New road bike tires: Michelin Pro4 Service Course.
When it comes to bike equipment, I believe tire choice is one of the most important decisions any cyclist–road or MTB–must make. Think about it: the only thing that connects your bike to the ground are those two tiny patches of tire. Riding with tires that you feel confident in will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the sport.
For a daily rider/training tire, puncture resistance is obviously near the top of the list–but not at the expense of solid handling/corning, ride quality and overall build quality. I’ve reached speeds well in excess of 80 kilometers per hour on my bike, and at those kinds of speeds I don’t want to have to worry about my tires letting me down.
On the road cycling side of things, I’ve tried quite a few tires. I absolutely hated my Madone’s stock Bontrager R3 tires: I flatted three times in just over 300 kilometers on those. That’s an appalling failure rate.
After pulling the R3 tires and setting them on fire, I ran Continental’s extremely tough GatorSkins. I put about 3,000 kilometers on the GatorSkins, and they never once let me down. The GatorSkin is about about the toughest tire around (I’ve also heard great things about the Specialized Armadillo tire, but I’ve not tried that one yet), so if you regularly ride on roads with poor conditions, these might be worth a look. On the downside, the Gatorskins are heavy and slow rolling, and I feel they have a harsh ride quality. Also, from an aesthetic standpoint (if that matters to you), I really don’t care for the yellow sidewall weave. I think it’s ugly, particularity on my current bike.
For the last 5,000+ kilometers I’ve been running another offering from Continental: the Grand Prix 4000S tire. Apart from a couple of minor gripes, I was extremely pleased with the 4000s tires. The ride quality with these tires was above average, and significantly less harsh than the GatorSkins. Corning performance was close to excellent, and their performance in the rain was also quite good.
As you can see in the photo to the right, after 5,000 kilometers the tires certainly picked up some battle scars along the way. That photo represents just one of dozens of similar cuts in the tire surfaces. The Grand Prix 4000S tires never once let me down: 5,000+ kilometers and I didn’t suffer a single flat on either tire.
I have two minor complaints about the 4000S tires: they didn’t last a particularly long time, and they came in about 9% over the manufacturer’s claimed weight (claimed 205g, actual 228g and 229g). Again, very minor complaints. I loved these tires.
So it was time to replace the 4000S tires, and I decided to try another tire that is highly regarded: the Michelin Pro4 Service Course tire.
The Pro4 Service Course tires are reported to have excellent puncture resistance, even better cornering than the 4000S and perhaps a slightly smoother ride quality with even lower rolling resistance. Sounds good to me!
The Pro4 tires have a manufacturer’s claimed weight of 200g and, as you can see in my photo to the left, they came in just under that mark.
I love the simple, sleek and understated look of the tires. They match well with my Beyond Black Zipps and my bike. The Pro4s also happen to be available in a wide variety of colors, so that may be a plus for some people, too.
Of course what really matters is how the tires perform. I’ve got some big rides coming up, including some very long training rides leading up to a 275 kilometer coast-to-coast Florida ride I’m going to be doing soon (more on that later this week), so I need a tire that I can rely on and can handle all kinds of road and weather conditions.
Because I was so happy with the Grand Prix 4000S tires, the Michelin Pro4 Service Course tires have some mighty big shoes to fill. I have high hopes, but I won’t hesitate to go back to the Grand Prix 4000S tire if the Pro4 tire doesn’t live up to my expectations.
I’ll follow up with my thoughts once I have some miles on ’em.