Review: Michelin Power RS
Jeremy Pick rides the Losail track, Qatar, to see if the Power RS is as revolutionary as Michelin claims it to be.
Michelin has been making motorcycle tyres since the Edwardian era, when its tyres were fitted to the very earliest De Dion Boutons. With experience going back to the 19th century, it is now confident its latest tyre, the Michelin Power RS, is one of the most important developments in its history, and the most important for motorcycles since the original radial tyre was launched in the early 1980s.
The Michelin team go even further, describing the Power RS as a “watershed moment” with the stated aim for the new tyre to become the number one motorcycle sports tyre – bar none.
Under development for the last two years and with construction technology going back two years before that, Michelin has invested a massive €700 million in research and development to bring the new tyre to market. A new compound has been developed in-house – one which will not be available to any other manufacturer – as well as newly developed construction methods.
Of course, hyperbolic claims from manufacturers are nothing new. So, to put the tyres to a real-world test and convince cynical motorcycle journalists, dealers and ‘influencers’, Michelin chose to launch its new product at a location that would test these claims to the limit – one of the fastest and most demanding race circuits in the world, the Losail track in Qatar. One week previously, Losail had hosted the opening round of the Moto GP; now the very fast and technically demanding track was dedicated solely to demonstrating the abilities of Michelin’s new product.
The technology behind Michelin's new tyre
Before letting loose the world’s media on the track, Michelin outline the background to the new technology which has gone into the tyres. After all, with an already excellent product already on the market in the form of the Power 3, how much better can a new tyre be?
The philosophy behind the new tyre is simple; targeted squarely at road users, the aim is to provide the best handling available, in both wet and dry conditions. It’s also intended to provide the greatest level of feedback to the rider and have a lifetime that is significantly longer than others in what is a highly competitive market.
This has been achieved by combining Michelin’s new top-secret compound with a new construction method. It uses the manufacturer’s Active Casing Technology to separate the stiff sidewall and flexible crown. The ply goes much further up the shoulder of the tyre than previously and there is a new tread pattern.
The rear tyre has been engineered to optimise the pressure exerted on the contact patch to ensure enhanced straight-line and cornering stability. On the front tyre, engineers have focused on providing enhanced agility and stability by varying the thickness of the ply to optimise the leaning forces under road use, to give maximum possible feedback to the rider.
The result is a road tyre that resembles a trackday tyre but with the durability needed for road use. Independent testing results conducted by Germany’s Motorrad Test Centre and provided by Michelin show the new Power RS to be the fastest and best handling tyre on the market for both track and road use. When testing at the Cartagena track in Spain, it had a 3.5-second lap advantage on the closest competitor, while giving a 25% advantage in tyre life over the competition.
But enough of Michelin’s marketing claims; I haven’t come to Qatar just to tell you what you can find online. It’s time to try out the tyres.
Sports bikes and the Power RS
A mini replica of the circuit is laid out in the track’s car park, with cones and white lines, as an agility test on 300cc sports bikes – probably a wise move before letting us loose on supersport bikes on the full track.
The logic is twofold – to get used to the tyres on something less than the 200bhp supersports bikes lined up in the pit lane, and to demonstrate Michelin’s commitment to the ever more important small sportsbike category in which all the major manufacturers are competing. The aim is to test the limits of the tyres in a tight course over multiple laps, terminating in an emergency braking test on a stretch of water-soaked skidpan.
Despite the best efforts of the assembled riders, the tyres pass this test with flying colours, demonstrating faultless grip and lean angles on the dry replica of the circuit, and giving perfect emergency braking stability in the wet, despite hammering on the brakes to bring the little Yamaha R3 I’m riding to a halt – all achieved with zero drama.
Supersports bikes and the Power RS
The next test looks set to be more demanding and more informative – our hosts have lined up sets of identical bikes in the pit lane, each pair including one shod with the old Pilot Power 3 tyres and the other with the new Power RS. The aim is to perform a set of laps with the ‘old’ rubber, then immediately compare it with the new product to highlight the differences in handling, feedback and grip.
These are no ordinary bikes, mind you – the cream of the current crop of 200bhp supersports bikes has been assembled, including the Honda Fireblade, Yamaha R1, Ducati Panigale, Aprilia RSV4, Kawasaki ZX10R and BMW S1000RR.
I’m on the ZX10, behind the lead Michelin rider for the first ‘sighting’ lap, and we’re off round the MotoGP circuit. The Qatar track has a flat layout with a noticeable lack of markers, brakepoints or even viewing stands except on the superfast start-finish straight. It is just as well that the lead rider is making less than race pace, albeit still pretty quick. With the first lap completed, we are on our own for a further two laps to test the capabilities of the ‘old’ tyres.
The Pilot Power 3 – despite being replaced by the new rubber – is still a highly capable fast road tyre and copes well with the demands of the super-fast circuit. It only shows its limits when pushed hard in the technical sweeping corners.
After three laps, we swap to the companion bikes fitted with the new Power RS front and rear, then we’re back on the track for a further three laps. By the end of the session, the superior capabilities of the new tyres are becoming apparent. Small mistakes in setting up lines in and out of the corners are forgiven and the bike feels more stable and precise, more forgiving of errors.
The three test laps are completed all too quickly and we are back into the pits and it’s time to swap onto further Power RS-shod exotica. The BMW R1000RS, equipped with all the electronic rider aids known to man, performs even more capably with the demands of the circuit, showing no signs of getting out of shape despite being pushed hard into the sweeping bends – certainly the capabilities of bike and tyre exceed the limits I’m prepared to push it to.
By the end of the night the Power RS tyres have backed up Michelin’s claims. Feedback to the rider is phenomenal; the tyres show no signs of reaching the limits of their capabilities and are super-forgiving of the demands made on them. Get out of shape mid corner, or take the wrong line into a difficult sweeping bend and the tyres flatter the abilities of riders of all levels, showing them to be far more capable than I am prepared to push them in pursuit of their limits.
So – manufacturer’s hyperbole, or a genuine leap forward in tyre technology? A racetrack test can only show so much but the results show the new tyres perform faultlessly under demanding conditions, give tremendous feedback and certainly exceed the capabilities of the average road rider.
The bottom line? Power RS tyres are available now, so if you are looking for a highly capable road tyre with exceptional levels of grip, superb stability good wear characteristics and capable of trackday work as well as regular road riding, Michelin can deliver.