Friday, August 5, 2011

Michelin vs Conti Tires

Tired of twice ruining a Pro3 Race Michelin tire on the back wheel from a short skid avoiding a clueless pedestrian on the ARPT (We need a new rule making it legal to Tazer clueless peds who walk 4-5 abreast across the Sunrise foot bridge. It's a bridge, not your living room!) I decided it was time to stop running the same tire out back as up front. After all, they do completely different jobs.

I started by removing the Pro3 Race from the front and mounting a Conti GP4000s in front, and UltraGatorskin in back. (now renamed just Gatorskin). It seemed like a good place to apply sticky and tough respectively.

I flatted about 2 blocks from home when the GP4000s blew completely off the rim on one side. After a little head-scratching, I think that's because Conti tires, and especially the GP4000s, are kind of greasy when new. A tip about mounting new tires. Rub the sidewalls around on a dusty carpet or use some talc to mop up some of the oil.

A couple of days later, while doing routine maintenance, I happened to be looking at the rim and noticed the sidewall of the GP4000s was punctured, and the tube was coming through in a half-dozen places. I'm also disturbed that the GP4000s tires have no structure. They look like a sausage, or balloon, with no discernible sidewall or crown shape. They also turned out to be pretty bouncy at pressure, and gave a harsher, and less predictable ride than my Pro3 Race had. I returned them to Performance Bike Shop for a refund.

Remounting the Pro3 Race in front, I rode with that in front and the Gatorskins (folding, Kevlar bead, of course) in back. The Gatorskins were incredibly harsh, very twitchy, and when rolling over small twigs, pebbles, or cracks caused by erupting roots under the ARPT asphalt, they hopped all over the place. It really killed my speed coming home on the SE side of Lake Natoma, which has lots of twisting, hilly turns. I just didn't trust that I could lean into a turn and know where I'd come out of it with the back end hopping all over the place.

I've put about 150 miles on the Gatorskins now, and after the center dipples wore off, AND I let the pressure leak down to 80 psi, they are reasonably stable, but obviously, at that pressure they are a bit of a drag on performance. While, perhaps, a little tougher than the GP4000s sidewalls, the Gatorskin sidewalls don't inspire much confidence either. The tread seems pretty stout, but the sidewalls are thin and don't seem to have anything offering sidewall protection comparable to the Pro3 Race - which I've flatted on 6-8 times on crushed rock without issue.

I just got through mounting a new Pro3 Race on the front, and a Michelin Krylion on the back. I also have a new Pro Optimum rear tire. They only come in 25mm, but are a set with a dedicated rear and front tire. I was able to buy the rear separately, but having only one tube that will fit a 25mm, I decided to try the Krylion first.

One of the riders at SBHs claims to get ~ 3,700 miles on the rear and 6,700 up front with the Krylions, so I'm really hoping the Krylion in back and Pro3 Race in front will make an excellent combo, well matched for mileage. (It appears Michelin hasn't decided how to spell Krylion - or Krylon - who knows)

 At this early juncture I have only one observation. If you're riding Conti tires, there's a much more compliant, supple ride, with better grip and sidewall protection waiting for you on a Michelin tire.

UPDATE: 8/5/2011

Michelin Krylion tires on the back roll a little slower than the Pro3 Race, and about the same as Gatorskins at full pressure, but without the lumber-wagon ride at full pressure. Feel is like the Gatorskins at around 85psi, but impressively stable, even while still being broken in. They also went on the rim easier than the Pro3 Race, as Michelin continues to tighten up the bead on the Pro3 based on the last 3 sets I've used.

 Krylions are a tad bit harsher ride than the Pro3 Race, but not objectionable. Fairly supple, they ballistically ejected a stone to the side of the road when I rolled over it at ~ 25mph, but the back wheel stayed pretty well planted. They are narrower than the Gatorskins, and slice through the wind better. Both the Krylion and Pro3 Race are exactly 23mm by my digital caliper. Both were run at 115psi tonight.

I've also become aware that when riding in aerobars, tires that guarantee you a sure line when you initiate a turn are much more important. You just don't have the margin for error in aerobars that you do riding up  the blocks.  You also don't want blowouts or pinch-flats in front, and with a lot less weight on the rear tire, it has to be supple or it's going to be moving around all over the place, which is completely unnerving.

I'm going to do one more ride on the Krylions, and then try the Pro Optimum. I just have a hunch they are going to feel a lot like the Pro3 Race tire, but with just a tiny bit more wind drag at high speeds. I read an online review of a guy who put the Optimums on his TT bike and beat his prior 40km time by 3 minutes. Part of that may have been improved training, but he didn't think the Optimums slowed him down at all. We shall see.


Hank said...

Thanks for the useful and detailed comparison. My last set of tire were a Conti gp4000 rear and Michelin PR2 front. After lots of great milage on them, my rear conti also developed a sidewall bulge that I luckily spotted. Just put a new Krylion on the rear & noticed little bits of glass in my PR2 front & am wondering what to go with up front. I was surprised how the Krylion 23cm looked so much thinner than my PR2.

Grey Beard said...

I think the thinner look of the Krylions is an illusion created by the color bands on the side of the cap tread, as IIRC, I used a caliper on them and they were the same width as the PR3s.

I've been riding PR3s up front and the 25mm Pro Optimum in the back, and am very, very happy. The Pro Optimum are an almost perfect rear tire. Their braking grip is just fantastic, they roll better than either the Krylion or the Gatorskins, are very puncture resistant, and I can't tell any difference in wind resistance, even at 30+ mph.

I also think they hook up just a bit better under a lot of power (less slippage) They also smoothed out some 2-week old chip-seal type road for me very nicely last weekend.

I think Conti has an institutional blind-spot about sidewalls, as all of their tires have horribly inadequate sidewalls, and don't want to get stranded hours from home with a shredded sidewall, so I will not use Conti tires again. I have flatted and rolled over my PR3 sidewalls many times and never, ever had a failure. The rear Pro Optimum's sidewall is at least as tough as the RP2.

I would like to try a Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX up front, just to know how the very best ride feels. It would help when doing these kinds of reviews. I can't imagine a better tire than the Pro Optimum in back. I think Michelin has found just the absolute apex in rear tires with that one.

Grey Beard said...

An interesting idea is the 20mm Krylion for deep dish clenchers.