by Steve Atlas

Michelin Power One

Tires are a funny thing. When one is passionate about pushing the limits at the racetrack, those black and round doughnuts become a form of currency. I remember going to the grocery store during my privateer racing days and in the checkout line adding up in my head how many tires worth of food I was purchasing. Not having a ton of money and a life that revolved around club racing, this was the result. Tires became gold. I’m sure a lot of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s for this reason that I know the value of good, sticky rubber that will last. And I still put a lot of weight in that to this day. It’s also the basis on which we evaluate track-based tires. For this year’s Supersport Shootout we went with the all-new Michelin Power One DOT race tire to see how the new rubber stacks up.

Two full days of racetrack abuse at the hands of national-caliber, AMA Championship-winning riders on the six newest and best Supersports on the market. If that’s not a good test of how a tire performs for racers and trackday riders alike, I’m not sure what is. Did I mention we did a World Superbike-style Superpole session? Got to see how these bad boys do at the ragged edge!

Sadly, Michelin is no longer in MotoGP. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some MotoGP tucked away in this Power One tire. Where else do you think all this claimed new technology comes from? The new compounds, construction, manufacturing process – all decedents of MotoGP in some way.

Available in several configurations, a quick visit to guides riders and racers through a step-by-step process to determine the ideal tire for each rider’s desired application. (I must say, the site is cool, so be sure to have a look.) The DOT-approved race rubber comes in 20 different models and eight different sizes with nine different rubber compounds.

Up front, three different carcass constructions allow for a range of stiffness to be chosen from, while an entirely new shape is said to provide quicker turn-in. Out back it’s a similar scenario, with an all-new profile and carcass construction, as well as new manufacturing process taken directly from MotoGP.

We got our Power Ones through Dale Kieffer of Racer’s Edge Performance (702-257-3808). Not only is Kieffer a long-time Michelin distributor, he is also a riding school instructor as well as a quite fast racer. So, when the guy tells you something, you know he’s tried it personally and at a pace quicker than 99% of those he sells to. That’s always reassuring when it comes to something as important as tires. It’s also why when he tells me the tires are vastly improved, we believe him.

“At a Las Vegas club race a few weeks ago I did a back-to-back test with a couple of my faster riders. In the first race I put them out on the previous DOT race rubber. Then in the second race I mounted the new Power One, not having them make any changes to their bikes at all. Both went 1.5-seconds faster on the new tire right out of the box!” says Kieffer of the full-fledged DOT Power One.

Impressive, but we weren’t just going to take his word for it, thus extensive testing ensued.

Day One saw some teething issues to get all the bikes set up for the new rubber. This was spent at the fast and flowing Big Willow on the generally-available trackday/race Michelin Power One 2CT Tire.

For the beginner to average rider, grip is adequate, as is feel and feedback. Although at our pace we found full-lean edge-grip more akin to a high-performance street tire than hardcore race tire. They also wore quite quickly at the Big Willow.

The difference between the two tires lies in the construction and the carcass. The race rubber is far stiffer, while the front profile has steeper side angles to provide quicker turn-in. The standard tire is also only available in one compound, while the full-race has several different options front and rear. If you are on the faster end of trackday riders or a hardcore racer, we wouldn’t recommend the general production Power One. Though anything less and this tire is more than up to the task.

“For the pace we were pushing, Day One on the general production tire showed a few flaws,” said Sorensen. “They are a good tire for trackday guys and have ample feel and feedback, but at high levels of lean the side-grip wasn’t that of a full-on race tire. They wore quite quickly as well.”

But come Day Two, out came the full-spec DOT race rubber and the new Michelin’s true prowess emerged. These are available solely through trackside retailers like Racer’s Edge Performance.

In our Superpole session, the Power One allowed yours truly to nearly break into the 1:19s on a multitude of the bone-stock 600s – with ease. All with no close calls whatsoever. And to be at that pace with such little effort was truly amazing.

Outright front grip is off-the-charts good, as is the rear. Though, grip has never been an issue for Michelin tires in recent years. Predictability as to when the tires will slide has been our biggest complaint – especially from the rear. The French company addressed both this predictability issue as well as improving heat-up-times with the Power One. No question both areas have been greatly improved. Once worn, sliding the rear tire was fun and easy to control. And a mere 30 minutes on warmers proved enough to have your knee on the ground right out of the pits if you’re brave enough to try. Same goes for when the tires are brand new. If on the warmers for at least half-an-hour, in less than one lap they were fully bedded-in and ready to haul-butt. Impressive.

Honestly, it really is hard to have anything but praise for the new race-spec Power One. Others agreed…

“They really have made the tire far better,” 2-time AMA champ Chuck Sorensen commented about the full fledged Power One race tire. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been on Michelin tires, but these are impressive. Outright grip is great and the feedback they give back to the rider is equally on par. Every little bump through the turn is translated to the rider and the full-fledged race rubber had a massive amount of outright grip. Much improved.”

“The (Michelin) Power One offers a very high level of feel,” adds MotoUSA VP, Ken Hutchison. “They were abused thoroughly but you always could feel what was going on both out front and in the back. The full-on race compound seemed to be much more durable under the constant abuse of our track testing regiment. While the standard Power One on the first day tended to wear out quicker, both are sticky and were a lot of fun to go tearing around both Willow’s tracks. I would highly recommend them.”

Road Test Editor Adam Waheed summed the tires up well, saying, “Bottom line is, despite being recently injured, I easily lowered my personal best lap times at Streets of Willow by nearly two seconds, much of this due to the Michelins. In full-race form they are amazing tires.”

As you can see everyone in the test instantly loved the full-race-spec Michelin Power One. While the old tire had a few weak points, those have been addressed with this new French rubber, making for a tire that is on par with what both Pirelli and Dunlop have on the market. It really is a shame AMA Supersport (or whatever it’s called now) racing went to a single-tire rule, as it would have been great to see these Power Ones face off against the all-mighty Dunlops. With the right rider and bike, no doubt they could have given them a run for their money. Sounds like it’s time for us to do a little tire shootout…

Prices start at $150 front and $185 rear, going up to $170 front and $240 rear, depending on sizes. Those sizes range from a 110/70-17 to 120/70-17 front and 150/60-17 to 190/55-17 rear. Be sure to consult Michelin’s website or a trackside vendor for proper fitment.