I recently had dinner with Mike Pantaleo, sales & development manager for Michelin North America, who told me about the company's latest tire offerings and interjected some little-known facts about tires.
First up was a new premium bias ply tire for backhoes and telehandler loaders. The offering, called the Michelin Power CL, is designed to be at a price point that most can afford and who don’t need all of the high-performance features of a radial. “For example, if you aren’t driving down the road and instead are carrying the backhoe on a trailer and just bringing it out to the location, that presents less wear than if you were driving the vehicle down the road, where a radial would be the better choice,” Mike says.
He says the bias ply also is a good choice where floatation and traction are not a big concern.
This is not the first time Michelin has been in the bias-ply market. “Six years ago we made a bias ply tire for ag under a different brand, but we are better known for our radials so that became our focus. What’s new about the tire is that it is the first bias tire that Michelin has made for backhoes and telehandlers.”
When asked whether we would see a bias ply from Michelin reenter the agriculture market, Mike said no. The compaction and roading requirements of large agricultural vehicles will always require the flotation and wear characteristics that only radials can provide.
For farm tractors, the latest innovation from Michelin is the new Michelin AgriBib 480 95 R50 model, a taller-sized, rear fitment tire designed primarily for larger, front-wheel assist tractors. It also can be used in a row-crop application on large, four-wheel drive machines. This brand new Group 49 tire will be rolled out in Q4 of this year on John Deere and Case IH tractors. He says the reason for the launch is that farm equipment is getting larger, and the tire needs to have a higher volume of air to support it. With its taller carcass (5 in. taller than the next size down), the new tire will be able to lay down a longer footprint and still maintain the narrow width required by the application. The ultra-flexible sidewalls allow the contact patch to grow uninhibited by the casing like a balloon if you were to push down on it, or as Michelin says, “flex,” to carry and distribute the weight. With this new tire, the sidewalls are higher than the current standard 480/80R50 radials to allow for the higher air volumes through its height rather than the width of the tire to keep it narrow enough to fit between the rows. He says the tire is designed for high-hp mechanical front-wheel drive row crop tractors or all positions of large row crop 4WD tractors. There is also interest by growers in using them on their self-propelled sprayers.
Lisa Bocklage, a Michelin account director from Osborn Barr, said that at the 2014 National Farm Machinery Show, farmers were commenting on how supple these tires stay even in the sub-zero weather we had been having. The farmers said that other radials thump over the road and take a while to move smoothly.
Mike said that’s because of the construction of the tire. “A little known fact is that we use polyester in the carcass of our tires. Other tires use rayon and nylon in the carcass of the tire. Polyester is stronger and is less affected by the temperature. Polyester remains flexible in cold conditions, which is why our tires will not develop a flat spot that requires a warm-up period to smoothen the ride.”
The new AgriBib tire is the largest within the standard sized AgriBib lineup from Michelin for North America. There is a tire that is larger, a group 50 tire, from Michelin that was recently launched in Europe but not yet commercialized in North America. Michelin says it is the largest farm tire in the world. Market demand will dictate when the company will market it here.
How much bigger can this equipment get? I asked. “I wouldn’t think much larger because of the soil compaction left by its weight,” Mike said.