Michelin Pro Race 2
Michelin have been in the tyre business for a very long time, they were the first to produce a race-ready high pressure tyre with decent grip (the first Hi-lite first appeared c.1985) and performance to at least match the performance of cheap tubular tyres. Certainly they started the revolution away from tubulars for the tyre companies. Now their latest tyre is used by several pro teams and has reached the price levels of top racing tubulars too. For a good description of all the tyre types go here (it's a US site, which is why they can't spell tyres correctly).
220g is a respectable weight for a tyre, especially one with puncture protection. In direct comparison to a pair of last year's Pro Races we struggled to find a noticeable difference, perhaps in cornering grip, but that's such an arbitary area - full of opinions and variables. It has as much to do with the wheels the tyres are mounted on, as the compound that Michelin use. Interestingly we had this test pair on a few different wheels and they certainly behaved differently. On a pair of Zipp 404s (test soon) they didn't like cornering in the wet but on a pair of the latest Mavic Ksyrium ES we tested at the Etape, they really zinged along - comfy, grippy and fast - you couldn't ask for much more. Wheel weight will also place different demands on your tyres and a lighter more laterally compliant wheel like the Mavic will always allow you more grip than a tough deep section aluminium or carbon wheel.
There's an interesting article on cyclingnews.com about tyre rolling resistance research by Continental. As many riders have previously suspected, their findings support the fact that fatter tyres (at the same pressure) roll faster than narrow ones. Add in the fact that you get more cushioning from a wider high pressure tyre... well try them, you'll never want to switch back to 19 or 20mm.
I'm a big fan of 23 and 25mm section tyres especially for crit racing and mountain descents. They add a few extra milimetres of pedal clearance and in rough tarmac and rutted gullies they get you out of trouble, when thinner section tyres can get 'stuck' or wash out. The weight penalty isn't an issue and the added comfort factor well worth it.
Strangely, after a few weeks, wet weather grip improved - perhaps there was a residue on the tyres after manufacture? or that they need a bit of wearing-in time? I suspect it had more to do with tyre pressure, I had been riding them at 120 PSI in the wet on the first ride and as time went on, and the pressure in the tyre naturally decreased, so the grip increased.
Continental and Schwalbe have gone down the front/rear specific route and the latter can handle a little more from the track pump, this is mainly down to the fact that the Evolution has beefier sidewalls and therefore they weigh a little more. The main development for all racing tyres is to keep a rounded profile (which is also the main advantage of tubular tyres) and a slick tread, Michelin tyres have always been this way and the result is consistant grip through the corners, but the downside is that they wear out fairly quickly - but these are race use only - so train through the winter-time on them and expect trouble.
OK tyres are still a personal thing and when you are racing you need to have confidence in your equipment, which is why most racers use the same tyre type for years on-end, they get used to pushing them hard and know how they can cope. Pumping tyres up to the correct pressure is essential and many riders go too far, thinking that harder is better... not always the case. After testing the Pro 2s in loads of conditions we can safely say that Michelins work best at 120PSI in the dry and about 10% less in the wet. Biggest improvement? Well they certainly cut up less in the wet and appear to last a little longer than previous Michelin racing tyres. As I said tyres are a personal choice, but only a few can claim to provide pro-level characteristics, like the Schwalbe Evolution, we'd include these as a top racing tyre, just keep an eye on the pressure gauge.
• £27 each
• Sizes: 20, 23 and 25mm in 700c
• 100% 'Silica Energy' rubber mix
• 127TPI casing with cross-ply fibers for flexibility, performance and light weight
• Puncture-resistant reinforcement minimizes the effect of tread cuts