Michelin has finally launched its first road tubeless tyre with the new Power Road, along with a regular clincher version. I travelled to France to put the new tyres through their paces with an ascent of the mighty Mont Ventoux.
- What they don’t tell you about tubeless
- Buyer's guide to tubeless tyres — all your options in new technology rubber
Michelin launched a range of Power tyres in 2016, replacing the popular Pro series that came before it. For 2020 it has revamped the range with the addition of the Power Road, a tyre intended to be a really good all-rounder suitable for 80% of riding conditions, from training to racing.
A key aim with the new Power Road was to develop a tyre that is durable, efficient and safe, and also balance robustness, weight, grip and rolling efficiency. The tyre was developed by surveying more than 1,000 consumers and working closely with the Cofidis professional cycling team to develop a tyre that performs well when measured across those key metrics.
It’s available in a tube-type clincher and brand new tubeless-ready version. Michelin has been slow to launch a road tubeless compared to other tyre brands that have been keener to adopt the technology, but admits it has been working on this project for the past three years, recognising the changing riding styles and desire for tubeless technology.
The tubeless tyre is available in 25, 28 and 32mm widths, the tube-type tyre comes in 23, 25 and 28 and three colours.
The two tyres share key technologies. The X-Race Compound is a silica-based material with more rubber on the top of the tyre and grip levels steered by feedback from the Cofidis team to ensure it works well in the dry and wet. It has decided on a level of grip to suit the demands of the pros and transferred this to the Power Road.
The tube-type tyre has a 3x120 TPI construction with a new Aramid bead and puncture protection from a high-density cross-laid material it dubs Aramid Protek+. It has been widened across the top of the tyre to reduce the risk of a puncture. This has increased the weight a little bit but it’s a small price to pay for improved flat prevention.
The tube-type tyre has puncture protection from a high-density cross-laid material it dubs Aramid Protek+. It has been widened across the top of the tyre to reduce the risk of a puncture. This has increased the weight a little bit but it’s a small price to pay for improved flat prevention.
Robustness of the tyre sidewall has been improved over the Power Competition introduced last year. From its survey it found while that tyre was acceptable, people wanted more sidewall durability. So it has worked a lot on improving the sidewall structure of the tyre.
The tubeless tyre has been made using the popular tubeless-ready design. Michelin says it did look at doing a UST-style tubeless tyre but decided that since most rims on the market are tubeless using rim strips, a tubeless-ready tyre with sealant was the best approach.
It shares the same key design as the tube type tyre but features a 4x120 TPI casing with Air Proof technology. This is a thin layer of material added inside the tyre to ensure it is airtight.
During the development of the tubeless tyre, Michelin tested with as many rims it could, working with wheel manufacturers on future products to ensure the tyre fits any rim on the market. It is confident the tyre is compatible with more than 80% of the rims on the market. It doesn't provide a list of compatible rims, but say it is looking at the possibility of doing this.
Michelin did let on that it has been working with the bodies that oversee the ISO rim and ETRTO tyre standards and this new tubeless tyre follows the new guidelines. It's expected the new standards will be announced next year so we'll have to wait a bit longer to see what they look like.
When it comes to rolling resistance, Michelin says the clincher tyre with a butyl inner tube requires 15 watts at 30kph on a flat road. Tat’s the energy you have to put in to overcome the resistance of the tyre. Compared to this, the tubeless tyre requires 3 watts less.
Asked whether we’ll ever see the Cofidis team racing tubeless tyres instead of the tubular beloved of by pros, it revealed it is constantly challenged by the team but it also challenges the team. As a result, some of the team riders actually used Michelin tubeless tyres at Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, without issues and apparently they were the highest-ranking team on tubeless tyres.
Michelin says tubular is still a lighter option compared to tubeless so the small weight difference is one reason the pros haven’t switched fully to tubeless.
What are they like to ride?
It was the south of France that hosted the worldwide launch of the new Power Road tyre, with two days of riding on the agenda to test both the tubeless and clincher tyres. My bike was an Ultegra-equipped Trek Madone SL6 with the same Mavic Cosmic UST Disc wheels, the mechanics swapping the tyres over for each ride. Tyre widths were 25mm for each tyre and the pressure was set at 80psi both days.
That’s me in the picture above, toiling up Mont Ventoux. We had a steady 30km flat ride from our hotel to the town of Bedoin that sits in the shadow of this might 1,909m climb. The mountain dominates the landscape, you literally see it for miles away. Once you’re in the woods on the steep lower half of the climb, the summit vanishes from view, making it a challenging climb simply because you can’t see the top! Chalet Reynard makes the transition from the wooded steep lower road to the barren lunar landscape of the upper half. A weather station sits atop the summit, only on this day thick cloud was obscuring it from view.
It was also ruinously windy near the summit as well. Battling a steep gradient AND strong headwind is tough going I can tell you. I was nearly blown off my bike on numerous occasions. It was also uncomfortably cold, and because my baggage hadn't arrived (thanks British Airways) I rode the descent wearing a puffa coat. I was warm, if not aerodynamic.
Day two was a more relaxing and shorter ride over some of the rolling hills that surround Mont Ventoux. It's impossibly pretty around here, vineyards and neat rows of Lavender growing in nearly every field, with the accompanying smell adding to the good times.
I’ve always been a fan of Michelin road tyres. I have good memories of the Pro2, Pro3 and Pro4 tyres from way back when, and the Power Competition I tested in 2016 was an excellent tyre, combining as it did fast-rolling speed, grip in all conditions and decent durability.
The new Power Road, in both tubeless and tube type, displayed all the hallmarks of a top-end tyre. It felt fast on road surfaces that range from sublime smoothness to rough and gritty. They certainly did not feel slow or draggy at all.
Grip on the fast descent of Mont Ventoux with a wide array of corners felt spot on. I could comfortably push the bike hard into the corners, getting some good lean angle and leaving braking to the very last minute thanks to the disc brakes, and carve around the bend with confidence.
As the descent continued my confidence in the tyres really grew. I didn’t feel any unpredictably from the front or rear tyre when braking hard into the corner. I couldn’t really detect the small difference in rolling resistance between the clincher and tubeless tyres based on two days worth of riding.
The tyres have very good road feel, good smoothness on rough roads (the Emonda is a bike I’ve ridden on this exact same roads so I have some reference point) and outstanding dry-road grip.
Without really extensive lab or back-to-back testing, it’s difficult to know how they compare to Michelin’s other tyres, or indeed to rival tyres, but I’ll hopefully be getting my hands on a set to really log some serious mileage on my local roads.
The feedback I got from two days of testing is that Michelin has produced a very high-performance tyre that is fast and grippy. If it offers the claimed durability, wear rate and puncture proofing Michelin is on to a winner here.
It’s great news to have another tubeless tyre option on the market, and one from such a well-loved and prestigious brand.
The bad news is that the new Power Road won’t be available until March 2020… Prices also haven't been confirmed yet.
More at https://bike.michelin.com/en/
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