Michelin invited us down to Santa Barbara, California to sample their new, updated tire lineup. Consisting of 4 new treads in 16 sizes, the French brand is claiming that these new additions should cover 80% of the MTB tire market. In short, they aim to cover everything from XC to Trail to All-Mountain. Michelin already have excellent Enduro offerings and they’ve got some DH tires in development that should be available before too long… Anyhow, we spent two days sampling the local trails starting with XC tires and working our way in a more aggressive direction, eventually finishing riding the Wild AM. After some details with the new rubber, we’ll get into the experience side of things.
Jett XCR – October 2017
• 27.5×2.25 – 560g
• 29×2.25 – 610g
• 29×2.10 – 560g
Force XC – May 2017
• 26×2.10 – 580g
• 27.5×2.10 – 600g
• 27.5×2.25 – 640g
• 29×2.10 – 630g
• 29×2.25 – 680g
Force AM – May 2017
• 26×2.25 – 690g
• 27.5×2.25 – 715g
• 27.5×2.35 – 720g
• 27.5×2.60 – 830g
• 29×2.25 – 760g
• 29×2.35 – 770g
Wild AM – June 2017
• 27.5×2.35 – 760g
• 29×2.35 – 800g
**Prices are yet to be determined**
After 3 years of development with field testing done in the Olympics, Michelin have given some key updates to both their rubber compounds and casings as detailed in the next section (in their words). That’s of course in addition to the obvious third major component of tire design: tread patterns.
The X2D and X3D compounds belong to a new-generation of high-
performance GUM-X compounds which combine three distinct performance-
related qualities in a single tire, namely grip, energy efficiency and long life.
• GUM X2D (for performance and traction): a combination of two compounds. Delivery of peak performance is ensured by the Race Compound under-tread rubber which directly benefits pedal power. Meanwhile, the outer compound optimises traction performance, along with outstanding braking ability with no detriment to grip.
• GUM X3D (for performance, traction and grip): a combination of three different compounds. GUM X3D takes the X2D concept a step further by providing high levels of grip to the shoulder areas for appreciable additional cornering performance.
MICHELIN SHIELD technologies have permitted the emergence of a new generation of tires that combine a reinforced high- or very high-density cross-ply casing with specific architectures (3×150, 3×110 or 3×60 TPI).
• 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. The unique combination of these new-generation compounds, new tread patterns and casings means buyers are able to take full advantage of their tires’ performance potential without losing out on durability, the aim being to address the needs of our customers as closely as possible.
If you haven’t been to Santa Barbara, it’s quite interesting and certainly worth a visit for far more than simply mountain biking. Mountains that top out around 4,000 feet jut nearly right out of the pristine beaches in balmy 70ºF weather with the Anacapa Islands gracing the horizon. There are long, rocky trails with mixed, but typically dry terrain. You can find yourself in the woods and you can also find yourself dealing with exposure that’s up worse than Red Bull Rampage. Needless to say, it’s a great place to ride and test products.
On the first day, we ride the started out with the Force XC on our 130mm Evil Calling; it seemed like the perfect all around bike for covering a broad range of riding. Because Cam runs YT USA, he was nice enough to provide Jeffsy’s from his demo fleet to the journalists who flew into town. We drove down from Santa Cruz, so we just brought our own bike.
On the Trail
Things started out with smooth, gently rolling trails and the occasional mellow rock garden and creek crossing. As we weren’t in a pure XC racing scenario, we started out with the Force XC rather than the lighter duty Jet XC. The Force XC uses the Gum-X3 compound and features a very fast rolling tread pattern with small knobs that were quite low in height. As expected it was excellent in hardpack, particularly of the tacky variety, but it wasn’t perfectly suited to the loose, marbly sections. After airing down a bit, the tire fared better in the rubble and yet we still never suffered a flat or burped them.
As we moved onto heftier terrain throughout the day, we headed to a trail called Romero. It’s long, varied descent over mixed terrain, it is a Santa Barbara classic. We rode/wrote about the trail in a feature with Duncan Riffle two years ago. However, due to a road closure that stuffed our shuttle plans, this time we just rode the bottom half which is a bit faster, rowdier and more rock strewn, as opposed to the loose, open, meandering singletrack at the top of the track.
On Romero we road the Force AM. It basically has the same tread pattern as the Force XC, but with taller knobs and a beefier casing. Right away we were surprised at how well the tire worked in all conditions. We’ve been riding the Wild Enduro Rear on the back of our Calling; it features the same tread pattern but an even thicker casing still. Until riding the Force AM up front, we considered it a nearly semi slick tire that you’d only want to use out back. We were pleasantly surprised by being proven wrong and found it to perform really well up front.
On our second day we mounted the Force AM out back and ran the much knobbier Wild AM up front. Its knobs are much taller and more squared off. We noticed that every other side knob features relief on the outside edge. The relieved knobs to encourage it to squirm slightly, while the sturdier knobs hold it up; in combination this helps provide a nice transition if you start to drift when leaning the bike over. All in all, when we pushed the bike really hard in wet, hardpack and loose terrain it responded really really well.
Like any first look/first ride style article, it would be foolish to make any bold claims or long term assessments. What we can say however is that we’re stoked to see Michelin diving head first back into the MTB tire world after a bit of a hiatus while the MTB wheel size world was doing a bit of internal reflection and soul searching. Our first impressions were pretty much excellent at every level of duty for each given tire, and fortunately Michelin sent us home with a box of tires so we can conduct long term tests of each tire. We’ll check back in and follow up in the coming months with full reviews. Stay tuned.
Big thanks to Michelin for the incredible time in Santa Barbara!
Addtional thanks to Cam Zink and YT USA.
Photos: Wil Matthews