Review: Michelin Pro Optimum Tires

You can have a $50 blue-light special all the way up to a $15k ultimate racer, but no matter what you ride, the tires are where the rubber literally meets the road.

Michelin Pro Otimum (Front pictured)
Michelin Pro Otimum (Front pictured)

Price:  $45-60

Usage Time/Distance:  approx. 1,500 miles on the first set, 3,100 miles on the second set before being replaced

Purchased From:  Bicycles of Tulsa

Size:  700 x 25C

Pros

  • Excellent road feel
  • Handling on both dry and wet roads is good
  • High TPI (threads-per-inch) count and wide size (25C) add to comfort and handling
  • Decent puncture resistance

Cons

  • Several small gouges/breaks that could have lead to failure (but this may be true of other tires)
  • Tight fitting; rather hard to put on / take off at first (after about 1,000 miles, they come on/off like any other tire)
  • Front/Rear specific means places can charge different prices for each (though I haven’t seen this much), and you have to buy the right one

These tires are the default equipment for the 2011 Defy Advanced 1 from Giant. As implied by the name (Optimum), the tires are front- and rear-specific. The concept being that rear tires typically wear faster because they carry more of the weight and all the driving torque, whereas front tires handle more of the turning/handling and traction. So they’ve made the rear tire with a beefier compound to reduce wear, and the front is slightly lighter and “grippier” than the rear.

At first I thought they looked huge – especially compared to the Specialized 23c Mondos I had on my old OCR3. After I got used to the oversized looks however (measured they’re approx. 26mm wide) I found that they rolled very nicely. Acceleration felt good, with very little slippage under hard acceleration or steep hill climbs. The only serious slippage I noticed was during the Flower Power Ride where the roads were so wet that if you stood up in the saddle, your rear wheel might spin just from the lack of weight over the wheel. Not sure if any other tire would’ve performed much better given the conditions.

Puncture resistance is interesting. Admittedly, I’ve had less flats on these tires than many other riders using so-called “puncture resistant” tires, such as Gator Skins. However, the sets that I’ve owned seem prone to small holes in the casing that over time could’ve lead to some disastrous blowouts. Thankfully they haven’t, but I haven’t noticed those types of rips on other tires (haven’t really used too many different sets of tires though, and maybe I’m just not looking close enough at the tire damage my riding friends have). This could be due to the higher thread count, which makes the tire more pliable and conforms better to deformations in the road but can also make it easier to puncture. But like I said, I haven’t had many flats *knocks on wood*, so it could just be a matter of some bad luck on bad roads.

Handling at high speeds (30+ mph) even in turns is confident, though probably not criterium-worthy (not that I’d know, since I don’t race). My first set lasted ~1,500 miles before I saw the tube starting to poke out of one of those gouges and replaced them.  My second set lasted ~3,100 miles, and there was one of those small open chunks on the front-tire that started to worry me. Unlike car tires, there’s nothing that says they should last for X number of miles, and research online hasn’t proven useful either. So I can only say that after 3,000 miles, both the front and rear tires have some noticeable wear along with squaring off for the rear, but nothing extreme.

I replaced them because they were squaring pretty well, and I started to see wear-lines around the front tire.  My LBS (local bike store) said though I could’ve ridden them some more, I was probably noticing a loss in performance, and they wouldn’t have too many more miles in them anyway. And though I could argue that my LBS just wants to sell more tires, it’s unlikely.  They’re all good people and riders themselves, so I’m prone to trust their judgement.

I’ve ridden these tires in temps ranging from 25° up to 112° (and surface temps up to 120°). I’ve ridden on roads that were dry, sandy, wet, muddy, and debris-filled. From pot-holed back roads to fresh new asphalt. The MS-150 Day 1 “Flat-fest” left me with only a single flat, caused by a piece of wire going directly into the tire. Given people were having 5+ flats, and trashed tires, I think they fared pretty well.

All in all, despite the fact that both my front tires have had gouges – and the first set didn’t last long before getting those – I’ve been pretty satisfied with them. An all-around contender that might not out-last the toughest tires, or out-ride the faster high-end tires, but it’s a nice compromise with a decent price. Just beware of missing chunks.