Three Versions Reviewed
Michelin Wild Enduro Tire Review
Michelin is slowly but steadily pushing back into the imaginations of mountain bikers. Two years ago when I reviewed the Wild AM – a tire sharing some similarities to the Wild Enduro Rear – there was little fanfare for Michelin tires and there were only a few options available for aggressive trail riding. The Wild Enduro was released that year but they were hard to find. Nevertheless, we saw athletes like Sam Hill racing the Enduro World Series on Michelins and back in 2017 during his push for the title against Hill, Adrien Dailly was riding on the prototypes.
They’ve been available for a while, though demand and supply limitations thanks to COVID-19 have made it harder to find them. With fond memories involving Michelin tires 20 years ago when I first started racing, and more recently with their Wild Rock'R2 – a tire I reached for in dry conditions – I was eager to check out the new treads.
Michelin Wild Enduro Highlights
- Available in 29 and 27.5
- Two front tire rubber compounds available: Gum-X3D and Magi-X²
- Front and rear-specific tire carcass and tread pattern
- 3 x 60 TPI front tire carcass
- 3 x 33 TPI rear tire carcass
- Front GumX3D (29 x 2.4): 1,058g
- Front Magi-X (29 x 2.4): 1,073g
- Rear GumX3D (29 x 2.4): 1,156g
- MSRP: Gum-X3D – 64.99 USD, 77.99 CAD / Magi-X² – 69.99 USD, 83.99 CAD
A Different Approach to Tires
When Michelin released the Wild Enduro in 2018, what first caught my attention was the three options available in each wheel size. Where many tire brands push the softer, stickier tire as their top option, Michelin took a different approach and it confused people. With the Wild Enduro, the updated Magi-X² compound, which was previously the softer, more grippy compound, became the rubber that "targets experienced riders and experts due to the outstanding grip it delivers at speed.” Michelin moved from the more typical and easy to understand, softer and grippier terminology to focusing on a rider's skill level. This left many, myself included, questioning whether the previously preferred softer and stickier-the-better – and past Michelin front tire compound choice – was suitable for use by regular hacks.
When Michelin updated the Magi-X compound, the base of the tread and lugs were made firmer so they could better hold their shape, while a softer, slower rebounding rubber than that found on the Gum-X3D was introduced to the exposed surface. After riding the tires for the last few months including back-to-back, it makes sense. But before that, I found the descriptions of the tire compounds confusing. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe what I was hearing – I mean, a harder, stiffer lug… what?
The concept for the Gum-X3D is more familiar and can be found on tires from brands like Maxxis with their 3C tire compound. It features a firmer base with soft corner lugs and a more durable but still soft center lug. It’s supposed to provide a hard-wearing tire that rolls reasonably well while still providing grip when leaned over on its edge. The base layer of the Gum-X3D tires isn’t as stiff as the Magi-X² while the exposed tread is firmer, and faster rebounding. It creates an overall softer lug that isn’t as grippy as the Magi-X².
Michelin also took a different approach with the carcass. Where many brands utilize a 60 or 120 TPI casing, mixing multiple layers with various other materials inserted to prevent flat tires, Michelin chose to use a thicker 33 TPI material for the rear tire. The front uses the more common 60 TPI material and each tire consists of three layers. Despite this, the sidewalls felt thinner than I expected and for riders familiar with Maxxis tires, the Wild Enduro front felt similar to an EXO, while the rear felt like an EXO+.
With the tires each using three layers of material, I was surprised how much of a difference the 33 TPI construction made to the rear tire. The larger threads made for a thicker feeling sidewall but I never would have imagined it being so pronounced. Handling the Magi-X² front tire, the stiffer base rubber made a noticeable difference to the feel of the carcass compared with the Gum-X3D options.
Coming from a set of Maxxis DoubleDown tires, the carcass of the Michelins worried me and I assumed there’d be flat tires in my future. A strip of material is added to the rear tire for pinch flat prevention but the EXO+ tires also include comparable protection and I haven’t found those to be enough for the rear of my bike. A clear benefit of the construction was the lighter weight of the Michelin tires compared to the Assegai/DHF DD tires they replaced, saving between 80g (rear) and 240 grams (front). It’s surprising how close in weight the rear tire is to my DHF DD because the difference felt in the sidewall is significant; the Michelin feels much thinner.
The Skid Test
Michelin’s focus on front and rear-specific carcass options is great. With most riders encountering trouble with flats in the rear, it makes less sense to run thick treads at both ends. Until recently the grippy compounds we all want from a front tire have been limited to the thicker tire casings, leaving many of us with more tire than needed out front. There’s no need for that here with the thinner, more comfortable 60 TPI casing of the front tire providing a pleasant feeling, while the stiffer 33 TPI rear tire takes the rear wheel abuse.
The construction also produces a lighter front tire despite using the same layering as the rear, though some of the weight savings would be thanks to the pinch protection at the bead of the rear tire. Tread patterns of the two also differ slightly, with the rear tire featuring shorter lugs than the front and there's less spacing between the smaller blocks and less ramping, so the rear tire can provide traction when putting down power. Climbing traction was good, as was stability when braking hard. They pulled up surprisingly quick too, something I didn’t expect with all the small, disconnected blocks.
I mounted both tires to a set of WTB KOM Tough rims, with an internal width of 29mm. I found the profile of the tires, particularly the front, more square than I was used to with the large side lugs extending well up the outer edges. I’d be lying to say it didn’t concern me but my experience with the Rock'R2 had proven positive, with their side lugs holding strong and hooking through corners and across off-camber sections. At the time they were the best, aggressive cornering tire I’d ridden. The insatiable grip and support of the side lugs begged to be hammered into corners.
