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Wheels and Tyres

Michelin Enduro Tyres | Product Launch

There’s little doubt the new Michelin Enduro tyres will be an essential part of many rider’s hardware…

From Dirt Issue 142 – December 2013

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones.

French tyre manufacturer Michelin made a massive impact on the downhill world in the late nineties offering super sticky tyres such as the Comp16, a carcass that offered unrivalled grip in nearly every environment. Only available to the pro riders at first, such was the talk of its ability that riders, like magpies, scoured the underneath of team trucks for cast offs.

They later became available on general sale and grew to be the bread and butter of life on the hill, then backed up by the Wildgripper Mud, a narrow pointy piece of work that made riding in mud no different to riding in the dry. It was often cut down and used as a foil to the bigger lower 16 tyre up front.

So much for rubber nostalgia, the last decade has largely been one of Maxxis dominance, they make good tyres that’s for sure but heading into 2014 there are gaps primarily in 27.5” mud and 29” soft compound… and as if by magic I find myself in a Michelin starred restaurant with the sun shining being told it’s most definitely NOT about the compound.

MICHELIN ROCK’R2

The amiable folk from Clermont Ferrand arrived in Peillon with their complete range, but with the Rock’ R2 very much the tyre to be launched. It’s a tyre designed for aggressive dry weather conditions coming in two compounds: GUM–X, a mix of 55A central and 53A lateral, and MAGI–X made of the softer 50A. The tyre comes in one sectional size of 2.35 and is available in 26/27.5 and 29 wheel size.

During the presentation the key emphasis was that grip was not totally about durometer but about ‘shore’ and ‘hysteresis’, responses to shape at different times. They talked about delta angle and the ways in which compounds need to dissipate energy. To be fair I just wanted to ride them and see for myself.

TEST DAY SET UP

BIKE – BMC TRAILFOX 29 150MM TRAVEL FRONT TYRE: MICHELIN ROCK’R 2, MAGI–X SERIES COMPOUND. REAR TYRE: MICHELIN ROCK’R 2, GUM–X SERIES COMPOUND

Tramping down through the ecological communities found in the hills that crash into the sea around Monaco was sure enough a great place for testing tyres, as the tracks shift and change from the tree line down into drier terrains. We dropped in at around 4000ft with Fabien Barel at the front of the pack, wet rock and leaf offering very little in traction. It was too early to make judgement on these colder north–facing slopes however and as the ground opened up the sand/gravel mix became much more suited. The Rock R clears well but still feels slightly heavy when hoofing it on flatter sections, and when the ground turns real claggy the big 29 wheels on our test bike simply loaded too much.

Bigger rocks came out to play after lunch and it’s here that the tyre shines. Higher speeds with bigger impacts gave the 29 BMC Trailfox much needed security. This type of tyre is currently one of the areas where 29 is lacking – plenty of harder compound for day riding but certainly nothing to hammer some up–liftable descents. And I think this is where the Rock R delivers massively. It’s possibly too much tyre for day long pedalling, but only marginally. Definitely a dry weather tyre and certainly the reinforced casing wasn’t just sales talk as there was only one puncture in two days with two dozen riders. I can’t say I noticed a massive amount of difference between front and rear compounds, but due to the nature of the terrain and the fact we were doing one run on each track it meant the focus was largely on holding a line or keeping the world number 3 in sight.

MICHELIN MUD: MAGI–X

Returning to the UK we mounted a pair of the soon to be released mud versions.

This is said to be the first tyre to be designed specifically to be hand cut – in essence two tyres in one. Given that it can actually be used for two different applications and the fact that it can also be ridden on dusty terrain makes this tyre very interesting. It also fills another wet weather hole in the bigger 27.5” wheel market.

Why do riders cut tyres? Well partly for precision and partly because everyone else does it. With this new Mud it enables precision in the cut due to the layering on the lugs. The crowns provide a point of reference enabling quick clean accurate trimming to transform it into a 50/50 conditions tyre.

With winter taking a hold of our trails the sight of Michelin’s new mud was welcome indeed. Available only in the sticky Magi–X compound it comes as a formidable point of contact, however it’s questionable whether it needs to come in the slightly harder Gum–X for all day riding given its weight at over a kilo.

In mud conditions that include root, camber and rock nothing comes close to this tyre, it simply allows you to attack in the same way as you would in the dry. Its only drawback is that it comes slightly too sticky and therefore requires some effort on flatter territory. Given we’ve been running Specialized Storms at 60 compound and half the weight, that’s not really any surprise, after all this tyre is pretty much a downhill tyre similar in weight to say the Continental Mud Kings run by the Athertons.

It’s without doubt the grippiest stickiest tyre you well find, but I wonder why they’ve not gone for a harder compound on the 29” version given the increased grip with the bigger wheels. For harder hitting 160mm enduro bikes in wet weather fill your boots, but I’d still like to see a 55 compound 750g tyre for enduro racing too.

HYSTERIA

Where next? Well one day in one environment answers some questions, yet many remain and I would certainly welcome some time on different compounds in UK conditions. It was interesting to learn about shore and hysteresis and the ways in which tyres lose grip both front and back. In Barel and Pierre Edouard Ferry (Michelin’s other pro rider at the launch) we witnessed riding of the highest order. I have very little doubt the new Michelin Enduro tyres will be an essential part of many rider’s hardware…

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