On the heels of the Pro4 Service Course introduced last year by the French tire giant, Michelin now has three new tires available for sale in the Pro4 family: the 150tpi Comp, the foul-weather Grip and a tubular version.
BikeRadar reported briefly on the Grip and US availability for the Pro4 tubular at the 2012 Eurobike.
While the Pro4 was essentially a retread of the Pro3 — a new rubber compound was used on the existing casing of the Pro3 — the new Pro4 Comp features a more thorough overhaul.
The Michelin Pro4 Comp clincher
For starters, the new $80/£44 Pro4 Comp has a 150tpi nylon casing, which the company claims is the "highest thread count ever" for any bike tire with a nylon casing. Cotton-casing tires often run in the mid-200tpi range, but cotton is a thinner fiber than nylon, Michelin says, so a comparison is apples to oranges.
Speaking of cotton, Michelin acknowledges than the natural material is more supple, but opts for nylon because it is more durable.
On top of the 150tpi nylon casing, Michelin adds its rubber to the Pro4 Comp, which, like the Pro4, is shaped with a slightly raised center. However the new casing is more efficient than the Pro4 (by 7 percent, Michelin claims) and lighter. The Pro4 Comp is 180g, compared to the 220g Pro4, which has a 110tpi casing.
Underneath the nylon casing is a 15g flat protection layer made of densely woven nylon. In an unmounted tire, you can clearly feel the stiffer protection layer compared to the rest of the pliable casing.
Michelin's goal with the Pro4 Comp is a durable race tire. "You basically have the best of both worlds combined," said Nick Margadonna, Michelin's North American bike sales and marketing manager. "It's an ultra-light, fast race tire that you can use daily."
The tire should be available now in the US and the UK, in black, blue and red in a 23mm width.
The Michelin Pro4 Comp Limited clincher
For those who want the lightest clincher from Michelin, the Pro4 Comp Limited comes in at 165g, but that is achieved by removing the flat-protection layer. That $80/£44 tire should be available in about a month.
Michelin's in-house testing reports that the Comp Limited is 20 more efficient than the Pro4 Comp, but again, that comes at the tradeoff of fragility.
As with the Pro4 Comp, the Pro4 Comp Limited features a 150tpi casing, where the nylon threads are not woven but lined up side by side.
The Michelin Pro4 Grip clincher
The Pro4 Grip has a few features designed to keep you rolling in the wet. Sipes are cut into the tread, not to clear water as many might think, but to increase pressure and therefore grip by reducing the contact patch of the tire. Margadonna gave the analogy of a football player with a size 14 shoe and a little girl with a high heel; "the girl's heel is putting more pressure on the ground because the contact patch is much smaller," Margadonna said.
Of course a soft rubber would squish and negate some of that benefit, so a higher-durometer rubber is used.
Grip in the wet, Michelin claims, is 15 percent better than the regular Pro4.
Another foul-weather feature is an aramid (generic for Kevlar) puncture layer that is wider and a bit stouter than Michelin's typical puncture layer.
The tradeoff for this claimed 20-percent puncture resistance improvement is more weight — the 110tpi tire weighs 220g.
"Typically when you’re riding in cold, wet conditions, you’re more likely to get punctures," Margadonna siad. "Water on the road acts as a lubricant. It makes the rubber more slippery for things to puncture through it."
The Michelin Pro4 Comp tubular
While Michelin tubulars have been raced by teams like AG2R-La Mondiale for years, and available to European consumers recently, they have not been sold in the United States. This spring that will change, with the Pro4 Comp Tubular becoming available for $120.
Two widths will be available, a 23mm, 280g tire and a 25mm, 295g model. Both use a 290tpi hybrid cotton/aramid casing.
What about aero, or tubeless?
While a couple of companies like Mavic and Zipp have recently produced tires with claimed aerodynamic benefits, Michelin hasn't gone there.
"We have seen the differences," said Nicolas Cret, Michelin's road bike tire developer, "and when we are only talking about the tire itself, they are are very, very small."
Similarly, while competitors have embraced tubeless road technology, Michelin is staying the course with traditional clinchers and, now, tubulars.