Saturday, December 29, 2012

French Rubbers - Michelin Pro3 Race And Hutchinson Atom Comp Clinchers

Nothing is a shot in the dark like the evaluation of tires.  Unless the tests are conducted under controlled conditions, it is almost impossible to arrive at a uniform conclusion due to all of the variables involved in real-world usage.  While manufacturers put forth press releases explaining the desirable attributes of their tires, in reality, to the average cyclist, mileage will vary greatly from rider to rider.  Thus, “Seat of the pants” tests are all we consumers have to go on.  That being the case, there is still some concrete data which can be gleaned from the daily ride on these round, rubber things we call tires.

Michelin Pro3 Race
                                                                          Fresh out of the box.

I have used products across the Michelin realm, from automobile tires, to commercial aircraft tires, to their line of excellent, high performance motorcycle tires.  I figured if Michelin knew as much as they do about car, aircraft and motorcycle tires, well, they just may know a thing or two about bicycle tires.  Turns out they do.    

The Pro3 Race is a traditional “Folding” tire, with a dual compound, slick tread pattern – They were built for speed.  They have a 110 TPI casing and weigh approximately 200 grams.  They mount up easily with minimal work of the tire iron or some really strong fingers will do the trick, as well.   To date, I have 1800 miles on a pair of 700X23’s, which according to on-line reviews of these tires is pretty darn good - For a racing tire.  However, it was not all without issues.  Small, nagging issues, thank goodness. 

I ran them with Bontrager tubes from a low of 90 PSI to a high of 120 PSI on SRAM S40 wheels to evaluate how they performed at various pressures.  Turns out they really like the lower pressures, running extremely fast at 90 to 100 PSI.  The Michelin’s saw duty from bike trails, to steep climbs, to hairball, hard cornering, descents (including the Ojai Century), and the rubber performed flawlessly in all weather conditions, including light rain. 

                                                   Smooth rolling, and not too bad looking, either.
The only issues I have seen with these tires are they nick really, really easily.  In my subjective testing, the Pro3’s seemed to puncture rather easily compared to the Hutchinson’s.  I have even read reports of Michelins getting nicks and cuts in them after only one ride.  I find this to be true, however, it does not take away from the tires’ overall performance.  And, for the record, Michelin claims a 2500 mile service life.  Well, maybe in a laboratory test they do, but not out in the Real World.  Mine are due for replacement, and they will not live to see 1900 miles.

                                                              Note the dual-compound tread.

Now replaced in the Michelin line by the Pro4 Race’s, the Pro3’s are still a tire to be reckoned with, and they can be had for as little as $30.00 USD each.

Hutchinson Atom Comp

                                                                 Sex and the single compound

I have to admit I tried the Hutchinson Atom Comp’s purely out of curiosity.  First, they were available with red sidewalls, which was a giant plus to me.  Also, since Lance Armstrong used Hutchinson’s almost exclusively throughout his career, I figured I would see what all of the hype was about. 

The specs from Hutchinson are a slick tread, 127 TPI casing, 195 gram, single compound rubber, folding tire, with a Polyamide belt for puncture resistance.  And, they roll really, really sweet!  I ran them almost exclusively at 105 PSI for the front and 110 PSI at the rear.  This, to me, seemed to be the Hutchinson’s sweet spot for all-out speed.  I ran them on the flat bike trails of Southern California, to the descents of Glendora Mountain Road and Highway 39 (Azusa Canyon).  The compound stuck like glue in the corners, and other than some small nicks and cuts here and there, it took a major size machine screw to really mar the surface of the tires’ carcass.  And, even though they are a single compound construction, they ran very well in all-weather conditions, just like the Michelin’s did. 

I used the 700X23’s with Bontrager tubes on Mavic Ksyrium SL’s for the duration I rode on these tires.  Smooth rolling, sticky in hardcore corning, and relatively durable, overall, they can be had for as low as $35.00 USD. 

                                                Not even a giant screw could kill the Atom Comps.

While the Atom’s seemed like they were going to be quite an exceptionally durable tire, for reasons still inexplicable, the tread began to separate and crack, especially where the different colors of rubber met at approximately the 800 mile mark.  I am not sure why this was, and I am certain this is not the status quo with this tires, as I have not heard of this happening to anyone else.  I returned the tires to my dealer for evaluation by Hutchinson, but they dropped the ball (my dealer), and threw the tires out instead of reporting the issue.  Rather than beat them over the head for lousy customer service (which I should have), they stepped up with a killer deal on the Michelin’s, and I have not looked back since due to the Pro 3’s awesome performance.  Would I go back to the Atom Comp’s in the future?  Yes, definitely.

                       Notice the rubber separation where the red sidewall and black center tread meet.

Vive la France!

You cannot go wrong with either of these tires.  Both are excellent racing, training, and street tires that will provide all the performance you need without resorting to glue, and without bursting your wallet.  However, while there are plenty more tires out there which will get you higher mileage, and possess better puncture resistance (but do not roll as smoothly), does this mean the Pro3’s or the Atom Comps are bad tires? 

On the contrary, actually.  If you want the best performance bang for the buck, these tires are excellent choices for riders of all levels of ability.


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