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Michelin Wild Grip'r2 Advanced 2.35 Review
Cons: Poor side knob support, no sidewall protection, squirmy, higher rolling resistance
Bottom line: This probably won't be your everyday tire, but when things get dry and loose, you'll be glad to have them in the stable. Just get the Advanced Reinforced version if you want them to last.
Weight (g): 803
Casing Options: Advanced, Advanced Reinforced
For what seems like maybe a decade or so, we've associated the Michelin brand with our cars more than our mountain bikes. But as word got out that we'd be testing mountain bike tires, people kept urging us to try one of their offerings. We settled on this tire as the Michelin website stated it was for mixed terrain. The 60 TPI Advanced version held up to the rigors of our testing, but we probably should have opted for the extra layer of protection offered by the Michelin Wild Grip'r Advanced Reinforced version. We just had a hard time looking past the paltry 800 gram weight for such an aggressive looking tire.
We thought we'd deviate a little from the norm and give it a shot since we were pretty uninitiated to their entire lineup, anyhow. The tire certainly felt light and we were a little hesitant holding it in our hands as it was reluctant to hold its shape unmounted on a rim. It kind of lay on the ground like a twisted dead snake. Through our testing, we concluded that this tire is best suited to very loose terrain. Hard ground or rock made the tall knobs seem poorly supported despite the apparent design attempts to root the knobs securely to the base of the tire. We ran the Gum-X rubber compound which Michelin recommends for rear tire use, reporting an "excellent balance of performance between grip, efficiency and wear."
We tested the same tire compound both on the front and rear. While its performance seemed limited to loose terrain on the front, this tire would make a good aggressive rear tire for someone not interested in the semi-slick design craze. Basically, if the surface you're riding on moves as you pedal over it, this tire will offer good advantage. It's strong loose terrain performance was often overshadowed by its marginal performance anywhere the ground was hard. Keep reading for the details and to see how this tire stacked up against the rest of the group.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This tire is the most conditions-specific tire in our test. With an aggressive tread pattern and spaced knobs, this tire was a standout performer in extremely loose conditions. As the gondola at Mammoth Mountain soared high above sulfur spewing fumerols, we pardoned our sideways glances at one another as the source of the funky odor choking the gondola cabin became more apparent. When the doors slid open at just over 11,000ft, we chose Off The Top as our warmup run.
A short, ludicrously scenic trail follows the ridge behind the gondola building before dropping into a series of snaky switchbacks with lightning fast straightaways connecting them as they slither down the mountain's backside. Signs reading "no pumice riding" remind riders to stay on the trail and not bomb fall-line through the very light and porous volcanic rock found in abundance here. Just as we reach top speed, we're forced to reign things in for the upcoming switchback that will send us darting back across the hillside with more spectacular vistas of the jagged Minarets.
It was in these deep and loose pumice corners where the Wild Grip'r earned its namesake. Other tires wandered, drifted, and slid their way through the direction change, but this tire held its line. At more sensitive corners, turns were armored with pavers. The tall knob profile made of especially soft 55 durometer rubber overlaying the 60 tpi casing caused some hair-raising moments when the tire squirmed beneath us. The tires were equally as squeamish on rock slabs and manmade wooden features became quite sporty. Language much too colorful for this review could be heard through the placid forest disturbing the tranquility of an otherwise quiet, late-season day. The Schwalbe Hans Dampf predictably plowed pumice as well, but suffered less on pavers and rock slabs.
Our loose-over-firm figure-8 test course was especially challenging for this tire. Like a stoned teenager, the front tire seemed unmotivated and unwilling to even attempt traction. The rear felt as if it were peeling off the rim, causing us to glance over our shoulder thinking we had somehow flatted. With each ride, it became quite obvious to us that this was clearly a very loose conditions tire. We had issues with side knob squirm on this type of terrain with the WTB Vigilante as well but to a much lesser degree. No other tire in our test was as fearful on firm as the Wild Grip'r.
We hoped this tire would be the be all, end all to placate our woes during a dry and loose Tahoe summer. Climbing a steep, beat-up 4x4 road to a favorite local downhill, we thought our prayers had been answered. The stepped outer blocks have the top portion slightly offset from the base of the blocks, giving them a staged appearance. The center tread of the tire features a redundant, bifurcated knob that is angled in front to favor pedaling and straighter in the rear to haul some dirt when grabbing the brakes. The transitional zone features an alternating knob pattern. On loose climbs, traction was pretty outstanding. Some of the semi-slick designs in the test required a lot more technique and weight distribution to keep the rear wheel from spinning in sections where out-of-the-saddle cranking was absolutely necessary. The Wild Grip'r allowed us to stand up and mash pedals as the big knobs dug deep and propelled us uphill.
If everywhere we rode was a loose fire road, this tire would be the go-to choice. Unfortunately, although this tire delivered us to the goods in style, diversity of terrain throws it for a loop. Pedal traction through technical rock gardens felt unstable. When the tire was ridden over sloping boulders, the outer knobs felt too soft to support the bike and would peel out from underneath our testers. The outside edge of the cornering knobs have a deep cutaway towards the base of the knob. In situations where the tire is evenly weighted and rolling along primarily on the center tread, the outer knobs spread nicely outwards to increase traction and grip.
