A brute of a DH tyre that maximises grip but demands a strong engine.
Identified by the funky blue and yellow chequered sidewall logos, Michelin’s Racing Line MTB tyres are, you guessed it, made for racing. That means in DH and enduro categories they use the brand’s grippiest compounds and thick, durable casings to handle the toughest tracks in the world. But does that put them among the best MTB tyres for mere mortals?
The Wild Enduro tread pattern here has been around for years, but this latest version sees the blocks moulded from sticky DH Magi X rubber and the casing technology from Michelin’s downhill tyres (albeit with a folding, rather than wire bead like on the DH34 and DH22).
The four-ply Down Hill Shield casing has puncture defence layers, snakebite bumpers at the bead and high-density wraparound fabrics to prevent rocks or sharp things piercing the carcass. Like its DH tyres (that I’ve found virtually impenetrable), this spikier front Wild Enduro is pretty bombproof, but this benefit comes at a significant price in terms of weight by adding almost 1.5kg of rotating mass to your front wheel. It’s heft that’s clearly felt when riding; obviously when climbing, but it’s also hard to deflect when spinning fast and more difficult to lean over. Michelin still offers a 150g or so lighter Gravity Shield version, but that has a different rubber blend.
The key trait to the Magi-X rubber is how damped and slow rebounding it is. There’s also tons of friction and hold against soil and rocks that’s at least a match for any equivalent rubber (like MaxxGrip or Addix Ultra Soft), but it’s the slow, dull slap against anything in its path that really stands out.
Magi-X is way more medicine ball than bouncing ball then, bringing a ride quality that’s the opposite of pingy and nervous, with the tyre’s tall tread defying expectations and feeling totally planted and calm on the ground.
There are multiple flip sides to this calmness trait, however; a major one being a super-slow rolling speed and draggy feel that, combined with the extra weight, makes this Wild Enduro a real dog to pedal around. There’s also noticeably less comfort and compliance than thinner, more flexible tyres. The dead, heavy feel makes such a difference that I needed to fiddle with rebound settings on the fork to balance the tyres damping/rebound characteristic. The solid feel extends to the sidewall. They are so supportive I could run very low pressures; sub 20 psi was possible until I started to bottom the tyre through the crown before even twisting the casing, folding the sides or burping sealant. This does provide a ton of support for charging hard and will better handle the forces of a heavier e-bike too.
The Wild Enduro’s top-class grip and damping delivers everything you need to go downhill as fast as you dare then, but while I’m aware a load of people rave about them, I’m still not a huge fan of the tread pattern itself.
With very broad gaps between edge blocks, there’s always less connection with the ground at high lean angles and less continuous grip to push against in turns. I frequently felt the edge break away faster than I’m used to on other brand’s tyres, even if it’s only for a nano-second mid-turn, or when the bike is angled over going light over crests or through rooty flat turns. Nothing drastic happens thankfully, as the rubber is so grippy normal service resumes quickly; it’s always more of a ‘hesitation’ than a total loss of grip. The same effect bothers me when slotting through ruts and pointy rocks, where there’s a bit more wobbling and a disconnected feel than a tyre with a more compliant casing and continuous edge tread that I find wants to track a bit truer in a straight line.
For this tread reason alone, if I was going to go Michelin tyres for ultimate grip, I’d opt for the full-on DH tyres (even if they are a bit less toothy in very loose conditions) as they aren’t any heavier or slower, come in 27.5in diameter as well and have a more continuous edge hold thanks to the different tread pattern. It looks like a lot of EWS racers on Michelin have come to the same conclusion too.
You better eat your spinach if you want to pedal these heavy grip monsters around, and I can’t help wishing Michelin offered this amazing rubber bolted onto a slightly lighter and easier to manoeuvre casing package better suited to most UK enduro riders’ needs.