When the Shimano XT wheelset that I currently have in for review showed up in the mail, it came with a pair of Michelin tubeless-ready Wild Race’r tires. I had assumed these were just a nice add-on to help me get out on the wheels quicker, but the tires have actually become the star of the show.
The Wild Race’rs are listed as 29in x 2.25in and weigh in at 715 grams each. They are a part of Michelin’s “Fast Terrain” line-up, and as the name implies, these are intended for racing and fast trail riding. As such, they have less-pronounced knobs down the center for lower rolling resistance. Moving toward the sidewall, however, the knobs get taller for stable high speed cornering. In between, there are transition knobs that are split to allow them to flex as you lean into the turn.
Overall, the Wild Race’rs have a fairly round profile. Despite the nominal size, these are actually a really large-volume tire. At 28psi, they are so big that I am unable to lock them into my Thule roof rack, as the straps don’t reach all the way around and through the buckles. I have had a number of 2.2in tires that fit with 2-3 notches to spare on the strap/buckle, so these things really are fat!
Unlike the Advanced and Ultimate versions of this tire, the regular Wild Race’rs do not employ a dual compound rubber. That being the case, I wondered how they would hold up to extended riding, but after a hundred miles or so they aren’t showing any significant wear yet.
These are a “tubeless ready” tire, and on two separate UST wheelsets they mounted up easily and inflated with just my floor pump. However, I also purchased a 26in set for my daughter’s bike, which has Easton XC One wheels converted with a Stan’s NoTubes kit, and they refused to seat at all.
I tried every trick in the book: soapy water, air compressor, wrapping a strap around the circumference of the tire, swearing, more air compressor… nothing worked. I’m currently running with tubes for a few rides to hopefully stretch and limber up the sidewalls a bit, and then I plan to try again.
[Update] As expected, after a couple of rides on these with tubes, I pulled them off, re-installed the Stan’s strips, and the tire beads popped right into place. It’s probably not even necessary to ride them, just mount them with tubes, inflate them, and then let them sit for a day or two.
Out on the Trail
Out on the trail, the low center knobs do a decent job of balancing rolling resistance with traction. On that note, they are also a directional tread with the front oriented for braking and the rear reversed for pedaling hook-up.
I’ve been riding the Wild Race’rs on our typical loose-over-hardpack trail surfaces here in Colorado, and they have been awesome. They also do well on roots, rocks, slickrock, etc. I recently had the chance to do a ride in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where it had rained the night before. Within a mile of the trailhead they were completely caked with sticky, damp loam… but somehow they still had enough grip for steep braking and sharp uphill pedaling. Once I hit some rocky hardpack, they shed the coating of soil pretty quickly, but if I routinely rode in wet or muddy conditions I would probably look elsewhere in Michelin’s line-up.
Overall, the Wild Race’rs are an awesome trail tire. While the rolling resistance (or lack thereof) is decent, the pedaling and braking traction is excellent. The back tire will break loose if you really get after it in loose gravel, but it’s predictable and hooks back up when you let off the gas a bit. For getting up ledges and roots, the traction is very good, and I have had very few “spin outs” in such cases. Cornering at any speed is confident and stable and they grip consistently on a variety of (dry) surfaces.
In addition to handling, the large volume, especially when combined with low air pressure, provides a little extra cushion and helps tame the chunder a little bit. I could see these being a decent selection for a hardtail or rigid setup.
They excel in our dry Colorado climate, but also held their own in the deep forest and grassy meadows of South Dakota. They eat up sand, rocks, roots and gravel and will get you by on the occasional wet surface if you get caught by surprise. I have pulled a bunch of goatheads out of them, and they consistently seal right up with the help of Caffelatex sealant. They have also taken some pretty nasty granite hits to the sidewalls without any flats.
To put all of this into perspective, when I recently needed to replace my daughter’s worn out tires, I purchased a pair of the Wild Race’rs, thanks to my experience with my pair of review tires. Michelin has created a stand-out product, and I enthusiastically recommend checking out these and other models in their mountain bike tire line-up.
Prices for the Wild Race’r range from $35 to $60 depending on the size, and they are available at most online bike retailers as well as a number of local shops.
Thanks to the folks at Michelin for sending over the Wild Race’r tires for review!