Michelin is a long-standing brand in the mountain bike world with the iconic green Wildgripper tire still etched in the memory banks of long-time mountain bikers. Well-constructed and fully engineered come to mind when thinking about the tires this French company has produced.
The only element that has been missing is a consistent R&D and marketing effort in the sport. Thus, they’ve faded in and out of the forefront, as their designs would age and the brand would wane from top consideration by avid mountain bikers as the needs and styles change in the sport.
But now Michelin has come out emphatically, this time affirming its commitment to the mountain bike market. They introduced not one but four distinct tire ranges in a variety of sizes. Here’s a rundown of each.
Michelin Jet XCR
In cross country, riders spend 70-80 percent of their time going uphill, so grip is essential. This discipline also demands a user-friendly trade-off between rideability and energy efficiency, while a good level of comfort should be provided by the tire casings. For cross country racing, where riders typically perform short, rapid loops, weight remains the number one priority. However, the rolling efficiency also plays an important part, as it is essential to maintain a consistently high speed from start to finish.
Michelin Force XC
Michelin Force AM
For all mountain riding, in which high downhill speeds are reached, the tires’ shock absorbing ability is a crucial factor. The tire must not only offer excellent grip, but outstanding strength as well. A perfect blend of compound, casing and tread is therefore vital. To rise to all these challenges, Michelin has developed four highly innovative tire ranges, each of which offers the most appropriate solution for each type of use. Riders can choose to mount the same type of tire on the front and rear or mix and match to obtain the best possible combination when faced with varying conditions.
Michelin Wild AM
Not only did Michelin work on tread patterns but also two other key elements, rubber compound and casing technology. For compound, they have the Gum X2D for XC performance and Gum X3D for all mountain performance.
Casing is handled by three variations:
- Race Shield: This ultra-lightweight 3×150 TPI version stands out through its exceptional performance and flexibility, combined with remarkable strength due to the use of a very high-density reinforcing ply.
- Cross Shield: A 3 x 110 TPI version for cross country use. It is lightweight and durable, as well as strong due to the use of a very high-density reinforcing ply.
- Trail Shield: A 3 x 60 TPI version for all mountain and trail use with a high-density reinforcement ply. It offers extreme durability.
Tire testing in Santa Barbara
Michelin is passionate not just about their tire development but also about their tire testing. They went through extra lengths to shuttle a gathered group of media to the top of the hill AND change tubeless tires in between runs to give us a feel for how they do their product testing. Below are some of the elements they like to control.
- The same bike needs to be used for tire comparison
- Identical wheels (to avoid the influence of different wheels)
- The same trail under the same conditions is ideal
- Regular evaluation of the benchmark tire in order to assess changing track conditions
- Tires are tested ‘blind’ without an overload of information to influence rider feedback
- Tire pressures are monitored before and after every test run to guarantee consistency
Not their first rodeo
Michelin’s history dates back more than 120 years to 1889 when brothers André and Edouard Michelin laid the foundations for what would become a formidable human and industrial adventure, with the focus on innovation to facilitate modern means of transport, promote freedom and stimulate economic growth.
The first bicycle tire dates back to 1891. The Michelin brothers were visionaries who caught the majority of their contemporaries off guard as they developed the first removable tire. They innovated and have since moved forward with automobile tires and other ‘mobility’ related endeavors.
Given this heritage and a renewed commitment to mountain biking, we are pleased to hear this news from Michelin and have taken all these tires home for local testing. We are currently riding the Wild AM 2.35 and the Force XC in 2.6. We’ll report back shortly.
For more information, visit bike.michelin.com.