Last spring I and a few of my colleagues flew to South Carolina to visit Michelin’s proving grounds for the launch of their new Power line of bike tires. It was the first big overhaul their tire line had received in nearly 20 years. They were, as we are wont to pronounce, overdue.
I still marvel at the facility. It was big enough to hide a black ops site, rehearsal space for 100 rock bands and a liberal arts college, and still leave enough room for all the different test tracks. I mention this because my takeaway was that if Michelin was willing to put this kind of muscle into testing and research, they really are different from a tire company that’s picking compounds and casings out of the catalog of some Taiwanese factory.
A couple of months after our visit I received a set of one of the variants of the Power tires. At our presentation I was told that the Power Protection+ provided all the flat sanctuary of the market’s leading flat-resistant tires but didn’t give up the feel of a high-performance clincher. One other little detail that made me, well, salivate: they come in a 28mm width.
I put them on a favorite set of wheels and rode them on Sonoma County’s awful roads. And crushed gravel. And hard-pack dirt. After doing that for two months, I pulled them off those wheels and mounted them on the wheels I travel with. They’ve been there ever since. Belgian pavé. Swiss climbs. Rain-slicked farm roads. Winding Corsican descents. And the absolute trifecta—wet cobbles in a port littered with crushed glass.
They have yet to flat. I run them at 75 psi and treat them like a rental car.
I should clarify something. When I travel, while I always travel with a couple of tubes, a few insta-patches and a mini-pump, I don’t want to get a flat. There are a couple of reasons for this. I’m often under time constraints and don’t want my ride time eaten into by a flat tire. Also, replacing a flatted tube isn’t always easy, as I learned the hard way on one trip to Hawaii. And patching tubes when you’re supposed to be hanging out with other people is too lame to even be called passé.
So I place a premium on having flat-proof tires that don’t ride like flat-proof tires. I rode the original Specialized Armadillos. They had the ride quality of a bare aluminum rim—all the traction and most of the comfort. And while tires have come a long way over the years, the Power Protection+ is the first flat-resistant tire I’ve ridden that didn’t make me think I was giving up ride quality.
The Michelin Protek belt reaches from bead to bead, so the Power Protection+ isn’t just reinforced at the tread; this tire is more resistant to sidewall cuts as well. Lest anyone worry that this tire, which is likely to be preferred by commuters and racers looking for a high-mileage training tire, Michelin gave this model a wear-resistant rubber compound (and included wear indicators to let you know how much rubber is left). The casing between the belt and the tread is a three-ply 110 tpi, which is a big reason these tires don’t ride like skateboard wheels.
The Power Protection+ tires come in three sizes (23, 25 and 28mm) and one color, basic black. On the Stan’s Grail rim (20.3mm inner width) the 28 measures out at 29.5mm wide. Suggested retail is $59.99, which puts them in the premium category. I estimate I’ve got more than 600 miles on them and they show little wear. I may end up with twice the mileage of most similarly priced tires, which makes their value double that of equal-cost rubber.
Final thought: Getting worked up over a clincher is unseemly for a grown man. Pardon me while I retire to the garage.
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