MBA FEATURE: MICHELIN IS BACK

Four French treads put to the test

Photos by Wil Mathews 

 

Shred-ready: Michelin launched four brand-new tread patterns designed to target the needs of cross-country and all-mountain riders. We put these new tires to the test in sunny Santa Barbara, California.
Shred-ready: Michelin launched four brand-new tread patterns designed to target the needs of cross-country and all-mountain riders. We put these new tires to the test in sunny Santa Barbara, California.

 

Michelin is a global leader in producing high-performance tires for anything with wheels. The company produces 184 million tires a year, staffs 6000 R&D workers with an annual budget of 689 million Euros and has 68 production plants in 17 countries. The Michelin brand is best known for making podium-winning race car and motorcycle tires, as well as tires that come as standard equipment on many high-performance production cars; however, back in 1889, the Michelin brothers started the company manufacturing bicycles tires. Today, Michelin may not make the most popular mountain bike tire on the trail, but Michelin is working hard to regain its status. The general manger of Michelin’s bicycle tire division, Karl De Quick, said, “Michelin is back in the mountain bike tire market,” and with the recent launch of four brand-new tires, we’d have to agree. Michelin, up until early March of this year, hadn’t released a new mountain bike tire since 2013, when the company launched a line of Enduro tires. The recent launch took place in sunny Santa Barbra, California, where they showed the media what they had been working on over the last three years—four brand-new tire treads, with a total of 16 different sizes to choose from, designed to cover 80 percent of the mountain bike tire market’s needs. This was a fairly ambitious goal, but if anybody could do it, Michelin could.

 

M7Michelin_Jet_XCR

 

THE NEW TREADS: JET XCR

The Jet XCR is a fast-rolling, lightweight tire designed for cross-country racers. The tire is engineered for hard/dry terrain and comes in three different sizes—27.5×2.25, 29×2.25 and 29×2.1″. The tires range in weight from 560 grams to 610 grams and will be available in October of 2017. The Jet XCR features Michelin’s ultra-light Race Shield technology and Gum X2D compound, which is made up of an under-tread rubber to increase pedaling efficiency and an outer compound to optimize traction and braking performance.

 

M7Michelin_Force_XC

 

FORCE XC

The Force XC is for the cross-country rider looking for more grip and sidewall protection with a very minimal weight penalty over the Jet XCR. Some racers may want to put the Jet XCR in the rear and the Force XC up front. The Force XC comes in many different sizes, including 26×2.1, 27.5×2.1, 27.5×2.25, 29×2.1 and 29x.2.25. These tires range in weight from 580 grams to 680 grams and use Michelin’s Cross Shield technology, along with its Gum X3D compound. Cross Shield technology is designed for cross-country use but is reinforced for added strength.

 

M7Michelin_Force_AM

 

FORCE AM 

Michelin’s Force AM is an all-mountain tire designed with Trail Shield technology and the Gum X3D compound. This compound consists of three different layers similar to the X2D rubber, but adds an extra layer to the shoulder area of the tire for increased cornering performance. The Force AM offers a fast-rolling tread and protection against rocks and other trail obstacles. These tires are available in the following sizes: 26×2.25, 27.5×2.25, 27.5×2.35, 27.5×2.6, 29×2.25 and 29×2.35. The Force AM ranges in weight from 690 grams to 830 grams.

 

M7Michelin_Wild_AM

 

WILD AM

The Wild AM is the most aggressive tire in Michelin’s new lineup and is designed for riders who push hard around turns and ride rugged terrain. These tires come in two sizes—27.5×2.35 and 29×2.35. They use Michelin’s Gum X3D rubber and Trail Shield protection. They range in weight from 760 grams to 800 grams and are designed to provide all-mountain riders with the utmost confidence when shredding down the trails. These tires will be available in June of 2017.

 

Birthday boy: Legendary freerider and Michelin-sponsored athlete Cam Zink spent his birthday weekend shredding laps with us. His personal YT Jeffsy had a Wild AM up front and a Force AM in the rear.
Birthday boy: Legendary freerider and Michelin-sponsored athlete Cam Zink spent his birthday weekend shredding laps with us. His personal YT Jeffsy had a Wild AM up front and a Force AM in the rear.

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Michelin set us up with a YT Jeffsy test bike and swapped the tires through the lineup during our days of testing. The testing ground was Santa Barbra, California, which offers a variety of technical and cross-country-style trails. For our testing, we skipped the Jet XCR tires and dove straight into the Force XC front and rear. These tires rolled very quickly and had an obvious breaking point where they would lose traction. For smooth, hard-packed, cross-country courses, these would be a great option, since they could be spun up to speed quickly and had enough traction to keep us upright. We then swapped our front tire for a Force AM and searched for a more aggressive trail. Having the Force AM up front gave us a little more confidence diving into corners. This tire combination handled a mix of loose gravel, wet dirt and soft dirt really well. Trail riders looking for a lighter-weight option that can still perform well on rugged trails will appreciate this setup. Next, Michelin swapped out our YT with a Force AM rear and a Wild AM front. We then proceeded to hunt down rockier and gnarlier trails that would allow us to push the limits of these tires. The Wild AM provided excellent grip and still felt relatively fast-rolling considering its beefy tread pattern. We suffered zero flat tires throughout our testing on all of the treads and had no issue when rubbing up against rocks. Aggressive trail and all-mountain riders looking for traction and strength should go with the Wild AM.

Michelins may not be the most popular tires on the mountain currently, but with its recent efforts and large R&D budget, we believe Michelin will be pushing hard over the next few years to earn back its rightful spot in the mountain bike tire market. ο

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