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Michelin Pro3 Race™ Review Pro Review - by 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.

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And 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.