Back in the early part of Spring, Michelin sent us their latest all mountain tires – the Wild AM2 and Force AM2 – for testing. While you can run them in pairs, they also can be teamed up nicely as a combination, with the knobbier Wild AM2 up front and the faster rolling Force AM2 out back. That’s how I’ve spent the bulk of my time on them anyway. As the “2” indicates, both of these tires are updates from past AM models with a new tread pattern and casings that are reinforced with their more rugged “Gravity Shield” option. Anyhow, read on for the full breakdown…
- 27.5″ and 29″ (tested)
- 2.4″ (tested) and 2.6″ widths available
- 1040 grams (claimed and verified on our scale)
- Gum-X rubber
- $70 USD – Wild AM2
- $65 USD – Force AM2
Interestingly, at 1040 grams each – give or take a few grams – the AM2s are about the same weight as Michelin’s Wild Enduro tires. However, I’m less inclined to think that these tires are overbuilt as something tells me that perhaps a more heavy duty Enduro casing could be in the works…
How’s that for width accuracy? Measured on 30mm inner diameter rims.
And again…Not bad Michelin, not bad.
The above photo gives you a good idea of the difference in the two tread patterns. The Wild AM2 is more open and has taller knobs that are more pronounced at the shoulders. The Force AM2 has substantially more knobs, which are lower and thus roll faster.
On the trail
Over the last few months I’ve tried the 3 realistic options of Wild front and rear, Wild front with Force rear and Force front and rear. Unsurprisingly, I found the best all around setup was the combination option. To me, it struck the best balance of grip and low rolling resistance.
The Wild AM2 had a penchant for biting into loose terrain, whether it was rock chunder or soil, and it held nicely on hardpack and rock, provided that conditions didn’t get too slick. I think this mainly came down to compound, not tread pattern. Based on my testing in drier conditions I found that the braking and cornering was superb. With that in mind, Michelin has two main rubber compounds that cover the trail through downhill end of the market: Gum-X and Magi-X. These tires use the former, which is harder, but faster rolling and more durable. Personally, for the Wild AM2, I would love to see a Magi-X option as I feel that in wet and/or rooty conditions it would be very ideal up front. At least that’s what I found with the fairly similar Wild Enduro Front tire that I’ve used a great deal these last couple of years. Overall, the Gum-X rubber on the Wild AM2 is pretty darn good, but on roots and slick rock it’s not quite as surefooted as it could be. Put it this way, the tread pattern isn’t what’s holding it back.
I found the Force AM2 to be a really interesting tire. Visually, it lands half way between a semi slick and a full knobby tire in terms of how aggressive it is. On first glance I wrongly assumed that it might not offer that much bite. Once on trail I was quite surprised at how well it hooked up, particularly in the corners. I found it to be a stronger candidate on firmer terrain, where the abundance of knobs provided quite a bit of surface area. On truly loose, deep and dusty soil it was a little floaty as a front tire, but I didn’t really notice any negative attributes when running it out back. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by its cornering above all else. I initially feared the intermediate knobs might interfere with the corner knobs’ ability to find enough bite, but that was certainly not the case. As far as the performance in wetter conditions was concerned, my thoughts are pretty much word for word the same as with the Wild AM2 – a softer compound would help when conditions were nastier, but it would likely wear out faster and roll slower. As this tire is more apt be used out back anyway, I can see why Michelin would not go to the trouble of offering a softer version, as it doesn’t really make sense for most riders.
Regarding the casings on both tires, I’ve yet to flat on either of them and I think they’re fairly rugged. The Gravity Shield casing is ample enough for the All Mountain category that these tires are expressly aimed at. Should you need more, there’s always the option of tire inserts, but for the time being if you’d prefer to avoid those, you’d have to make a pretty big jump up to the wire bead Downhill specific tires from Michelin. For riders searching for a more robust casing without taking that leap, hopefully they’ll be coming out with some AM/Enduro options in the ~1,250 gram range in the coming months.
All in all, I’ve found the Wild AM2 and Force AM2 to be a solid option for the mid duty segment of the market. As noted I’d love to see Michelin open up the Wild AM2 lineup to the truly excellent Magi-X rubber compound for riders who frequently ride wetter and more technical terrain. For dry to tacky conditions in everything from firm to loose terrain however, these tires are a winner and they certainly wear well in terms of durability, while rolling fairly fast. All in all, they’re a worthy option with excellent trail manners -that’s for certain.