I have been racing for 4 seasons and riding road tires for about 10 years. I have used many different tires and have had something to say about each tire. In this post I offer some of the knowledge about road clinchers that I have accumulated over the years. I base all of these reviews on my experiences. In the future, I may post a "word on the street" guide so that I am offering a more comprehensive guide to tires.
I hope that the comments section will offer a lively discussion so that future readers can benefit from your knowledge too.
Michelin Pro 2 Race 700 x 23: Prior to 2008 these were the top of the Michelin line. I think that they still are. These tires have excellent grip in fast corners, wet and dry. They have a relatively low recommended pressure (116 psi), which lends itself to plush ride. These tires last a relatively long time. They have a tendency to collect road debris and they slice easily. They don't come in white.
Michelin Pro 3 Race 700 x 23: Michelin claims that these are grippier than the Pro 2 Race, I disagree. I think that if you push either tire to the point that they will slip, gravity will take care of you instead. Michelin made the middle “long wear” section wear more quickly. Let me be clear: these tires wear out quickly. You can watch them wear out, week by week. They offer the same supple, plush ride as the Pro 2 Race, but with half the life expectancy. If you are considering Pro 3’s, go buy a set of Pro 2 Race on clearance before they run out.
Kenda Kaliente 700 x 23- These tires came attached to a bikesdirect.com bike that I bought to strip for its components. Given their source, I was very skeptical of these tires. In fact they are very durable and offer a nice ride. Over time and mixed usage, I have become confident in their cornering grip. They resist flats and have no slices despite 1000’s of winter miles. I have even been using these on the trainer and they still show no wear. I cannot speak about the rest of the Kenda line, but these are great training tires and inexpensive to boot.
Vittoria Open Corsa EVO CX 700 x 23—I have nothing good to say about these. I bought them because they are available in white. They are expensive and they flat frequently. I used these briefly last season and flatted so frequently that I changed these out before they were close to worn. Do not buy these! Actually, perhaps you are interested in buying a set of these in white with low mileage…
Vredestein Fortezza Tricomp 700 x 23—In my opinion, these are the best road clinchers available. They grip really well, wear slowly and look sharp in black and white (other colors available). They resist flatting and slicing. They wear out a little slower than a normal “race day only” tire. They claim to be handmade, which may explain their high quality. I am ordering a few sets of these for the 2009 season.
Specialized All Condition Pro Bike Tire 700 x 23—I have been using these on my fixed gear for 5 years. These are grippy and wear very slowly. They resist flats well. Seriously, when I get the tweezers out to pick the glass out of these tires, I am shocked at all of the stuff that I pull out and that it failed to cause a puncture. Once these get the flat spot in the center of the tire, they begin to flat more frequently, but that is expected after many 1000’s of miles. I have ridden these in rain, sleet, slush, ice and snow and have always been happy with the handling. These are not race tires, but they are great for a training bike or a fast commuter.
Michelin Lithion 700 x 25—I recently got these tires for my winter training bike (Basso Loto with Campy 8 Speed) and to use at Battenkill Roubaix. I haven’t tested their durability, but I can attest that they offer a smooth ride. They have a lower recommended tire pressure than my race tires. Consequentially, they have improved handling in adverse conditions, such as slush with intermittent ice like we experience regularly here in New England. I am enjoying the less jarring ride over potholes and icy patches. I have not flatted on them yet after 500 miles. Once I have ridden these for a season, I will update this review to reflect my experiences.
Schwalbe Stelvio 700 x 23—I didn’t buy these tires. In fact, I found one in my dumpster. I fished it out and put it on my commuter. It has been a great tire. It doesn’t flat (none yet after 5 months of urban abuse). I have been happy with the grip in wet corners and have become increasingly confident in its performance. If I was able to get a “below MSRP” deal on these, I’d consider trying these on my race bike. They come in front and rear specific tires which theoretically means you get higher grip in front and longer wear in the rear, which seems like a great idea. Based on my experiences, these tires are worth a try if you are unhappy with the offerings above.