However, when traversing firm surfaces with the knobs weighted from the side, the cutaways serve to undermine the knobs and cause them to fold under pressure. The Gum-X 55A rubber compound was a nice hardness and gripped well, but we felt more let down by the knob design rather than the actual rubber. Due to our experience that this tire was really only at home in very loose terrain; unless that's where you always ride or are seeking a tire specifically for those conditions, we'd reach for a more well-rounded pedaler like the Continental Trail King, WTB Vigilante, or the Editor's Choice Maxxis Minion DHF. If you just want to go downhill fast and can willfully sacrifice some pedal traction, grab a semi-slick like the Schwalbe Rock Razor or Specialized Slaughter.
Given enough loose topsoil, these tires will pull some dirt. When our speeds got away from us while gawking at the scenery while blasting downhill on fire roads at Mammoth, the Wild Grip'r helped us pull things together before getting ugly. If you're leaning the bike over on a firm surface and trying to dump speed at the same time, it's probably best to do it beforehand when you're more straightened out. It's better technique anyhow. A recurring theme, weighting the outer knobs on hardpack isn't the most secure feeling. All things being equal, the Schwalbe Rock Razor and Specialized Slaughter will put a longer skid mark in the dirt than the Wild Grip'r before you can put a foot down, while the Trail Boss and Trail King are next in line better along with the Maxxis Aggressor.
The open spacing and large knobs on this tire produces a vibration that the rider can pick up through the bars on hard surfaces. This tire begged us to steer clear of firm singletrack and roads. As we prefer to ride from our doorstep whenever possible, a few short sections of trail through neighborhood streets can be laced together to maximize dirt on the way home. A final section of trail heads off into the forest perpendicular to the street. Bunny-hopping a culvert is the best way to maintain speed for this sought after Strava KOM. Buzzing along on pavement, one of our testers swung it wide and the tire completely gave out on the setup turn, forcing him to hose gravel out of his butt cheek while the rest of us drank beer on the porch. Simply stated, this isn't the tire if rolling resistance is high on your priority list. Probably any contender in the test will offer less resistance, with only the Minion DHF and WTB Vigilante coming close to this tire.
Once we were able to wrestle this tire into its desired round shape, it snapped into place on our rims first try using our Topeak Joe Blow Booster. The thin feeling sidewalls really don't resist that firm blast of air very much at all and the bead eased over our rim flanges without the use of any tools. The marginal support offered from the sidewalls had us burping air like we just chugged a liter of Dr. Pepper. This caused us to run the tire tubed a few times after losing air to the point our rim was taking too many shots. Tubed installation was equally as easy and we even preferred the additional support from inside the tire.
We're not really sure why we elected the "Advanced" model of this tire when an "Advanced Reinforced" model was offered. Perhaps it was the fact that such a beefy tire weighed in at a paltry 800 grams and we couldn't help but see if it could hold up to some proper abuse. Although the tire survived our test period without any fatal wounds to the sidewall, that extra layer of protection is probably a good idea, even if it does add 270 grams. The shallow siping on the intermediate knobs was quick to disappear.
Although there's quite a bit of rubber to work with on this tire, it seemed to wear pretty quickly. It came away from testing unscathed, but without going for sidewall protection, we feared we were one tire misplacement through a rock gap away from walking home. We liked the EXO casing on the Maxxis Minion DHF and Maxxis Aggressor and the Grid casing on the Specialized Slaughter and Specialized Butcher also offers lots of protection for not a lot of dollars.
If you know the course for your next enduro is a sandy, loose mess of a descent, these tires might be a great choice. The way this tire tracks through loose terrain could be the ticket to making up precious seconds, while the rest of the field fumbles through blown-out corners. You'll also get tons of traction for ripping down virgin mountainsides as seems to be en vogue these days. Finally, if you spend an inordinate amount of time climbing up very loose fire roads to access downhills, this tire will keep that rear wheel planted beneath you, saving energy for the fun part. If you live in Southern California, check this tire out.
Depending on the type of riding you do, this could be a great value in a pretty aggressive, loose terrain, kinda bad weather tire. We just think it would spend far too much time hanging in the garage than hanging around our rims. For as good as this tire was in sand and loose terrain, it let us down in too many other areas. If all we were doing was pushing our bike up spines in Virgin, UT and pointing it down sandy, gravely mountains, then yeah, we'd ride this tire all the time. But for the variety of terrain encountered during the course of any ride or enduro race, we could find better performance cheaper. The Specialized tires are a ten spot cheaper and even the Editors' Choice Maxxis DHF is only eight bucks more.
In the dry and loose terrain, this tire absolutely slayed it. However, it was not nearly as adept at all terrains. We found ourselves raging loose descents, but holding back when a technical spine of rock demanded precision handling and no-slip grip. Wooden features were approached with caution and after repeated folding of the cornering knobs, we eased up on the pressure around berms. If your preferred terrain is straight fall-line bombing over loose terrain, then this tire has your name written all over it.
— Sean Cronin
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