Michelin and Continental: who makes the best road tyre?
However, this year I’ve also been dabbling with the dark side and fitted a pair of Michelin Pro 4 Service Course slicks to my main road bike. These are also going for a song at 40% off. Clearly this is the time of year to grab a bargain on some new road tyres…
These two tyres are very much targeted at the same audience. I’m basically a long-term GP4000s rider whose tyre geekery means I can’t resist picking up different tyres when I catch a good deal. After the popularity of my Ultremo comparison, I decided to put together another overview to help you decide which tyre is right for you.
Comfort / handling: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course
The Michelin Pro 4 reminds me distinctly of the Ultremo ZX when it comes to comfort and handling – it’s definitely my preferred tyre over the GP4000s in this respect.
The GP4000s has fantastic rolling resistance but it can sometimes feel workmanlike on the bike, with the Pro 4 providing a little more plushness, whatever the lab tests might suggest.
In fairness, both of these tyres are leaps and bounds ahead of the cheap rubber that is supplied as OEM kit on many new bikes, so if you’re looking for a first upgrade you can’t really lose.
If you already run one of the top-flight tyres there’s less advantage to be gained. The GP4000s, to me, loses out just a little and this is probably because the tyre has a higher level of durability designed in, so you just need to take your pick.
Durability: Continental GP4000s II
Continental struck gold with the design of the GP4000s, hitting almost the perfect balance of grip and durability with their Black Chilli rubber.
While the Pro 4 Service Course is a big step forward over the Pro 3 in terms of tread cuts, and while I’m still running through my first set, I can’t see them matching the impressive total mileage I’m used to expecting from the GP4000s.
While the feel of the Michelins suggests to me that they just won’t see out the Contis, I could be wrong. I’ll update this with a final mileage estimate when the time comes.
Weight: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course
My actual Pro 4 tyres weighed in at just over 200g each (a little heavier than claimed), making them pretty much a wash against the 205g GP4000s. Let’s be completely honest here- 10 or 20g won’t make an appreciable difference to you anyway, regardless of the fact that it is rotating weight.
It’s just not a significant component of your power-to-weight ratio given that the mass of rider plus bike for the average reader of this site is probably going on for 100,000g (100kg).
In the interests of fairness, I’ve given Michelin the nod here as their label weight is slightly lower.
Puncture Protection: Continental GP4000s II
When the Pro 4 Service Course was released, much was made of the revised tread and carcass which promised much greater cut resistance than its predecessor. While I’m sure that’s true, the GP4000s remains the reference model for me when it comes to puncture protection on a racing tyre.
The GP4000s features a Vectran fibre breaker layer which does an excellent job defending the tyre from unwanted penetration. I’d still choose the Pro 4 over something like Vittoria’s Open Corsa, but I don’t find the tread quite as reassuring on the Continental tyre. We’ll see if I change my mind after running this set into the ground, as my experience of the GP4000s is that it tends to be fine until a spate of punctures near its end of life – my Pro 4s are still a way off needing replaced, even at the rear.
Sidewall protection: Continental GP4000s II
I haven’t had any sidewall issues with the Pro 4, so it might seem unfair to put the GP4000s in front in this category. It’s just my feeling based on running each tyre through my fingers that the construction of the Pro 4 Service Course is a little more supple (and thus a little more slender) when it comes to the sidewalls.
While I’ve even ridden on unsealed surfaces on the GP4000s I would be extremely hesitant about doing so with the Pro 4!
As with Schwalbe’s Ultremo ZX, Michelin have consciously chosen to emphasise a supple tyre – if you want a fast tyre which is a bit more rugged, take a look at the Pro4 Endurance (the new Krylion) which Wiggle have at a nice 41% saving. That tyre incorporates extra protection at the expense of some rolling resistance – just a decision you need to make.
Rolling resistance: Continental GP4000s II
The Michelin Pro 4 Service Course is a lovely supple tyre that really eats up the road. Over this Easter I put in almost 250km looping around the Border hills on single track roads, and even when the top dressing had started to weather I still felt it was seriously rapid.
However, there’s no question that Continental hit the ball out of the park with the GP4000s and Black Chilli – a recipe that has remained unchanged for years but still performs at the highest level on rolling tests.
My gut instinct based on riding these tyres is that the Pro 4 slightly edges it, based on road feel. However, road feel is a poor substitute for CRR tests, and the figures I’ve seen online aren’t suggesting Continental’s engineers will be losing much sleep over the Pro 4.
At the end of the day the difference is paper thin, so I think you’d be better off deciding between these tyres based on other factors.
Styling: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course
Neither of these tyres really looks that great, in my opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but the GP4000s is too plain and the Pro 4 isn’t much better. If you want a great-looking road tyre, the Ultremo ZX is where it’s at.
Not that cycling has ever been about looks, right?
Conclusion: GP4000s II
While the Pro 4 is a little more economically priced than the GP4000s, the hassle of changing tyres (or avoiding it!) is worth much more to me than that. Both tyres perform closely enough that overall I’d prefer Continental’s track record of resilience with the GP4000s for putting in the serious miles.
On the other hand, as with the Ultremo, the Pro 4 Service Course is a winner in terms of ride quality and for a Sunday bike or special days out, why not? I’m certainly in no rush to take mine off for another set of the GP4000s, even if they don’t roll quite as quickly in a lab.
Looking for a good discount?
At the time of writing, both Chain Reaction and Wiggle have hefty discounts on the GP4000s II and Pro 4 Service Course tyres. Take a look: