Michelin Power Competition tyre – first ride review

Windy weather puts paid to track test... so we turn to the test rig

Trying to discern the differences between two tyres based on one ride and by feel alone might as well be a fool’s errand. Your backside is barely sensitive enough to detect variations in tyre pressure from one wheel to another, let alone accurately gauge grip levels and rolling resistance without serious time in the saddle.

To their credit, Michelin recognise this. So when they invited the cycling press to ride their new Power Competition tyre at the launch and experience the reduction in rolling resistance it’s said to deliver, a clearly defined test procedure was devised so quantifiable comparisons could be made. If you missed our earlier report from the Power launch, the Power Competition is one of three new tyres from Michelin, along with the Power Endurance, designed for sportive and long distance riders, and the All Season, which has improved grip levels.

– Michelin officially launch Power tyre range – the “new benchmark on the market” –

The test took place at Michelin’s Ladoux Technology Centre near Clemont-Ferrand in central France, the same place where the new range of Power tyres were designed, developed and officially unveiled.

Inside the Technology Centre is a wide variety of machinery for studying tyres under controlled conditions but the Ladoux grounds also contains 43km of test tracks specifically created to test every possible aspect of tyre performance, from breaking on wet or dry roads, to high-speed cornering and noise levels.

We had the chance to ride Michelin’s new Power Competition tyre at the launch in France

Less resistance, more speed

Michelin are claiming the reduced rolling resistance of the new Power Competition tyre can save a rider 10 watts at 35km/h – enough to knock 1:04 minutes off the ascent of Alpe d’Huez or adding a further 776m to the hour record, according to the French tyre manufacturer.

That 10-watt figure is specific to a rider and bike package weighing 70kg, however. It would be different for larger, heavier riders on different bikes but Michelin are convinced the Power Competition can still deliver a significant improvement nevertheless. And to prove it, Pierre-Yves Formagne of Michelin’s bike division had come up with a simple two-ride test protocol.

Each ride would be two laps of the 2.7km of silky smooth tarmac on the dry-handling test track, which is made up of a series of gentle sweeping bends that don’t require any braking whatsoever.

The first ride would be on a bike equipped with Michelin’s existing Pro4 tyre while the second would be done with the new Power Competition tyre. With the help of a Stages power meter and Garmin Edge 520 computer, riders would aim to maintain an average of 180 watts for each ride. Each outing would be timed and, assuming the same power was maintained for each ride, if the laps on the Power Competition tyres were completed faster, it would show to some degree the difference the reduced rolling resistance actually made.

While windy weather put paid to our on-track test, Michelin demonstrated the Power Competition’s reduced rolling resistance on this machine

Peaks and troughs

The weather decided to throw a spanner in the works, however. Despite the bright, clear skies, chilly spring winds were howling across the test track. Each ride was spent alternately battling into a headwind while attempting to keep the power from spiking out of the target range before turning into a tailwind and pedalling frantically to try and stop the power falling through the floor. Given the conditions, the test procedure quickly went out of the window, as the numbers being generating could not be used to make a reliable comparison.

Fortunately, there was a back-up plan. The machine used to test rolling resistance during the development of the tyre had been wheeled out to the marquee by the dry-handling test track and a demo was carried out on that.

The Power Competition is one of three new tyres from the French manufacturer, along with the Endurance and All Season

First a wheel with a Pro4 tyre, Michelin’s out-going model, was mounted into the rig. The Pro4 shod wheel sits on a spinning drum that’s driven up to 44km/h and after it settles at that speed for a minute or two, the drum is disconnected from the motor, leaving the wheel to spin down to a standstill. The only thing slowing the drum down is the friction generated by the tyre so the distance covered in between the motor being disconnected and the wheel coming to a complete stop provides an indication of the tyre’s rolling resistance – the greater the distance, the less the resistance the tyre has.

The Pro4 tyre covered 951m in the course of slowing down to zero from 44km/h. The Power Competition, however, covered a little over 1,300m before coming to a standstill.

It was, arguably, a better demonstration of the tyre’s ability, as the test rig has none of the prejudices and preferences of a rider. Neither was its perception clouded by the conditions of the track surface or weather conditions. And although it would have been nice to gather some data from riding the tyres, it would have been specific only to that ride, on that bike and in those conditions. How much would it really tell us?

For a more complete picture, more rides would need to be done and more kilometres covered with the tyres to really appreciate if they make a difference and, if so, how much of a difference they make. Which again, to their credit, Michelin are well aware of. And it’s for that reason they put the Power tyres through 800 different tests and covered around 200,000km with them before settling on the finished product. We’ll be getting our hands on a test set of the Power Competition tyres in due to course to properly put them through their paces and see how the results Michelin put before us in France translate on the road.

Website: Michelin


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