Our group of 10 testers recorded an average gain of 14.3 seconds between the Power Competition and Pro4 Service Course..

Our group of 10 testers recorded an average gain of 14.3 seconds between the Power Competition and Pro4 Service Course. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

Big bold claims are commonplace in the cycling industry. Rarely a day goes by when the RoadBikeReview inbox isn't populated with at least a couple press releases bellowing the benefits of this new gizmo or that ground breaking gadget. Buzzwords such as compliance, stiffness, and efficiency are mind-numbingly overused, but rarely backed up by more than a power point presentation - or just a spew of marketing fluff.

And that's why my eyes rolled when just such a press release came through on email a few months back. Michelin, the monolithic French maker of all things tire, was set to release a new four-model Power series of road cycling rubber, claiming among other things that due to improvements in rolling resistance (another buzz phrase), the top-end Power Competition model could save its rider 10 watts versus the outgoing Michelin Pro4 Service Course. That, Michelin proclaimed, is the equivalent to 85 seconds when traveling 35kph (~22mph) for 40km (~25 miles), which is no small amount of savings.

My first thought: Prove it. A few months later, Michelin did.

The complete line includes four new tires: Competition, Endurance, All-Season, and Protection Plus.

The complete line includes four new tires: Competition, Endurance, All-Season, and Protection Plus. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

After getting the chance to put the tires through their paces at a small press event in Austin, Texas, which you can read about here, Michelin invited us to its North American headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. The plan for the trip was to literally put rubber to road and find out exactly how much faster the new tires were.

The testing process was fairly straight forward: Utilizing a closed track at the company's massive Lauren's Proving Ground facility (that's usually reserved for vehicles with engines), we'd be using Stages power meters to do apples to apples comparisons of the new and old tires.

Outside of changing tires, all other equipment was constant. Same bikes (Scott Solace 20 Disc), same wheels (Rolf Prima Victor), same helmet, shoes, and kit (POC, Mavic, and Bontrager in my case), same PSI, and even the same gearing. The test lap was a 3.2km loop on a near dead flat track; we'd do two laps per tire, utilizing a flying start and maintaining (or at least doing our best to maintain) 180 watts the entire time. There was no braking and no drafting. The only significant wild card was the wind, which was blowing steady, and thus made it hard to always maintain that steady 180-watt output. Instead, the focus was on the average watts metric displayed on our Garmin head units, making sure it read 180 at the end of the second lap.

Save for tires, all gear remained the same -- same bike, wheels, kit, shoes and helmet.

Save for tires, all gear remained the same -- same bike, wheels, kit, shoes and helmet. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

Despite my best efforts, a steady 180 reading was all but impossible. On sections with a tailwind you'd get spun out and really have to whip up your RPMs just to stay in the ball park. When the wind swung around to your face, cadence dipped into the 50s, lest the power number spike too high. At the end though, myself and a handful of other attending journalists were all able to hit the 180-watt average mark dead on, giving the test at least a modicum of validity.

Before diving into the results, an admission: Due to some combination of perception and reality the new Power Competition definitely felt faster. Coming off the bike I was certain my lap times would be significantly different, maybe 20-30 seconds for a two-lap effort that took around 13 minutes going 30kph. The ride quality also had a distinctly smoother, more pleasing feel, like the difference between a new Cadillac and a beater Chrysler. There was no doubt in my mind which tire I'd buy. And for the most part the final results backed up that perception.

Continue to page 2 to find out the results of our Michelin Power tire test »



The test track was nearly dead flat.

The test track was nearly dead flat. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

On average, our group of 10 riders was 14.3 seconds faster when riding the Michelin Power than the Michelin Pro4 Service Course. This equated to 0.5kph, which doesn't sound like much, but is certainly enough to break a tie between two otherwise equally skilled riders barreling toward a finish line.

It's also worth noting that Michelin conducted a similar test scenario with another group of journalists at its global headquarters in France, and they too on average went faster on the new tires, 18.8 seconds on a 5.5km track with 11-plus minute run times to be exact. Michelin also says that staff members who did the same test we did in South Carolina on a much less windy day netted a 31.4-second gain, or 1.1kph quicker.

Alas, my personal gain was much smaller, just 8-9 seconds, which Michelin staffers said was in part attributable to the wind, and my personal lack of 180-watt consistency. There were also three riders among our group who were faster on the old tires, though the rider in our group who had the "smoothest" data file, also saw the biggest time gain. He was nearly 40 seconds quicker on the Power Competition than on the Pro4 Service Course.

Before our test session in South Carolina, we got a chance to ride the tires in Austin, Texas.

