinforcements to produce a lightweight tire with race ready handling and real world durability. The Pro3 Race seems to be an artfully executed design that tries to optimize a set of strengths (ride performance and grip) and minimize any weaknesses (durability and puncture resistance). Michelin’s created a clever graphic that indicates where the Pro3’s rubber really does hit the road.

Details:
Released in Spring 2008, the Michelin Pro3 Race™ is the third generation of the 1997 Paris-Roubaix winning Michelin Race clincher. Evolved from the Pro2, the Pro3 is approximately 20 grams lighter, with stickier dual compound rubber on both the center section and the shoulder. Similarities between the Pro 3 and Pro2 include Michelin’s HDPP (High-Density Puncture Protector) woven nylon belt under the center tread for puncture resistance, Extra Supple Casing (ESC) with 127 tpi cross ply casing and their Dual Compound (DC) co-extruded Silica Energy (SE) rubber compound.

Michelin channels their Moto GP racing experience into the Pro3 with grippier, more compliant, high silica, dual compound rubbers that provide a claimed 40% improvement during cornering, with 20% better straight line performance, and 27% improvement in wet conditions over the Pro2. Michelin also notes a 3mph increase in maximum speeds on a 25 meter radius corner. Who wouldn’t love to see the Michelin tire test lab that produces these kinds of results?

Speaking of labs, Al Morrison, an independent third party has assembled a database of tire rolling resistance test results. The uniform tests are run on Tacx rollers, with a calibrated SRM power meter, using consistent warm-up times, at 120psi, with a 100 pound load, at 51 km/h and 100 rpm cadence. This test protocol has been applied to hundreds of tires yielding CRR (Coefficient for Rolling Resistance) data and wattage requirements. The CRR for a Pro3 in 700X23C is listed at a respectable .00306, requiring 15 watts of power per tire to overcome resistance at the measured speed. For reference the slickest tire in the 2008 database is a fragile silk tubular with a scant CRR of .00240 at 11.8 watts. Morrison’s data indicates the Pro3 Race isn’t the slickest tire on the market by any stretch, but decreasing rolling resistance can come at the expense of traction and durability. Various materials can be added to tire rubber to decrease rolling resistance, without compromising traction, and Michelin wisely adds an abundance of expensive silica to achieve a delicate balance of low rolling resistance, with maximum grip and reasonable durability.

With that technical meat out of the way, here are some other down and dirty Pro3 availability details… Pressure rated from 87-116 psi, with a Kevlar foldable bead protected via Michelin’s High Protect Rim System (HPRS) in 700X20C, 700X23C, 700X25C, and 650X23C, in dark gray, yellow flash, orange signal, digital blue, ivory, light grey, yellow, and red. Weights vary by size.

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On the road:
For this review, I was supplied 700x23C Pro 3’s. They were mounted to a set of Fulcrum Racing 3s, a medium weight training wheel. Well over 1000 miles were logged on the tires before hitting the keyboard. The test rides included lots of steep hill climbs with fast descents, rolling time trials, casual group rides ranging from 30 to 85 miles, and fast group rides with race equivalent speeds in some locations with a smattering of full bore sprints. I weigh in at ~205 pounds and can churn out decent watts; so I’m no featherweight on tires and this set of Pro3 Races has been pushed hard into gravel, over chopped tarmac, on both rough roads and fresh asphalt.

pro_race3_02.jpgAnd because such a point was made at the front of this review about flats and durability, let me clarify; over the course of this review, I experienced one solitary flat from a small glass sliver. After more than a 1000 miles, the tires are in good condition, with the rear slightly squared off, but reasonably so. No cuts. Knocking on wood here – because I commuted on the tires today. They’ve held up just fine and look to have another 1000 miles in them.

As has been previously reported, the Pro3 Race is a tight fit on some wheels, and the Fulcrums are one of those wheels. It’s a two lever tire with some sweat equity and knuckle skin to mount.

Overall, the Pro3 Races are a lively tire, with a very supple ride and abundant grip. They transmit a pleasing amount of road feedback, with lots of sporty character. Inflated to about 105, they roll fast, absorbing road surface imperfections without jarring. The 23C sectional profile looks to be narrower due to the dual compound 2 color combos and perhaps due to the oblong shape of the tread extrusion, but the contact patch seems to feel just right and smoothly rolls into a turn.

The tires move very fast when transitioning from a slow roll to a sprint pace. The same characteristics arise on stout climbs. Words that spring to mind are “bright, taut, crisp, and efficient.” The Pro3s seem to do a fantastic job of translating my pedal stroke power into forward motion. Straight line performance is fine – they feel easy to spin up and equally easy to maintain at speed within one’s optimal power range.

On quick, medium pitched corners, the grip is so much better than the previous tires I’ve been riding that I’m spoiled. I want to ride these every day. On fast descents and erratic back and forth switchbacks, the tires have been stable, sure footed and very predictable. Forgive me for over-using the term confidence-inspiring, but plain and simple, they are. On big sweepers, corners where you’re heading in fast with a motorcyclist’s line, look ahead for your exit point, then pitch your bike into the correct entry angle for the speed, and hang on to that line as smoothly as possible. The Pro3’s are rail-like in these cornering conditions. Once you approach the sweeper’s exit and have pedal clearance, you can pump hard and accelerate aggressively out of the corner. I like tires that can be pushed this hard.

Being a heavier rider, I’d love to try the Pro3 Race in a 25C. Rumors are that the 700X25C should be available soon. I’d speculate that a slightly wider tire would give me a little more cushion and compliance, a plus for my longer rides, while providing the same amount of grip as found in the 23C. But until I get a set on the road, it’s all an educated guess.

