Michelin is a massive company by cycling standards – 125,000 employees worldwide, 6,000 working in research and development alone spending almost a billion dollars in development. Michelin’s product line is varied, from bike tires to $150,000 earth moving tires, and just about everything in between. Obviously, only a fraction of this is dedicated to cycling, but with the recent launch of an expanded Pro4 tire line Michelin aims to make one thing clear, all of the research that goes in to their tires for motor sport, aviation, and transportation is available to the cycling division. These are secrets that win world championships and land space shuttles - advanced finite element analysis, chemistry know-how and extensive testing.
To drive this point home the new Pro4 tires where launched at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, a Michelin sponsored track, during winter testing for the American Le Mans Series. Michelin has along history in AMLS, outfitting Ferraris, Porsches and many other cars in the series. It was first hand evidence of the effort Michelin puts into racing and while winning is a bonus the real goal is product development.
The French companies presence there was massive. Multiple forty-footers, in the distinctive blue and yellow of Michelin, emblazoned with the smiling Michelin Man, Bibendum, were present. Each Michelin shod team had their own engineer, tracking tires, checking temps and ensuring the drivers have the product they need to go fast.
What Michelin learns at tests like these will turn up during the racing season in the form of new, faster, more durable and safer tires. All of the data and knowledge that goes into those new motor sports tires goes into the Michelin technological arsenal and is made available to their bike tire engineers. Bike tires after all were Michelin’s first product and their passion for two wheeled pedal sport runs deep. This passion and the current state of the art is represented by the Pro4 series, soon to be a line of six tires.
Launched in 2011, the Pro4 Service Course is the workhorse of the Pro4 line and the tire Michelin expects will be the best selling Pro4 for seasons to come. It is a 200gram 110TPI nylon casing tire with great all-around performance. It threads the line between long mile durability, flat resistance and high performance very well. With this tire anchoring the line, Michelin has created four new tires with very specific functions.Pro4 Comp:
The Pro4 comp is the Service course on a diet. It sheds 20grams off Service Course in 23mm widths, tipping the scale at 180grams. All this weight saving is thanks to the first 150TPI nylon casing in the industry. While TPI counts go higher, 320 in some cases, those are cotton casings, no one has ever gone to 150 with nylon, until now. What this means is the Comp has the same breaker as the Service course for flat protection, the same dual compound, the same high-mileage capability, all in a lighter, suppler, casing. This new Pro4 Comp creates 7% less rolling resistance than the Pro4 Service Course, again thanks to the 150TPI casing, which steals less energy as it deforms to the road surface.Available in Blue, Black and Red. 700x23, 180grams $80.00 In Stores Now
The name Grip really only tells part of the story. Designed for wet conditions and bad roads the Grip does develop 15% more grip in wet conditions thanks to a new tread compound and unique tread pattern. Rather counter intuitively this tread pattern is designed to actually reduce the amount of rubber that contacts the road in the wet. This increases the pounds per square inch exerted on the contact patch and helps the tire slice through the wet and stay glued to the raod. While pros have been reducing pressure to increase the contact patch in the wet for years, Michelin has the data to back up their grip claims, as surprising as they are. Even the tire shoulders have been optimized for grip in bad conditions.
Another aspect to the tires bad weather performance is a tougher breaker for 20% more puncture resistance than the Pro4 Service Course. In wet weather, water on the road acts as a lubricant to sharp materials trying to puncture your tire and the new aramid (Kevlar) reinforcing layer is tougher and wider to fight this. At 110TPI and with a wider breaker the tire hits the scale at 220grams.Available in Black, 700x23, 220grams $75.00 In Stores NowPro4 Comp Limited:
Taking the weight savings of the Comp to the next level, the Comp Limited weighs only 165grams. With a thinner tread and no breaker for flat protection this is a low mileage race day only tire. The removal of the breaker and thinner tread also lowers the rolling resistance even more, a whopping 27% less than the Pro4 Service Course.Available in Black, 700x23, 165grams $80.00 Early Spring
It’s been about ten years since Michelin brought a tubular into the States, but for 2013 the Pro4 is going tubular. Michelin has decided to bring the tubular back for one reason, wheel choice. There are so many great tubular wheels they felt it was necessary to be in the mix. AG2R has been riding the tubular for almost two years. It is 100% Michelin made in house rather than a third party casing with a Michelin tread simply glued on. That tread is a tubular specific design due to the tubular’s unique contact patch. For the tubular they have decided to go with a 290 TPI cotton-Kevlar casing as they felt the 150TPI nylon was not supple enough for the fully round construction. It does make us wonder how their 150TPI nylon clincher will match up with the 320TPI cotton-Kevlar clinchers from some other brands.Available in Black 700x2 280grams3, 700x25 295grams, $120 Early Spring