Before our test session in South Carolina, we got a chance to ride the tires in Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

So what does this all mean to you? The short answer is that, it depends. If, as Michelin puts forth, we buy the 10 watts saving claim (which comes from testing at Finland's respected Wheel Energy Lab), and then apply it to a speed of 35kph when comparing Power Competition to Pro4 Service Course, you could, according to Michelin, be 64 seconds faster ascending France's famed Alpe d'Huez climb; more than 4.5 minutes quicker on an Ironman bike leg; cover 776 additional meters during an hour record attempt; and/or shave 54 seconds off your world championships time trial mark.

Needless to say those are all compelling numbers that could certainly influence a buying decision, especially those in the triathlon/time trialing crowd, who are likely to place rolling resistance performance above traits such as grip, durability, and puncture protection.

The Power Competition is a race specific tire that features greatly improved rolling resistance to the Pro4 Service Course.

The Power Competition is a race specific tire that features greatly improved rolling resistance to the Pro4 Service Course. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

It's also worth pointing out that in looking at rolling resistance test data on RollingResistance.com and examining test data overseen by Lennard Zinn of VeloNews and conducted at the same Wheel Energy Lab, the Pro4 Service Course was not a particularly quick tire, lagging far behind top offerings from the likes of Continental, Vittoria, Schwalbe, Specialized and Zipp. So perhaps the main takeaway from this exercise is that Michelin has simply caught up to the pack.

That's certainly the case in the weight department. The Michelin Power Competition in a 25c comes in at a competitive 215 grams, which is on par with Zipp's Tangente Course (215g for 25c), and Specialized S Works Turbo (220g for 26c).

Of course none of this means anything if the tires puncture the first time your roll over a sharp-edged pebble. And for now we can only take Michelin staffers at their word when they tell us that rolling resistance gains weren't attained at the expense of making a truly rideable tire. Indeed, its new race compound, revised tread pattern, and optimized 180tpi casing (more buzz words) are claimed to also grip better, last longer, and be more puncture resistant.

We also got to do a little wet pavement testing.

We also got to do a little wet pavement testing. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

But seeing how we only rode the tire for a day on a perfectly manicured track, it's hard to back up any of those claims. What I can say is that a day later, while riding a set of Power Endurance (likely the right tire for most people most of the time), our group had exactly zero flats or slide-out crashes during a spirited (and dry) 50-mile ride on the decidedly imperfect roads that crisscross the rolling hills outside Greenville.

Of course with such a small sample size, it's impossible to say whether this was a result of superior product, dumb luck, or both. But credit to Michelin for taking the calculated risk that was allowing a bunch of journalists to conduct real world tests like these. It says to me that they're confident in the product they've put forth - and that's arguably as good a reason as any to trust what they proclaimed in that original press release.

Continue to page 3 for a full rundown of all the new Michelin Power tires »



Yep, that guy showed up, too.

Yep, that guy showed up, too. Photo courtesy Michelin/Brian Hodes​

Here's a rundown of stats and features for all four new Power series tires, which are available now. We have several test sets in and will be doing further riding during the spring and summer and will report additional findings soon after.

Michelin Power Tire Testing

Michelin Power Competition

  • Intended use: racing
  • Gains versus analogous Pro4: 10 watts, 25% rolling resistance, 13%
  • puncture resistance, 35% wet cornering
  • Weight/size: 195g (23mm), 215g (25mm)
  • Construction: Three plies of 180 TPI
  • Protection: Aramid Protek breaker under tread center
  • Color(s): black

Michelin Power Tire Testing

Michelin Power Endurance

  • Intended use: touring, training
  • Gains versus Pro4: 8.6 watts , 20% puncture protection
  • Weight/size: 220g (23mm), 230g (25mm), 255g (28mm)
  • Construction: Three plies of 110 TPI
  • Protection: Aramid Protek breaker under tread center
  • Grip: Ship's bow-shaped grooving
  • Color(s): black, blue, red, white

Michelin Power Tire Testing

Michelin Power All Season

  • Intended use: challenging conditions, rain
  • Gains versus Pro4: 5 watts, 15% grip
  • Weight/size: 235g (23mm), 270g (25mm), 290g (28mm)

  • Construction: Three plies of 110 TPI
  • Color(s): black

Michelin Power Tire Testing

Michelin Power Protection Plus

  • Intended use: rough roads
  • Gains versus Pro4: 3.9 watts, 25% durability, 48% grip, 20% puncture resistance
  • Weight: 255g (23mm), 270g (25mm), 295g (28mm)

  • Protection: Same as above with extra sidewall protection
  • Construction: Three plies of 110 TPI
  • Color(s): black

Michelin by the numbers.


httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDNQl1xcJQc

For more info visit bike.michelin.com.