Michelin recently released a new line of tires and among those, the Wild AM stood out to us. Luckily we had a pair for our riding buddy Colin to ride and shed some light on his experiences. Colin is a great friend of the shop and absolutely shreds on a bike. We knew he would be the perfect man for the job. Let's see how he felt about these Michelin Wild AM Tires!
Michelin requires no introduction when it comes to high-quality tires. The company, founded well over 100 years ago, is best known for its car tires, but today they are taking some serious steps to becoming a contender in the mountain bike world. Recently, they introduced several new mountain bike tires, one of which is the Wild AM, a tire aimed at the all-mountain and enduro crowd. With tall side knobs, soft rubber, and thick casings, it’s easy to see that Michelin’s foray into the more gravity oriented world of riding was not an insignificant endeavor. Of course, when you have riders like Cam Zink, Jerome Clementz, and a man with two EWS race wins already under his belt in the 2017 season, Adrien Dailly, giving feedback on your products, designing a proper tire probably gets a little bit easier.
I will be the first to admit that I am the worst when it comes to putting on tubeless tires. Usually by the end of the ordeal, I’m at my local bike shop covered in sweat and sealant (and sometimes blood) forking over a few bucks to have a professional do what any competent mountain biker should be able to do. However, much to my pleasure, the Michelins gave me far less trouble than any tire I have ever done before. I was able to mount both tires on Industry 9 Enduro 305s by hand. No, it wasn’t easy, but I also didn’t have tire levers available, so the Wild AMs score big in this category. It took a few tries to get them to air up with my Joe Blow Booster pump since I didn’t quite have the bead in the right spot (yes, it was user error). But with a little bit of soapy water and hanging the rim on something so it wasn’t sitting on the ground, the tires pumped up easily. Another point for the Wild AM's.
Lightweight (or at least not DH heavy), better rolling, and a slightly harder compound in the center tread means the Wild Ams won’t give you any extra trouble to get up your local fire road climb. These tires do a require a little bit of extra mental effort, however, when faced with steeper and looser scenarios. Because the center tread is low profile with ramped knobs, they lack any substantial grip when laying down the power. I found myself having to dismount when trying to scramble up punchy climbs because the rear tire would simply spin out. Slow and steady is the pace these tires require, unless you have Nino Schurter legs and can just do a burnout all the way up a steep face. Loose over hardpack conditions proved to be the most difficult terrain to climb up as the low center knobs usually failed to dig through the loose dirt and find grip on the harder dirt below. Even keeping the power steady while staying seated didn’t always result in a surefooted climb. Any other terrain however would keep you plenty happy to have these tires on your bike.
This was the part of the tires that I was most worried about. I am coming from some huge and meaty WTB Breakouts that offered traction for days. The thought of taking the 2.5 tire off the front of the bike to replace it with a measly looking 2.35 was nerve wracking. I had grown used to seeing a large, rounded tire in front of me. After mounting the tires and sitting on my bike, I only grew more anxious as I saw a much narrower and more squared off tire steering my bike. What about all of that traction I never had to think about? What about the huge contact patch I had? Was this tire going to be robust or was I always going to need a CO2 cylinder on me?
The first few rides didn’t quite quell my fears, but they also didn’t exasperate them. The Wild AMs are a little finicky when it comes to air pressure. I’m used to riding on the lower side of pressure since my last tires were so voluminous, so when I aired these up to the same numbers, I felt like I might as well have put pool noodles on my rims. Vague, squirmy, gooey. Describe it however you want, the Wilds don’t deal with lower pressures well. OK, let’s try the other side of the spectrum to see if we can make up for the lack of stout sidewalls. I aired them up with about 8 psi more than I’m used to and suddenly small rocks turned into the braking bumps you find in a mountain resort at the end of a season. With hand pump at an all-time high, I let out a few psi and found my happy place. These tires do make a bit of a compromise with the sidewalls. The thinner sidewalls allow for a lighter weight tire, but prevent you from running low pressures for maximum grip. It makes sense when you remember that these are All Mountain tires designed to do everything, not Downhill tires meant solely for speed on a negative grade.
Now that I had the pressures sorted, I could focus on other aspects of the tires. The first thing I noticed was the braking capabilities. For a tire with such short center tread, the ability to come to a stop quickly is surprising. A closer look at the center of the tire shows that the braking side of the center knobs are not ramped. This 90 degree angle provides a hard edge for the tire to bite into the dirt and stop you in a hurry. These tires provide best-in-class stopping capabilities despite the minuscule center tread.
Cornering comes without surprise. The side knobs are large and incredibly soft, able to dig in and hold on when you give your bike enough lean-in. The transition from going straight to cornering is nice and predictable. There are no large gaps between the center tread and side tread, meaning that you don’t experience that strange no-man’s land of zero traction if you’re not leaning your bike over enough in a corner. While not leaning enough won’t leave you with any worries, you’ll be well rewarded if you commit fully to a turn. It’s easy to feel the side knobs actually cutting into the dirt and providing an on-rails sensation. I have yet to find the breakaway point for the front tire in normal conditions and I would attribute this to the siping on the side knobs that allow them to deform outwards no matter how hard you’re pushing. The magic really is in those large, soft, and flexy lugs.
The Wild AMs aren’t fussy when it comes to downhill performance in various kinds of terrain. While I haven’t experienced the entire gamut of dirts (really only two types of dirt in SoCal: extra dry and less dry), I haven’t found myself wanting. Hardpack, loose over hard, damp, sandy, and rocky posed no challenge for the sticky rubber. As far as muddy and wet conditions go, I can only guess, but my prediction is that the close spacing of the center knobs will provide too many nooks from mud to pack in and hold tight instead of sloughing off.
I have had these tires on my bike for a few months now and they’ve held up solidly despite my less-than-graceful riding style. I tend to plow more than pop, so the amount of abuse I’ve subjected these tires to has been impressive. They have been slammed into some rocks hard enough to make me wonder how big of a dent I just put in my rims and the Wild AMs have come out unscathed. I am not convinced they will last forever, though, as I can already see some wear on those incredibly soft side knobs. No, they don’t look like they are a year old, but nonetheless soft rubber almost always means lower durability. Their performance has not diminished one bit, however. The rubber is still soft and compliant and I expect to get many more months of sweet, sweet grip before wearing them down.
The Michelin Wild AMS live up to their name of being All Mountain tires. They excel greatly in some areas, make compromises in others, but never truly disappoint anywhere. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a racer looking for a little more rolling speed without having to give too much up, you’ll be well pleased with the Michelin Wild AMs.