It has been a while since I published a review of something that is cycling related. Before I write a long article regarding why I sold my Fulcrum Quattro and replaced them with the much cheaper Shimano RS-31, I’d like to talk about a nice little product that within a few months became one of my favorites.
I’m talking about one of the cheapest set of clincher tyres available on the market, the Michelin Lithion 2.
I ride to work every day (20kms on a regular day, 30+kms if the weather is nice and I feel like riding through the hills on my way back home), and punctures are always a major concern. I don’t want to be late to work, but even more important I want to be home early. In order to reduce downtimes I always carry with me a spare tube and tyre. This means that if I have a flat I don’t need to waste time looking for the cause on the tyre, I simply swap everything out and when I’m home I am free to investigate the cause of the flat.
I usually keep in my backpack an old tyre or buy a cheap brand new one. Since it only has to be able to take me home, I’ve never considered spending too much cash for a spare thing.
A few months ago on Wiggle I found the Michelin Lithion 2 on sale for a ridiculously low price. I’ve had mixed results in the past from cheap tyres from Vittoria (Zaffiro Pro were pretty bad and lasted next to nothing) and Continental (the Ultrasport II were the worst thing ever, only mildly better than Ebola). I couldn’t resist the low price and I ordered a set.
A tiny piece of glass cut through my Zaffiro Pro, and presto I took out the Lithion 2 from my backpack and started using it as front wheel on my way back home. They immediately felt good. When I arrived home I didn’t take the Lithion 2 out of the bike in favor of something else, I actually took the GP 4000s off my rear tyre and started riding with Lithion 2 on both wheels.
My take after 1000kms is that I’m in awe. They might not be the best set of clinchers I’ve ever tried, but for that price they’ve immediately become my new benchmark. Of course I’d prefer to have an endless supply of Schwalbe One, GP 4000s II or GP Four Seasons, but I can get a full set of Lithion 2 for the price of one of my favorite clinchers.
I have the 23mm version, which means these are not as comfy as their 25mm counterpart. The reason why I got them for a really low price is probably that 25mm tyres are the new flavor of the month and tend to be sold out very quickly, while 23mm versions see less love. One thing to note: minimum pressure 6 bars, max 8 bars. I tend to ride at 7 bars, so I need to check the pressure fairly often because if they drop under 6 bars they feel terribly muddy.
For regular day-to-day riding they feel just as good as more expensive tyres, and they grip well on any road surface. They’re reasonably light and they roll well. I’d say that from a performance point of view they just get the work done for a 20$ tyre. SO why do I like them a lot?
They DON’T look like tyres that have 1000kms of life in them. Every tyre I ever used eventually had small cuts caused by glass, debris and stuff like that. The Lithion 2 still look perfectly smooth. Punctures are often just a matter of bad luck, but knowing that I can trust my tyres to ignore the smaller stuff means that as long as I can dodge the bigger stuff I’ll be a happy camper.
I have the black version and they actually have a dark grey look, if you’re OCD about colors and need a completely black tyre to match a matt black carbon frame, these might not be the one.
So to sum up my experience with these:
Good overall feeling
Amazing price for the quality
Apparently very durable
It would take much longer to get a real estimate about their expected life expectancy, but they’re looking really good so far compared to previous tyres above their price range. I think that to get a set of tyres that looked better than these after 1000kms I’d have to look at the Four Seasons or Duraskin (twice the price).
I dare to say that when the 25mm black version will be back in stock I’ll order a set and use it as my regular daily set of clinchers, replacing more expensive stuff simply because I cannot feel any downgrade in ride quality. Winter will be more taxing on them and we’ll see how they’ll handle.
Disclaimer: I’m not being sponsored by Michelin for this review and I had to pay for my samples. But IF (wink wink) Michelin will ever spontaneously (wink wink) decide to send me free stuff (wink wink) for future reviews, I’ll be glad to carry the burden (wink wink).