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Michelin have a longer history of making bicycle tyres than just about any other current manufacturer, with their first pneumatic tyres appearing in the late 19th century. Today they have a particularly wide range of road tyres, starting at under ten pounds and running up to pro-level rubber. The Lithion 2 tyres can be had for little more than the cheapest tyres and yet offer a really convincing blend of decent performance and winter-proof toughness that belie their bargain pricing.
The Lithion 2s are folding road tyres with a flexible bead. Fitting them the first time to some Mavic Ksyrium wheels was a bit more fiddly than with some tyres; I found it was quite tough the stretch the bead over the rim. However, on subsequent occasions this was less of a problem. They are available in 23mm and 25mm sizes; we were testing the 23mm versions. You can have the 23s in all-black, or with yellow, red or blue sidewalls, whereas the 25mm are only available in black.
Constructed using a 60 tpi (threads per inch) casing, the Lithion 2s have a silica-based tread which is smooth on the centre of the tyre, for low rolling resistance, with a fine file texture on the shoulders of the tyre designed to enhance cornering grip. They are reasonably light at 236g for a 23mm tyre, and they roll well; surprisingly well for the price actually.
Cheap tyres can be one of the least worthwhile economies on a bike. A reduction in grip is an obvious safety concern, but tyres play a major role in how your bike rides too. The best tyres are those which manage to combine the key attributes of grip, speed, low weight and puncture resistance, while being supple enough to give a smooth ride. Oh, and ideally they should last as long as possible. Combining all these attributes is nearly impossible.
It is generally the case that a higher thread count makes for a lighter, faster tyre, not to mention a higher price tag. A count of 60 tpi is a relatively low-density casing; high-end tyres are now made using as much as 300 tpi. However, the reality is that the casing density is only one variable in a complex equation to determine how a tyre performs. The Lithion 2s feel nearly as fast as rather more expensive tyres - they're not on a par with the Vredestein Fortezza Senso Superlite that I tested recently, but the gap is not as significant as I'd have expected.
Grip levels are only average in a straight line. I found that I'd sometimes spin the rear wheel when riding up a steep gradient out of the saddle if the road was wet. They have more grip than Continental Gatorskins, though definitely less than the Vredesteins linked above, and also less than the likes of Conti's excellent GP4000S tyres. Cornering grip is good, though, with the textured shoulders seeming to help here. I never had any issues with the bike washing out of corners when I was leant right over.
I racked up the best part of 1000 miles on these tyres while testing them, generally running at around 100psi. In that time I didn't have any punctures, despite the increasing amount of detritus on the roads at this time of year. So based upon my experiences, the puncture-resistance is impressive.
However, a friend was running the same tyres and had a number of punctures over the same period, so your mileage may vary here. Speaking of mileage, the tyres have retained their round shape well over the test period. There are plenty of reports of people getting several thousand miles on them, and I would expect that to be eminently feasible.
In terms of comfort, again, the Lithion 2s punch above their weight. The Ksyriums used during the testing have relatively narrow rims (15mm internal width); road wheels are generally getting wider, with some as much as 30% wider than this. This can spread the tyre wider, making for a more comfortable ride, but even on my narrow rims I was impressed by the ride comfort on offer here. They are much better than some other budget offerings, which can feel wooden, and not all that far short of much more expensive tyres.
And that's really the recurring theme here. The Lithion 2s are really decent tyres for a pretty amazing price; you can find them online for as little as £11. They wouldn't be my first choice for racing, but they more than hold their own for fast club runs, commuting and training duties. They are a clear cut above most similarly-priced competition and I was hard pressed to find anything really wrong with them.
Highly recommended budget tyres; do very little wrong and can be had for a silly price
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Make and model: Michelin Lithion 2 tyre
Size tested: 700x23c
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Michelin® Lithion®2 - It looks and performs like professional racing tyre, but at a fraction of the price!
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Performance: A lightweight tyre with high levels of rolling efficiency, grip, suppleness, puncture resistance.
TPI: 60 TPI
Two-tone Silica based tread with smooth center and chevron shoulder rubber.
Overlapped 60 tpi ESC extra supple casing reinforced with puncture resistant crown ply for a comfortable ride with puncture resistance.
HDC: High Density Casing – Special overlapping ply designed carcass with a cord density of 66 TPI (240 threads/dm2), which helps achieve the ideal balance between efficiency, a comfortable ride, puncture resistance and off-road casing durability
HPRS: High Protect Rim System – Protective strip that protects the bead area against wear from the rim. The HPRS is used on all flexible-bead Michelin® tires.
SW: Lightweight skinwalls, with casing plies surrounded by a thin coat of rubber.
10 grams lighter, with 25% more grip than previous MICHELIN Lithion tyre model.
Herringbone tread pattern, silica compound
Roll well, grip well in corners. Not the most grippy in a straight line but still better than Gatorskins in this regard.
Have kept their shape well during test mileage; should last a good while.
Decent weight, especially at this price point.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Much better all-round performance than I was expecting. Bargain pricing online.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a great deal.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.