Durable and Fast
Also, tips included for extending the life of any bicycle tire
When I trained and raced, I wanted to be the best. And when it came to the best bicycle tires on the market, I had to say there was only one: the Michelin Pro 3 Race clincher. (Why clincher instead of tubeless? Great question. Let me think about my reasons and I'll throw those in at the bottom.)
I am a major fan of the Michelin Pro 3 Race tires. (I started back with the Michelin Pro 2 Race version) I had a limited budget, but I wanted the best equipment I could afford. One of the first areas that I spent some considerable amount of time and money researching was that of my bicycle tire.
There were so many options. My advantage, was that as a bicycle shop employee, I had exclusive access to trade shows, product demos, and even – on a few occasions -- had full access to peloton team riders' equipment (Ever ride a $12,000 bicycle? It's a thrill).
Now pro's will ride whatever they get to paid to ride. And I would to – if I were pro. But I'm not. That's why I chose the Michelin Pro 3 Race tires.
There are many major, high-end performance bicycle racing tires on the market. Continental, Vittoria and Michelin were my top brands. And I tried all of them. And there are some trade-offs, which as a racer, doesn't make your decision any easier. I want to briefly touch on some of those trade-offs and review why the Michelin Pro3 Race became my tire of choice.
First of all, Michelin Pro 3 Race tires are super-easy to install. They are very pliable, which allows them to slip on smoothly over the rim with no pinch-flats. In most cases – even when working with brand new Michelin Pro 3 Race tires – I installed them without a tire lever. (Vittoria's, on the other hand are the hardest tires to install. Bleh.)
One day on a training ride with the local team, I hit a large pothole and flatted on the rear tire. Anxious not to permanently lose the peloton, I had the tube changed in less than 3 minutes. There's not many tires outside of the Michelin Pro 3 Race that allow for that rapid of a change. (And thankfully, my team was soft-pedaling while I worked)
The added benefit with being a pliable tire, is that the Michelin Pro3 Race tires were extremely comfortable. At the height of my training, I was averaging over 300 miles each week on my bike. The Michelin Pro3 Race tires are extremely comfortable and significantly reduce rider fatigue, allowing me to ride longer.
Now pliable does not mean “squishy”. Many on my team chose Vittoria and Continental tires because they allowed for a higher (150 psi) pressure. There are several tested errors to this thinking that higher pressure is better. Basically, unless you weight 180 pounds or more, you are going to have difficulty keeping both bike wheels on the ground. The higher pressure cause the bicycle to ricochet off every bump, creating an unstable ride, and wasted energy.
The Michelin Pro 3 maintains this comfortable feel, while still remaining responsive to every command to attack.
The Michelin Pro 3 Race tire is also extremely durable. It advertises a 2,500 mile lifespan, and I exceeded that on multiple sets of tires (at 300 miles per week you hit those life spans pretty quickly.) I also never experienced a catastrophic blow-out where I lost the side-wall or other spectacular failures. My Continental Grand Prix's seemed to pick up invisible flats every time I rode in the rain, and My friend -- who I never could switch off of the Vittoria tires -- seemed to have a spectacular failure every third race or so.
Of course, as a bicycle mechanic, I had learned a couple of secrets for extending the life of your tires. I'll share those below. Just scroll down to the end of the article to check out how you can avoid flats and extend the life of any bicycle tire.
Bicycle secrets aside, I had fewer flats on the Michelin Pro3 Race tires than the other brands I tried. And it wasn't just me. By the end of the season a good many of our cycling club had converted to the Michelin Pro3 Race tire.
The last thing I loved about the Michelin Pro3 Race tire is how much grip the tire provided. A lot of our races were criteriums. Needless to say, that's a lot of high-speed cornering. I frankly feel that even if you don't use this tire anywhere else in your season, that this, or the Michelin Pro Grip Race tires are hands-down the best tire for Crit season.
Some of the corners I coaxed out of these tires still scare me to think about. As a young rider I was over-aggressive. And it paid off. I got my Category 4 upgrade in a matter of weeks, and had some great top-ten placements. I really believe the Michelin Pro3 Race tires saved my padded shorts on more than one occasion.
My one Con about this tire is its weight. At 200g the Michelin Pro3 Race is still a little heavy for those people wanting a super-light tire. But if you are one of those people, you probably aren't reading this review anyways.
Basically the Michelin Pro3 Race tires were an excellent investment for my racing career.
I've also seen that Amazon has some great deals on Michelin Pro3 Race tires. (And some more great reviews). Feel free to check out the Michelin Pro3 Race tire there.
- About halfway through the tire's life, rotate the back to the front. It helps even the wear pattern and really extends the life of your year tire. Just make sure that you rotate the tires before the back tire has worn a significant flat area down the middle.
- Every 200 miles, deflate the tire and check it carefully for rocks, glass, chips and cuts. Remove the offending articles. Re-inflate the tires and fill the gashes with super glue. You would be amazed at how many flats that will avoid. I made it a whole racing season with only two flats. One was from a racing wreck and one from that pothole I mentioned.
That's the age-old debate isn't it? Well, I have a few reasons why I choose clinchers:
Bicycles come off-the-shelf with clincher wheels. Sure you can spend you dough (if you have it) and upgrade. But if you get a flat, you either need a second set of wheels in the SAG vehicle (more money!), or you'll have to try to re-use the glue and slap a new tubeless tire in its place.
Plus, if you do flat, you are probably looking at a whole new tire. At $50+ a pop, that gets expensive really fast.
I never liked the tire glue. Bleh.
Let's face it. It takes skill to install one of those tubeless tires. I never got that good at it. Remember the 3-minute tire change I mentioned? Why fix what isn't broken?
Now there are some excellent pro's out there for tubeless tires, such as durability, better cornering, lighter weight and possibly more speed. But the benefits of tubeless tires never convinced me to lay down the cash for a tubeless wheelset. In fact, when I had the extra dough, I upgraded my bike frame instead.