Michelin makes a serious effort to regain leadership in the mountain bike market with one of the grippiest tires we’ve ever tried.
Michelin Wild Rock’R2 Top Side View
Michelin is a familiar brand to many of us old school mountain bikers as they were a serious contender a decade ago with their familiar WildGripper tires in green color. But it seems the big conglomerate has not been as focused with biking, as they haven’t kept up with the latest demand for grippy, big volume tires.
Well someone woke up the Michelin giant, as they have put in a serious effort to regain their share in the core segment of mountain biking. Michelin deployed their engineering team, led by Rudy Megavand and he worked with racer Fabien Barel to develop this aggressive All Mountain tire.
Left: Green Michelin tires. Right: Michelin man biking in 1891 while smoking.
Fabien Barel and Rudy Megevand
Mtbr met Fabien Barel in the Enduro World Series and since many US folks are unfamiliar with him, we’ll describe him as a mix between the personality and flair of Cedric Gracia, the focus and determination of a Mark Weir and the attention to detail of a Nico Vouilloiz. There’s a lot of brilliant riders out there but if they can’t communicate and break down technical properties of a component, they’re not much help to the engineers. After all, Fabien has an engineering degree and we have no doubt he will use his education well after he is done racing. On the other side of the equation, Rudy Megevand, the product manager is an engineer and brilliant rider. The way Rudy and Fabien communicated as they rode and developed tires together, is the key to the development of this tire.
The key goals for this tire were:
- Grip, grip, grip
- Sidewall protection and durability
- Availability in all wheel sizes.
- Tubeless compatibility in low pressures and high side loads
- Win the Enduro World Series
We’ve had about 6 weeks with the Rock’R2 tire now, so we feel confident with our impressions on this tire. First, we got to ride this tire for three days in the home town of Fabien, the Alps in the South of France. The terrain was rocky, sandy, grippy, rooty, and rocky again. We’ve never experienced such rocky and technical terrain, as we started to understand why some of the best descenders in the world come from this area.
Wet and rocky singletrack in the Peillon forest.
The night of our arrival, it rained about two inches in the mountains near the town of Peillon. I thought for sure the rides would get cancelled but the trails drained well. Of course, not well enough as conditions were still dangerous in these trails, especially for us out-of-towners. Given most other tires, these rides with twenty journalists would have been miserable and peppered with injured riders. But I’m happy to report that twenty riders stayed upright and smiled. Well, for the most part anyway.
Wet rocks and leaves were manageable with these tires. One could tell the conditions were slippery with a three inch layer of wet leaves covering sharp rocks, but we all managed to descend and have fun along the way. In fact, we said the classic ‘Let’s do that again!’ as we hit the shuttle van at the bottom.
We then hit some rock slabs, some sharp rocks and a bunch of loose ones. The Euro racers sped downhill as some of us tested the control and braking traction of these tires. The Rock’R2 tackled this terrain well.
It’s only as we hit a two mile asphalt climb that the hootin’ and hollerin’ got muted. These are big, soft tires and they don’t roll that fast on uphill pavement.
After those three days, we got to take the tires home and ride them in the trails of the SF Bay Area and the Santa Cruz Mountains. We rode them in both 27.5 and 29er size. Cornering traction was present in spades and it was pretty darn hard to unsettle these tires. At any lean angle, these Michelins were sure-footed.
Not Just Soft Rubber
When we asked Rudy if the rubber was soft, Rudy said, the Magi-X is the softest on the market at 50 durometer. But he also said that riders obsess too much about softness of the rubber. He said the other key is how much energy the rubber can absorb or how slow it rebounds. He says it’s the ability of the rubber to absorb energy that gives it traction. When you hit a rock or hit a rough corner, Rudy explained that a tire that can absorb energy of the impact will have more traction.
When we mounted the Rock’R2 Magi-X tubeless back home, we bounced it around to distribute the sealant around the tire. Lo and Behold, this tire had the least amount of bounce out of any tire we’ve ever tried.
Tubeless and Mounting
Get your technique and beefy tire irons ready. This tire is a bear to mount, as it is optimized to hold tubeless air and not to mount easily. The bead is beefy and it is tight on most wheels. Given that the tubeless seal is dependent on a tight fit between the inner diameter of the bead and not the side of the bead, a tight seal with the rim floor is essential for maintaining a tubeless seal under high side loads and low pressures.
Mounted on our Spank wheels, we checked the tire pressure after two weeks and feels like it’s hardly lost any pressure. A month later, it just needed a few strokes with the floor pump to get back to our riding pressure of 22 psi.
- Wow, the traction
- There’s two compounds available, grippy dual compound and very grippy 50 durometer compound.
- The transition from middle to side knobs is predictable and consistent.
- The tire profile is rounded and side knobs are huge.
- Braking is awesome.
- Tubeless seal is one of the best in our experience.
- Sidewall is extremely strong yet pliable.
- They are heavy, specially on 29er size.
- The Magi-X soft compound (softest available) is a slow roller.
- The Michelin tire naming convention is confusing! Try saying: MICHELIN Wild Rock’R2 Advanced Reinforced w/ Magi-X or Gum-X compounds.
Norco Test bike with Michelin Wild Rock’R2.
- Sizes: 26”, 27.5″, 29”
- Width: 2.35”
- Casing: Advanced Reinforced with Tubeless Ready bead
- Tread compounds: Magi’X – 50 durometer rubber compound and Gum’X – slightly harder dual compound
- Weight: 998 grams for 27.5. 1175 grams for 29er.
Pricing and availability on next page…