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Review: Michelin Power RS

Versatile and track ready sports road rubber 

IT'S NOT UNTIL I’m fast approaching the turn-in point of a flat and featureless right-hander at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit that I realize it’s not the right hand corner I thought it was - it’s much tighter than I expected. Rather than bail out, I squeeze Ducati 1299 Panigle S’s front Brembo M50 monoblocs on a little more and start tipping in, determined that I’ll hit the patch of track I’m aiming for.

I just about manage it without too much fuss and as I exit the turn, the expletives inside my Shoei are replaced with thanks to the front Michelin Power RS tyre, which offered bags of grip as I braked hard and deep into the corner.

More brake, some additional faith in the capability of the Michelin Power RS-shod front end of the Ducati and a little extra bravery and are all it took to get me round. It’s a holy trinity that gets me out of trouble a few times during the night time test ride round Losail, where Michelin recently held a launch event for its new Power RS sports road tyre.

Michelin is calling it a ‘watershed moment’ for motorcycle tyres – one as significant as when it launched the first motorcycle radial tyre in the 1980s. That’s quite the statement. So is the French firm’s assertion the Power RS offers the best dry grip, agility and stability of any tyre in its class, and better wet grip than the Pilot Power 3 and Pilot Road it replaces in Michelin’s range.

That makes it the best all-round rubber Michelin offers – suitable for road riding throughout the year in a range of conditions and temperatures (it’s been tested down to 6 degrees), but with plenty of performance in reserve for riders that want to turn up the wick on track.

That window of performance isn’t new – Mezlerer’s Sportec M7 RRs do the same thing, as do the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIIs and Dunlop’s Sportsmart rubber. Sports tyres like this are the standard and having to pick between touring-style rubber that’ll work in all conditions on the road (but be pretty uselss on track) and more track-focused sticky track rubber that would be working below par on a cold wet Autumn road ride, is a thing of the past. With its claimed better wet grip, agility and stability, Michelin’s Power RS is claiming to take that performance envelope and push it even further.

The Power RS has been in development for two years, and the compound and construction technology used in it has been twice that in the making, so although the concept of a sports tyre that’s as capable on the track as it is on the road is a well established one, I’m still expecting to be impressed with the Power RS.

Before getting to sample the delights of a circuit that hosted the opening round of MotoGP less than a week ago, my first taste of new Power RS is a bit less glamorous: riding a Yamaha R3 round a dusty, and partly wet car park to test wet performance and get a sense of the Power RS’s agility. It’s also a reminder that these hoops aren’t just for 200hp sports bikes – they’re offered in sizes down to 110 at the front and 150 at the rear, meaning they’re suitable for bikes around the 300cc mark.

A tight little handling track in the car park highlights how easily the Power RSs transition from crown to shoulder and hard braking on a wet section of the test loop isn’t enough to faze the front tyre, or the ABS as the tyre digs in and stops me in much less time than expected.

And I had expected it to be just OK in the wet - with such a minimal amount of grooves, it looks like a barely-cut slick. But even though there are grooves covering just 6% of the face of the Power RS, they’re strategically placed closest to the middle, where they’re likely to be most useful on a wet road.

When it came to dig a bit deeper in to what the Power RS can do, Michelin had gathered up many of the latest ,greatest superbikes, including the Ducati 1299 Panigale S, Honda Fireblade SP, BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4, Kawasaki ZX-10R and R1 and R1M.

First up was the chance to test the outgoing Pilot Power 3 against the new Power RS - three laps on the Pilot Power 3s, then back to the pits to swap to the same model of Power RS-shod bike and out for another three laps. While picking my way round Losail as I followed the guide rider, I could tell that that Power 3s had enough grip for the moderate pace we were riding at.

The following three laps on the Power RS-shod R1 weren’t fast enough to truly understand what grip the rear tyre was could offer under hard acceleration, but they way the frton felt as I tipped the R1 in to corners and picked it up on the way out was better – sharper, more precise and stable as the bike went from being upright to on its side. Clearly when compared to the R3, the R1 is a heavier, more powerful and demanding bike to ride, but a first taste of the Power RSs on a 200hp bike echoed my earlier experience of them being stable and smooth in corners.

THE REAL chance to get to grips with this new rubber came a short while later when I was rolling towards the pit lane exit on the Ducati 1299 Panigale S.

The Power RSs are quickly up to temperature and after a couple of laps I’m already feeling confident that I can put the front tyre where I want. Turns four and five link together to form one long right-hander through which I’m steadily carrying more speed and turning in later to. No matter how late I try and turn in, or what corrections I need to make, the front tyre sticks fast to my chosen line, without a hint of protest.

The rear also puts up with as much abuse as I can dish out. Out of slow corners, I’m getting on the gas earlier and earlier, and no matter what I do with my right hand, the rear just digs in and hooks up, always retaining that feeling of support and communicating its grip well, so I’ve always got the confidence I need when exiting a bend.

During my next session on a BMW S1000RR with the traction at its lowest setting and some idea of where the track is going, the orange TC light on the dash goes berserk every time I get near the gas without being bolt upright. Even so, the rear tyre isn’t fazed by the power being put through it and when I do break traction, it happens smoothly and gradually, and I know where I stand.

The oodles of grip and confidence on offer from the Power RS come courtesy of new compounds on the front and rear. The compounds have been devised by Michelin’s own in-house chemists, meaning no other tyre manufacturer has access to them. The front tyre employs a new black carbon compound in the shoulder, to give the best possible dry grip when leant over. The rear has been given a softer compound in the middle to help with stability and acceleration.

It certainly feels like its paid off – side grip is ace and while making the odd mistake, I’m able to take a few liberties with the front end.

In terms of stability – the Power RS is very stable. Regardless of what bike I was on, when accelerating hard down the start/finish straight, the rear always felt steadfast in its connection to the track. Hitting my braking marker and pulling the anchors on with the speedo reading over 200kp/h, the front just sticks into the ground and no matter which bike I’m on, I immediately had faith in the grip and sability on offer under hard braking.

That stability is comes courtesy of the Power RS’s new the ACT+ casing. To provide optimum stability and support, the Power RS’s sidewalls, shoulders and crown are basically separated. This means the crown can be made soft, allowing the middle of the tyre to squash down lots under acceleration, while the sides of the tyre are more supportive. It’s all done thanks to a single-ply casing that folds back over itself – effectively meaning that the centre of the tyre has a radial construction and the sides have a cross-ply construction.

Once I felt like I was flying round Qatar, the new Michelin Power RS certainly had enough grip for me. The front is sticky and communicative, and the rear has the grippy, supportive feel grip you need when firing a 200hp bike round a MotoGP circuit. Of course, they looked like they’d taken some stick but they weren’t totally destroyed and I’m looking forward to finding out how they cope with the UK’s roads.

The Michelin Power RS is available now for around £250 a set and you can find out more information by clicking here.

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