by Dave Trumpore
Michelin has been quiet for the last few years on the DH and Enduro front, and the Wild Rock'R2 marks their return to the serious gravity and trail bike market. Aimed at today's modern trail bikes, and more specifically Enduro racing this tire is aggressive and especially rugged. Michelin makes three versions of this tire and we tested the top of the line model that retails for $100.
Wild Rock'R2 Tire Highlights
- 2.35" x 26" (Tested), 27.5" (650b), and 29”
- Tubeless Ready
- Folding Aramid Bead
- 50A Magi’X Softer Compound Front // 64A Center, 59A Lateral Gum’X Harder Dual Compound Rear
- Advanced Reinforced, 33 TPI Carcass Ply
- Weight: 2 lb 3.2 oz (998 g)
- MSRP: $100 USD
Out of the box these tires looked aggressive, there really is no other way to describe it. They resemble a DH tire, not the scaled down version that is often what is offered in the trail bike tire category. Michelin puts a lot of effort into developing different versions of their tires, and for the Wild Rock'R2 I tested, they went with their "Advanced" and "Reinforced" technologies. This translates to a mix of compounds (which varies from the front to the rear tire) and an extra ply of protection around the whole carcass of the tire. For this particular model, the result is a sub-1000g tire that should still be up for the rigors of modern day Enduro racing and aggressive trail bike riding. For reference, a similar tire from Michelin in full-on DH version weighs in a good 200-300g grams heavier.
On The Trail
I prefer a tubless settup (split tube/ghetto tubeless) and these tires were easy to mount and seated perfectly on the first try. The Wild Rock R'2 is designed for dry and loose trail conditions which is something I do battle with everyday riding on Colorado's front range, and it becomes apparent very quickly here which manufacturers have done their homework or not. Michelin definitely falls in the former category. Right away the tire rolls quite fast, and with very little if any vibration. This was quite a surprise to me given how aggressive the tire looks when mounted.
If I had to use one word to describe traction it would be predictable. Lots and lots of predictable traction. Even when leaned way over the feeling of transition to the edge of traction remains quite linear and easy to anticipate, which is a huge benefit in dry conditions. Many tires feel great as they transition to the side knobs but then begin to wander, or the contact patch begins to feel more like a rough edge that is either on or off. The Michelins always felt like they had more grip to give, and there was never a sudden or unexpected washout. You can feel the traction, and when they do slide they break away slowly and in control, searching for grip the entire time. I would attribute all of these qualities to well thought out placement of knobs, aggressive side knobs, and multiple sipes throughout that allow the knobs to move with the terrain.
Braking is good, if not very good and on par with some of the best tires out there. The braking edge is sharp and hard and you can literally hear it digging in. In dry and loose corners, when feathering the brakes and balancing between carving and drifting these are some of the best tires I have ever ridden.
Things That Could Be Improved
The Wild Rock'R2s are not the lightest tires in the world, and while they are designed with aggressive riding and Enduro racing in mind, it seems a bit overkill for your average trail bike. I would run these in a heartbeat at any gravity oriented event, but I am not sure I would want to have them mounted for my 4 to 5 hours high alpine epics.
I will note, the traction is so good that I may just tough it out on the climbs anyway. As a dry conditions tire they are phenomenal, but what about mixed trail conditions that most of us see on an average ride? Luckily it is winter here so I got to run them through the whole gamut of trail conditions. Mud, snow, ruts, dusty gravel, and loam, you name it.
They did surprisingly well in wet mud, but as the mud began to dry the tires clogged and became weighted down. In muddy ruts they were a handful as the center knobs are too shallow to dig in for steering and holding a line, and the side knobs are so aggressive that they try to climb the wall of every rut. I know it is not entirely fair to say a dry condition tire isn't great in the wet, but since many of us ride in variable terrain it must still be noted. That said on damp soil and loam they are still fantastic.
I did have one other pet peeve with these tires, and it is the fact that they fling tons of gravel all over the place. I blame all those wonderful sipes that give such great traction for this. They pick up and throw all the little stones around, and it was not uncommon to rip down some flowy drifting corners only to find my shoes now had a pile of gravel in them. You could also hear it pinging off the frame quite constantly. I really only see this as an issue if you ride on the hard pack covered in kitty litter type dirt that is common in Colorado.
Lastly there is the issue of price. At $100 these cost more than the tires on my car, and might only last a season at best. For racing only I might be okay with the price given how good they are, but as daily drivers on my trail bike, that price just might be the deal breaker.
Long Term Durability
Durability wise they fared quite well for a purpose made soft compound tire. They wore better than a DH race tire while giving the same level of grip on rocks and roots regardless of moisture, but still seem to be wearing a bit faster than your average OEM tire. Alas this is the price of performance. The sidewalls appear bomb proof and I had no problem setting them up tubeless and leaving them that way for the duration of the test. As it stands they have about 100 miles of desert and alpine riding on them and the sidewalls look like new. Having had issue with many tires in the sharp and rocky terrain here previously, the reliability of the Michelins was very good indeed compared to the competition.
What's The Bottom Line?
Overall the Wild Rock'R2 is fantastic. If you are racing Enduro, or riding your trail bike in a bike park I really can find no flaw unless the trails are super muddy. If you like to go on all day epics with a lot of climbing these may be overkill, since while they roll extremely fast for a tire of this nature, their weight can still be felt when the climbing grinds on and on. Though they wear a bit faster than the typical XC tire, I am more than alright with that given the amazing traction they provide. The sidewalls laugh at sharp rocks and other trail side snipers, and punctures were never a worry.Just be sure to wear your sunglasses before you head out to smash turns at your local trail as the Michelins love to fling the gravel everywhere. This is the only tire I have ridden in the dry that required a Marsh Guard to fend off the roost. In conclusion, it's two big thumbs up from me - these tires put a big smile on my face every time I ride them.
For more info, check out bike.michelinman.com.
About The Reviewer
Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.