After decades of domination during the era of 500cc Grand Prix racing, and more recently, the first five seasons of MotoGP competition, Michelin vanished with hardly a whisper having lost out to Bridgestone as the MotoGP spec tire supplier three years ago. The French tire brand didn’t stop developing sportbike tires, however, and the proof is its Power One line of high-performance motorcycle tires.
The Power One series is Michelin’s top-of-the line tire range for high-performance street and sportbikes. It is available in a variety of versions including racing slicks and rains (for closed-course use) as well as treaded street and racing versions for both road and track. The treaded and DOT-labeled Power One race tire was selected as the Official Tire of the 2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track shootout and fitted on each of the seven motorcycles tested.
Although this generation of rubber has been around for a few years now, Michelin continues to tweak the compound formulas to handle the constantly evolving motorcycle engine and chassis technology. Each treaded tire features dual-compound tread zones with softer rubber used on the shoulder areas for more adhesion when cornering and a harder compound at the center for stability during acceleration and braking.
(Above) The Michelin Power One treaded race tires were the Official Tire of this year’s Superbike Smackdown. (Below) The Power One race tires serve up a phenomenal amount of grip even when shod on BMW’s 183-horsepower sportbike.
The front tire comes in three variations denoted by either an A, B or V letter designation stamped within a circle on the sidewall of the tire. If the circle is empty then it’s a non-race tire. The ‘A’ represents a five-ply construction with a soft compound. The ‘B’ is also a five-ply construction with a more durable medium compound. The ‘V’ tire is a soft compound and uses one less ply which alters the profile giving it a more triangular shape for greater steering response and a more flexible carcass for additional road feel while cornering. In our shootout we used the ‘B’ tire option on the BMW S1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, KTM RC8R, and Suzuki GSX-R1000 based on preference. The Ducati 1198, Honda CBR1000RR and Yamaha R1 all were fitted with the quicker steering ‘V’ tire.
There are a total of four rear tire options also denoted by an A, B, C or D letter designation stamped on the sidewall. Each variation (with exception of the D) utilizes a four-ply construction designed to deliver an optimum contact patch with the pavement. The ‘A’ tire is the softest compound designed for qualifying or short sprint races. The ‘B’ is a medium compound for all-around use while the ‘C’ is the hardest compound engineered for maximum durability. Lastly the ‘D’ tire is designed specifically for use at circuits with high-speed banked corners including Daytona International Speedway. It features a soft compound with a three-ply construction and asymmetric compound zones for added life on the banking but higher grip in the slower speed turns. All seven bikes were fitted with the ‘C’ compound based on Michelin’s recommendations.
How did they perform? One word: spectacularly. We’ve been doing these Superbike shootouts for quite some time (eight years to be exact) and each year we inevitably find ourselves worrying if the race rubber we select is going to go the distance and last through our vigorous testing regiment as each machine is ridden pretty much non-stop from morning to sundown. Yet at the end of our test day we only went through two sets on each bike and the tires still had plenty of life and displayed no abnormal wear. Don’t believe us? Most of our testing crew hung out for another three days and kept riding during a SoCal Trackdays weekend.
During our official test day all of the tires were pre-heated with warmers before anyone rode so we could get our knee down in the first turn, when we were brave enough. But even without the use of warmers during the weekend riders could still ease into the power and lean angle halfway through the first lap.
When the tires were fresh it was ridiculous how much grip they served up especially at the rear. For sure the asphalt at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway is more grippy than other racetracks but still I distinctly remember how early you could pin—not ease in—but literally slam open the throttle while partially leaned over without a hint of tire spin, just pure 100% traction that would instantly send the front wheel to the sky. It was unbelievable! Outright grip was consistent and didn’t fade as the tire got hot.
The Power One race tires feel like a cross-between the rigidity of a Dunlop
and the softness of a Pirelli.
The feel from the rear seemed a hybrid between the more rigid carcass of a Dunlop and the flexibility of a Pirelli and we generally really liked the way they felt. The front tires also delivered an astronomical amount of grip. I remember one time accidently jabbing the front brake lever as I closed in on the apex of a corner and instead of the tire just folding it had so much grip that it caused the front of the bike to stand up suddenly. That’s how hard you can push the front tire. The only problem is that it has a vaguer feel as compared to the rear, which made it harder to trust and really explore the limits of adhesion. While we couldn’t tell much difference in terms of outright traction or road feel, the ‘V’ shaped front tire enhanced the handling attributes of historically slow-steering machines like the R1 and the 1198 considerably.
Since Michelin no longer supports mega-buck racing series like MotoGP it now has the ability to devote more of that cash back to those who really need it—amateur and semi-professional racers. For 2011, Michelin is offering in excess of $2.6 million dollars of contingency at such road race events including California’s WSMC, AFM and the newly formed CVMA at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. If you’re looking for the ultimate in grip when we recommend Power One treaded race tires. For more information or to purchase a set of tires contact Racer’s Edge Performance.