Michelin believe they've created magic with the Power RS, a new motorcycle tire that tops out their Pilot Power sport range. The charge was given to create a tire that improved dry grip, stability, and agility, and the French company very proudly announced that they'd met their goals. In their words, they created "the perfect sport tire."

Cynical curmudgeon that I am, I refused to believe the hype and needed to see for myself. Fortunately, they had a plan for that.

To test the tire, we headed to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar for a track test following the first race of the 2017 MotoGP season. Yes, this did make it harder to be grumpy.

Michelin tire
The new Michelin Power RS fit between the current Pilot Power 3 and Michelin's Power SuperSport Evo track tire.Courtesy of Michelin

The Specs That Matter

Michelin claim the new Power RS is the result of two years of research followed by two years of testing and co-development with their sport, race, and marketing departments. Each team brought a unique perspective from the markets they represent, and each had their own set of expectations (or demands if you've met many of the French) that they wanted to see from it.

The three main goals were to make big improvements in dry grip, stability, and agility. If you're like me, including the modifier of "dry" with grip raised some pretty big red flags; but when pressed about it, I liked the Michelin man's answers.

Michelin graphic on how the Power RS improves over their other tire options.Courtesy of Michelin

The gist of their long response was that these are street sport tires, not race tires. Most people who ride on the street and want to go fast do so in dry weather and, if they ride in the rain, it's to get where they need to go. Michelin claims their testing shows that wet grip is just as good as with the Pilot 3s, and they weren't worried about trying to add sporty performance in the wet that could compromise our other goals.

TL;DR they're fine in the rain for normal riding and they tried to make them better for sporty riding in the dry (which is when 99% of people go do their sporty riding). Bravo.

Michelin tire
Michelin ACT+ architecture.Courtesy of Michelin

The Power RS's improvements come from two main technologies.

The first is Michelin ACT+ architecture, which is a special tire casing that is folded over on itself on the sides to increase rigidity. The ply of the casing varies throughout the tire, but is reaches 90 degrees at the crown to offer maximum flex, which helps increase straight line stability.

The second is Michelin’s 2CT and 2CT+ dual compound technology. These tires combine all-silica sections at the crown which are harder and help add life to the tire with softer, all-carbon zones on the shoulders which improve dry edge grip. On the front tire, these zones are shouldered side by side while, on the rear, the silica center section also runs underneath the softer carbon side sections.

Michelin's 2CT and 2CT+ dual compound technology.Courtesy of Michelin

Finally, and while they didn’t provide specifics, Michelin say they’ve revised the profile of the front tire from that of the Pilot Power 3 for improved precision and agility. The bulk of those changes actually came to the interior of the tire carcass where, in Michelin’s words, they optimized the thickness of the tread compounds to improve grip and feedback.

The Michelin Power RS are available now and have deals on Amazon for the front and rear tires if you're interested).

Michelin's revised tire carcass structure.Courtesy of Michelin

We Rode With The Things

We had a few tests designed to help us evaluate the tire and highlight some of the changes Michelin made to differentiate the Power RS from the Pilot Power 3. The first test pit the two tires against each other, with three laps on a BMW S 1000 RR fit with the Power 3s followed immediately by three laps on the same bike but fit with the new tire.

With the only real variable being that our ride on the Pilot Power 3s was literally the first laps on we’d ever turned on the the track, the differences between the two were immediately noticeable although not entirely what Michelin had expected. The new Power RS did indeed provide more grip, but felt much slower at tip in. The Pilot Power 3s fell into corners where the Power RSs needed more of a deliberate effort, however this paid off when it came to cornering stability, where the RSs held their line better and allowed you to carry more speed.

Yamaha R1M
All I could think about was if I was going to cut off my leg with those frame sliders.Courtesy of Michelin

From there we hopped onto a small recreation of the Qatar track layout aboard small displacement bikes, where Michelin felt many people would be considering the Power RS. This would have been another great place to ride bikes fit with both the new Power RSs and the older Pilot Power 3s or even a competitor tire (say the ever popular Pirelli Diablo Rosso III or Dunlop Q3 maybe). Unfortunately, Michelin didn’t have the ability to do this, though we did run hot laps on a KTM RC390 where the pace far exceeded what I expected given the small, dusty recreation of a track we still didn’t know our way around.

Finally it was time to play…I mean work, and we had open lapping sessions on a variety of bikes fit with the Michelin Power RS tires. Given the late schedule, we only got about two and a half sessions and, unfortunately, we were to switch bikes each time. I spent my first session on an Aprilia RSV4 RF, my second on a Yamaha YZF-R1M, and then a few of laps on a BMW S 1000 RR.

BMW S 1000 RR
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.Courtesy of Michelin

Testing tires is fun, but difficult work, and if I’m being honest it’s hard to feel great about taking strong positions that could influence your buying decisions with so many variables. Even outside of the new track, the lack of time and constant bike switching made it hard to even get the bikes sorted out, let alone really break down what the tires were doing. The suspension on the Yamaha was all sorts of wonky and the unit I rode made for one of the more awkward and off-putting session I’ve ever had on a track, and the BMW was throwing all sorts of codes at me.

Aprilia RSV4
The Aprilia has quickly become my favorite literbike.Courtesy of Michelin

Why You Should Care

What I can tell you is this: I've spent a lot of time on some of the Michelin Power RS's competitors, mostly the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III and Dunlop Q3 and, despite all the difficulties, the Michelin's still impressed me with their grip.

We had the Pirelli’s on the Ducati SuperSports we tested recently, where 100 horsepower motor from the Ducati repeatedly overpowered the Pirellis on corner exit, which resulted in some pretty spectacular drifts as the bike struggled to hook up. The Dunlops have been a go to for supermoto, but those also get pretty slippery when fit on a big bike going fast (however, they did just release a new version which I have not ridden).

Yamaha R1M
Like a flying bag of skittles.Courtesy of Michelin

Despite all my issues at Qatar, I never felt the tires break traction (keep in mind that I was using bikes far more powerful than that Ducati). The Michelin’s aren’t designed as a track tire, and therefor don’t offer quite the handling of most things I’ve used for track duty, but I also never found them a real hinderance to my night at the track.

The Power RSs need more testing. We didn’t spend nearly enough time in the wet (they had a wet braking drill on the 300s), didn’t do a track test using any sort of scientific method, and obviously weren’t able to test the life of the tire. With all of that said, however, I was impressed I could ride a street tire that hard and find no real problem or issue with them.

Aprilia RSV4
A dream come true.Courtesy of Michelin

I can’t say that Michelins succeeded in their goal of creating the perfect street tire, but I also can’t say that they didn’t. When it comes to their more specific goals of increasing dry grip, stability, and agility; I'd say they nailed it on grip and stability and that I didn't find the tires exceptionally agile.

They definitely performed better than I expected, but we're going to have to do more testing before picking a favorite tire in class. Preferably at Qatar aboard Aprilia RSV4s.