Strengths

  • fantastic grip on corners
  • supple ride quality
  • plenty of road feel
  • light weight
  • reasonable tread life in real world use

Weaknesses

  • potentially fragile in rough conditions
  • 25C would be a plus for heavier riders

Value
3.75 out of 5
Overall
4.5 out of 5

Conclusion:
With only one flat over the last 1000+ miles, I was able to get a true picture of how the Pro3 handled under a variety of riding conditions, and I’m impressed. The downside of this tire is that I’m less interested in riding any of the bikes in the fleet that are shod with high durability tires. I dig the spirited Pro3 Race feel. Now let’s try a set in 25C.

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  • kwc says:

    Great review — I own a set and I feel like still learned more about them. It’s too bad that probikekit appears to be out of stock right now with their 15% sale going on right now.

  • Evan says:

    I have had these since they came out, coming from Pro2′s I love these things. I have read that some people are getting about 1,000 miles out of them, I have about that now and they still seem fine. What should I look for to see when i need new tires? I run the 23′s on some mavic carbones and they fit great..these are also my full time treads they never come off and I love them

  • Steve Cooper says:

    As noted in the review, I’m over 1000 miles on this same set of Pro3 Race tires, and they appear to be about half way through their usable life on the rear. The front tire is still in very good condition.

    When to replace tires and even how to replace tires is a bit of personal choice. My approach is pretty simple. Once the rear is heavily squared off, significantly thinning the center strip of rubber, I’ll move the good front tire to the rear, and put a new tire up front.

  • keith c says:

    I’ve had 3 sets of Pro Race 3 tires. All 3 were badly lacerated by glass shreds that went right through the casing, requiring replacement of the tire. I attribute that problem to bad luck. The tires were horribly difficult to mount onto Campagnolo rims. Other than that, they are great based on about 1000 miles riding.

  • Gaz says:

    Good review. I like the grip for sure, but I still question the puncture resistance and I love the firmer feel and more responsive roll of the Pro2s. it is, of course, all very subjective.

  • Robert Olexo says:

    Your initial comment “these are high performance tires first, and second, training tires for those blessed with a respectable tire budget, riding on pristine roads, with an absolute need for every spin to feel sporty”, I agree with. But the manufacturer needs to sell more of these tires than only those who are riding on pristine roads,so it promotes its product touting its “High Density Puncture Protector (HDPP) nylon belt”. Several suppliers go so far to say this tire is impossible to puncture. My experience in 1500 miles+ has been 16 punctures, so I’m switching tires.

  • Shaggyrider says:

    Good review although my experience somewhat differs. These are truly race-driven tires and I love to train on mine as well. The only thing for me was, on the day before a huge race, I noticed a large, bulging cut in my rear tire. It hadn’t blown yet but would have during the race. I love the speed and handling of these tires so much I went out and bought 2 more, but it should be noted that the rubber only had about 500k on it. Stuff happens though. And yeah, they are NASTY tight to put on so I’d hate to try a change in a longer course race (it just so happens that I am not followed around by a support crew, but if anyone wants to volunteer…).

  • Steve S. says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying the Pro3 Race. I had selected the Pro2 Race tires for my new Kuota Kharma bike when I bought it back in late May; mounted to Easton Circuit clinchers. But durability was really poor — just way too many flats, and a cut in the sidewall in the rear tire. I rode them for about two months, then switched to Vittoria Rubino Pro Slicks. The Pro2′s still have decent tread left, but I was tired of dealing with all the flats.

    Would be interested to hear others’ experience with flat resistance / durability between the Pro2′s and the Pro3′s. If it’s significantly better (as Steve’s review here seems to suggest it might be), then I’d certainly consider giving them a try.

    Steve S.

  • sam says:

    burned through a set in 3 weeks. on the rear, you could see the casing, all the rubber was worn off. up to that point, lots of cuts and huge gashes, but no flats till i was able to see the casing. awesome tyres to race on and some faster weekend trining rides, but, dont use them all the time unless you have the cash to replace them monthly…and yes, i average 400 miles per week, with lots of climbing on not so perfect roads.

  • Ryan says:

    What are these tires like in the rain? This is the second review I have read that has omitted any mention of the handling in the rain.

  • Steve Cooper says:

    Hey Ryan – we’ve been “cursed” in Northern California with a near perfect spell of dry weather. The roads haven’t been wet enough to yield any meaningful rain handling data since last Spring. As soon as fall sinks in, we should start seeing wet roads, and I’ll add some updated reports at that time.

    Steve

  • brian says:

    I love them! Definitely an upgrade over Pro Race 2. Feels like I’m riding ABOVE the road with LESS ROLLING RESISTANCE compared to the PRO RACE 2.

    I weigh 175lbs on Trek Madone 5.2.

  • had pr2, 2 1/2yrs.1 flat. ride hard & fast.top speed 50.85mph. pr3, better feel uphill, straights, curves & down hill. 1st ride top speed 52.35mph. 5’2″ 175#,
    06 fuji pro.

  • guddis says:

    I live in the west of Norway lots of water and it can get cold.Yesterday me and a friend tock a biketripp after work.He have some continental tires,he was gliding around like Babi on the occasional frozen spots in a valley,and i didnt feel anything i only did some brake testing and the shimano ultegra SL brakes are OK

  • Dave D says:

    I have been disapointed in these tires. I wish they still made the Pro2 tires. I use to get 6000 miles out of the pro2 and previous Pro Race tires (rotating front to back) but now am only getting 1000 to 2000 miles out of the Pro3 tires. I will not buy any more Pro3′s.

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