Riding the Michelin Wild Enduro Tires
Testing the Gum-X3D tires first, I found the softer base of the front to be a bit skittish in loose over hard terrain and on rock slabs. I also found the cornering transition to be unnerving, initially. Coming from the neutral transition of the Assegai, the Wild Enduro had a moment of weightlessness that felt odd when banking the bike. In soft, loose terrain or on wet hand-built trails, the tire performed great and when temperatures dipped, the softer lugs were beneficial. After becoming more familiar with the Wild Enduro, I began pushing it more aggressively and found that once the corner lugs are loaded confidently, the tire whips through turns in softer terrain. On hard pack surfaces such as surfaced roads on the way to the trail, the front tire squirmed too much for my liking. The rear tire, with its shorter lugs, felt great everywhere.
Swapping to the stiffer Magi-X² rubber significantly improved cornering on firm terrain. During summer conditions, the Magi-X² was far more supportive, responding better to aggressive riding on all surfaces while the slower rebounding rubber provided heaps of grip in the loose dust. I never felt that the Gum-X3D front tire was able to hold up and support itself in these conditions and it damn near killed me in a couple of instances. Pushing hard across sections riddled with solid rock, the lugs of the Gum-X tire would squirm and give out. On machine-built trails where the surface is hard, they were also less predictable than the Magi-X². The Magi-X² was the ticket and let me ride without concern in any terrain, so long as temperatures were ’normal’ (15ºC and up).
But when things cooled down, the tread of the Magi-X² front tire stiffened too much. Across root beds where the tire doesn’t touch anything but for a short period, the Magi-X² began to struggle. It lost composure as the cold weather – between 5–10 degrees Celsius – made it difficult for the tread to conform to the ground. The slow rebounding rubber also became too slow and the tire's rolling speed felt like it suffered considerably, requiring more effort to keep it moving forward when climbing on firm surfaces.
At this point, I switched back to the Gum-X3D front tire and it improved handling. The softer, faster rebounding tread was better able to perform in the cold, wet conditions. It still struggles with rock slabs, where I find it squirms if riding hard, but my level of aggression has cut back considerably in these conditions. Everywhere else it provides excellent grip and composure.
Throughout most of the test, the rear tire remained on the bike. Despite the braking edge of the corner lugs wearing quickly, it continued to work well. Cornering and braking were impacted by the early wear to the side lugs and a number of them have nearly torn completely off. With more than 400kms on the tire, the centre lugs still have some life left, with the edge remaining somewhat intact, but the corner lugs are beyond gone. They had a hard life, with heaps of descending thanks to some big park days when the trails were at their most abrasive. For reference, the MaxxGrip DHR and DHF tires in the rear of my bikes have each managed more than 500km of service before being deemed unusable but the High Roller II I had on when summer first hit only got ~350km before being useless.
My concerns about flatting during the test were unwarranted and although I tried to make it happen, I haven’t flatted once. That’s with no inserts and plenty of rimmers, causing dings to both the front and rear wheels. There's an amount of luck involved for sure but I’ve not been so fortunate on other tires with similar feeling sidewalls. I also tried running the Gum-X3D front as a rear for a bit but needed an insert for support. With this setup I bottomed the tire hard against the rim, dinging it through the insert but surprisingly, still no flat. This probably has more to do with the insert than the tire but I was surprised nonetheless.
Room for Improvement
Michelin's Wild Enduros have been more purpose-specific than any others I’ve ridden. That can be a good thing, offering excellent performance in certain areas but it also adds complexity. Aggressive riding in dry conditions and rocky terrain suits the Magi-X² front but when it gets cold and damp, the softer Gum-X3D performs better. Warmer (15º C and higher) wet riding with the Magi-X² was great. This adds another cost and involves more time faffing with setups.
After less than six rides, including a day in the Whistler Bike Park that exceeded 6,000 metres of descending, the rear tire began to look worse for wear. The rear corner of the side lugs had begun to tear away from the firmer material underneath and some of them showed signs of tearing completely off. Surprisingly, the centre tread didn’t show the same wear and had much more life. I left them on. They remained strong performers but the cornering and braking characteristics declined from that point.
I squeezed good life out of the rear tire but I still find they have a shorter life span than others. They feel great on the trail and brake sensationally, but they aren’t a huge improvement over other rear tires. I also had an issue with the sidewalls wearing, eventually resulting in sealant oozing out through the threads. The weeping hasn’t happened to the front yet but I would like to see a tougher casing, both front and rear, to prevent this and provide more support on the trails. During testing, I had to increase tire pressures by 2psi to get the support needed from the sidewalls, as the thinner material allowed the tires to fold and burp, particularly the front.
The Michelin Wild Enduro tires offer great grip and surprising support in the right situation from a lighter weight package. The tires have been tough against hits and the front to rear-specific carcass and tread patterns excel in many situations but they’re not as set-and-forget as some others. There are limitations to how aggressively the Gum-X3D front can be pushed and while the Magi-X² takes everything thrown its way in warmer conditions, its firmer tread base and slow rubber hinder it when things get cold and wet.
With a tougher casing (rumours have it those are on the way), the tires stand to be more durable and provide aggressive riders with increased support when things get rowdy. But if you find the carcass of Schwalbe’s Super Gravity or the Maxxis DoubleDown tires to be excessive, then the Michelin Wild Enduro in its current state is a great alternative.
More info on the Michelin Wild Enduro.
Ape Index: 1.037
Trail on Repeat: Changes as often as my mood.
Current Regular: Every test product spends time on Entrail