Michelin is far from being a new player in motorcycle sport. Having participated in the Premier Grand Prix World Championship classes for 36 years from 1972 to 2008, Michelin achieved 360 victories over 36 years. In the 13 years from 1993 to 2006, a rider on Michelins won every premier GP championship.Always innovative, Michelin launched radial construction tires in 1984, and it was a quantum leap in motorcycle tire technology over the old bias belt design. Michelin had another technological leap in 1994 with the introduction of multi-compound tires. This allowed super-soft tires to provide the best grip at extreme lean angles, with a harder compound rubber centerline the tire for improved mileage life.
Now, Michelin’s new position in 2016 as the spec tire supplier to MotoGP has placed them at the pinnacle of tire development once again. In Michelin’s first year as the spec tire, lap records fell—quite dramatically at some tracks—on a regular basis. In theory, if Michelin can make the fastest motorcycles on the planet work, then that technology will trickle down to the tires we use on the street. Enter the new Power RS as a replacement for Michelin’s previous Pilot Power 3.The Power RS is targeted primarily as a street tire, while also working well for track days. Michelin claims that the Sport RS outperforms its competitors’ tires, of course, including the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21, the Dunlop SportSmart 2 (not imported into the US); the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III, and the Metzeler Sportec M7 RR.Although those tires are most certainly all sport tires, they are a small step below each company’s grippiest street/sport tire, such as the Bridgestone Battlax Racing Street RS10, Dunlop Sportmax Q3, and the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP.The Power RS has a new, patented carcass construction that Michelin claims gives excellent stability, and increased confidence at maximum lean angle. The Power RS also boasts dual-compound technology; unusually, the front tire also has dual compounds, with softer shoulders for more grip when leaned over.The most noticeable thing when first viewing the new Michelin is the dramatically reduced tread pattern! The tread does not have the typical long grooves—just a series of short-ish hollows or indentations. This is a radical departure from the Pilot Power 3, which looked like it had plenty of grooves!Michelin also made the compounds across the Power RS softer because of the new carcass construction, and the company claims that, on a BMW S 1000 RR on several European race circuits, the Power RS is 3.5 seconds quicker per lap than the Pilot Power 3,As far back as the mid-1990s when I was club racing, Michelin or Dunlop were the best choices. Michelin always had the slightly better grip in those days, but they lacked feel for me. Naturally, I was curious if the intervening 23 years had changed things and how the Power RS would perform.I fitted the tires to our long-term tester, the brilliant Yamaha FZ-10, and headed off to a track day at The Thermal Club in Thermal, Calif., as well as put some miles on the street.The Thermal Club (designed by Alan Wilson of Miller Motorsports Park fame) is more of a car venue; there are plenty of corners there are also several long straights that end with a slow, hairpin style turn.Pulling on to the circuit I was immediately impressed how secure the FZ-10 felt. The Yamaha is an upright style motorcycle and, while it’s not a nervous machine, it could be made so if the tires had too much of a radical profile. The Michelins felt just right and as the tires warmed. As I figured my way around the track, I became more and more impressed by how smoothly and precisely the Michelins felt and behaved.I was principally riding the Blue (North Palm B) track at Thermal. It’s relatively short at 1.5 miles, yet it’s very technical and tested both the tires and FZ-10 well.Turn 3 is a long left-hand corner that travels through what feels like around 320 degrees—in other words, it’s not quite a full circle, but boy, it feels like it as it just goes on and on! It’s also not quite a constant radius turn, so there are several incremental line changes needed through the corner, at maximum lean angle, with the footpegs scraping fairly hard (yes, I’d taken off the peg-feelers).The Michelins changed line, as needed, and the level of grip gave me absolute confidence. This was especially true for the front end, which could have been easy to unload in such a long corner.After lunch, The Thermal Club opened up the main Red (South Palm C) circuit and combined it with the Blue one. This gave a much longer lap of just over three miles, and now included a couple of long straights with hairpin corners at the ends.I quickly found that when coming down hard from just over 150 mph, the Michelins and front end of the FZ-10 were super-stable on the brakes; there was no squirming or wandering from the tires at all. When I reached my turn-in point, the Power RS tires laid over quickly and precisely; I could place the bike straight to the apex.After a couple of sighting laps, I upped my pace and felt pretty good. Unfortunately, I made one miscalculation and found myself heading into a slow left/right chicane way too hot at about 70 mph. It caught me by surprise, and I had no option but to grab a handful and trail-brake deep into that first left and then somehow try and make the quick transition over to the right.Happily, I made it. Although it must have looked a bit scrappy, any onlooker must have been surprised I didn’t run off track. Thank you, Michelin! The Yamaha is equipped with ABS, and I was fully expecting to feel it juddering through the front lever, but actually, it did not—the Michelins totally held on.The other part of a tire test for me, is the quality of transition through a series of turns. The Thermal Club has not only the aforementioned slow chicane, but also an interesting right/left/right series of fast-ish turns that crest a slight hill over on the Blue track. The corners are not quite consistent-radius and, because the entrance into the first part is quite fast, I needed a sure-footed machine to stay stable while navigating the transitions.The Power RS tires are very agile and go to maximum lean angle sure-footedly and then pick up and go to the other side without making the FZ-10 lose any stability or creating any waggling at the handlebar.Accelerating out of the various Thermal Club hairpins, with almost no other vehicles sharing the track, gave me the excuse to unleash my inner hooligan. The Yamaha FZ-10 has a fearsome midrange and is possibly the easiest and most beautifully balanced machine it has ever been my pleasure to wheelie.Using traction control setting 1, wheelies have little to no interference, and the joy of unfettered stupidity sets off an endorphin rush in me that only motorcyclists truly understand. Grabbing a handful of FZ-10 mid-range in second gear, the Michelins gripped perfectly with no squirming or sliding. The front cruised nicely skyward in an effortless power-wheelie, allowing me to use Yamaha’s accessory GYTR Quick Shifter Kit to seamlessly change up into third—and even fourth gear when I got it right.I left The Thermal Club feeling as though Michelin has now come up with a winner of a tire on track. Sure, for ultimate lap times there are softer-compound pure racing tires. However, on the FZ-10, the Power RS tires behaved impeccably on track and better than I could have hoped.I now wanted to try the tires on the street as well. A week later, several staffers and I took the Yamaha FZ-10 on a long street ride through our favorite SoCal mountains and up to New Cuyama for lunch at Cuyama Buckhorn.California Highway 33 north of Ojai is always a great test of tires, as the first technical section needs a tire that will transition quickly and give good feel while transitioning from side to side. Even in the upper reaches of the 33 where the speeds increase, the Michelins kept their poise. The FZ-10 felt planted yet agile, no matter what the road threw at it.Overall, the grip and feel from the Michelin Power RS tires is outstanding. Even at the track in a long sweeping corner on an upright/standard style machine, the Yamaha FZ-10 maintained rock-steady stability coupled with total confidence in the front end. Likewise, accelerating out of corners or braking hard from speed doesn’t diminish the tires’ capability either, and that applies whether on track or street. Overall, I have been very impressed so far with the new Michelin Power RS, and will now start evaluating their longevity and performance when nearly worn down. Stay tuned!
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!