There are two things that Michelin clearly has. First, a lot of experience when it comes to designing tyres. And second, quite a lot of money. And how do we reach this conclusion? From the simple fact that it flew journalists from all over the world to Las Vegas, Nevada to show off its new MTB range.
Bootleg Canyon in nearby Boulder City was the venue for the test rides. These are the same trails as used for the Outdoor Demo days of the Interbike trade show, and they’re legendarily unforgiving. You’re either riding on spectacularly abrasive volcanic outcrops or on a narrow ribbon of hard-packed sand with loose, drifty sand on either side. There’s not much margin for error, and if you put a tyre wrong you’ll probably find your fall broken by a cactus.
So you definitely want a decent bit of rubber between you and the trail (please take note, manufacturers who show up at Outdoor Demo with a test fleet shod with semi-slicks…). Which is, we hoped, where Michelin would come in. We’re big fans of Michelin’s current crop of Dual Compound tyres, but we weren’t expecting to see a new range of tyres that, at first glance, looked exactly like the current ones.
Then again, if it ain’t broke… The newness in these tyres is in the casing – Michelin has borrowed its Reinforced technology from its motocross range. It’s put an additional layer of protective material in the sidewalls (there’s now three layers) and under the tread (now four). There’s also a strip around the bead. All of this reinforcement is claimed to add “50% more robustness”.
With these extra layers, you’d expect a heavier tyre, but Michelin has reduced the TPI count (threads per inch) to 60, so the tyres don’t bear a significant weight penalty. The tread patterns, while superficially the same as the existing ones, have received some subtle tweaking, with height and shape worked on to increase the contact patch and add lots of gripping edges.
The Reinforced design will only be found on the widest of each tyre, and happily the widest will now be a bit wider. The wider size from the previous range is now the narrower in the new range. The Mountain X-Trem (for rocky terrain) comes in 2.2in or 2.5in; the Mountain Dry2 (you can probably guess what that’s for) comes in 2.15in or 2.35in and the Mountain All Terrain (you can guess that one too) comes in 2.2in and 2.35in. All of them carry the Dual Compound tread, with a firm subtread keeping things in shape and a softer topping boosting adhesion. Quoted weights for the 2.35in Dry2 at 750g, 895g for the 2.35in Mountain AT, and 855g for the 2.2in X-Trem.
Even with all this rubber technology on side, plenty of the assembled media managed to hit the deck – like we said, the trails are unforgiving. We were certainly impressed with the Mountain Dry2 and Mountain All Terrain combinations we tried, though. We liked the wider format, and the Reinforced technology coped just fine with the rocky trails. Obviously the terrain at Bootleg Canyon doesn’t resemble much of what you’ll find in the UK – our first impressions are good, but we’ll have to give ’em a good pasting on home turf to be sure. In the meantime, have a look at two-wheels.michelin.com for more information…