[Tech] Michelin Research And Development
In the MTB and off-road sector tyre products and all the technical developments associated with them have been increasing in scope and range. With many different ideas and challenges being grasped by component makers, all with the aim of keeping riders moving. Recently, Michelin invited key members of the press to learn and understand more about their role in the bike industry. We attended their event and they who took us through their ideas as a company making tyres and on demand products.
A proper conference where we listened to Michelin’s latest company updates.
One of the recent developments that interested us is their new take on the B-Road segment. Within bicycle tyre products there has been a huge development of different applications, with riders requiring low weight, high rolling ability, grip and strength. These are all competing factors of a designer’s difficult to achieve brief. Michelin uses ideas from other segments to create tyres that meet these needs and now are more resistant to less than smooth roads. We discussed, in general where the market is going.
Some of their new 28mm B-road concept tyres.
During our time in closed sessions with Michelin, they gave us an in-depth look at their 28mm 700 c tyre range that takes them full circle from producing the first removable bicycle tyre in the late nineteenth century to a greater development of niches in bike sports.
With the emergence of the B-road segment Michelin have been ahead of the game as it normally takes up to 2 years to develop a new tyre for specific purposes until the market has enough volume and flexibility to justify a new product. Their largest segments in the bike tyre market is road and city. However, riders from these segments are starting to explore more off-road type of environments, hence the B-road product development. At the same time B-road is pulling in MTB riders who want to do something different as well. Michelin have been studying this sector and have started to innovate along with frame makers and wheel makers.
We had an in depth chat with Michelin’s Italian head of cycling sports and learned about all the possibilities and latest developments in bike tyres.
Michelin have 6600 research and development people working on their whole product range across all types of tyre applications. Within the development process, their test mules cover around 1.8 billion kilometres and undergo 75,000 static tests with a total of 640 million euros invested in research and development. This huge amount of information finds its way into many products, bike tyres being one of them.
Michelin gave us a brief insight into their development regimen.
1) Michelin test the materials and their resistance in various conditions.
2) Machines are then used to test prototype products with their puncture resistance both internally and externally.
3) The products are then put through a range of tests on different surfaces, for example wet conditions, dry conditions and in different temperatures.
4) Finally, the tyres are tested on stoney ground and then put in the hands of cyclists who cover between 5000-20,000 km a year for real world feedback.
The key example of this type of testing comes in the form of their Michelin Pro4 Endurance tyres. With a 28 mm width, and 4 bars of pressure, the tyres were developed for smooth or rough tarmac, gravel or hard packed surfaces. The Pro4 has achieved comfort and better grip with a lower chance of flatting. With independent tests carried out by Wheel Energy, their Pro4 product achieved gains of up to 58 percent in performance criteria like resistance to punctures, ideal then for the increasingly popular back road usage of bikes.
So overall, with the huge explosion in the different ways we ride a bike we have companions like Michelin trying to predict segments and innovate to move their products ahead and give riders a better choice for their needs.