I had mixed expectations for the new version of the Michelin Force. When Greg Heil tested the first version, he used words like “squirmy” to describe them and found that they didn’t stand up to anything much looser than cemented hardpack. Generally, he found the Force AM-branded tire was much more of an XC tire meant for the cleanest of conditions.
The photos of the new Force looked promising though. The tire gained weight – not something you usually want, but after reading the review on the prior version, more mass sounded welcome. The generation one Force AM which Greg tested weighed a claimed 770g in a 29×2.35″. My 29×2.4″ test tire weighed in at 1,040g – not very light for an XC/trail tire and compared to its obvious rival of the same size, the Maxxis Ardent. The Michelin brings about 120g more to the wheel, and the actual weight matched the claimed weight. The 2.4″ size measures 2.4″ wide with a tire width-ometer on my 28mm internal width rim. Michelin sells the Force AM2 for $65.
The knobs were noticeably beefed up and Michelin says they made the casing stronger, revised the compound for better grip, and rolling resistance, and made the cornering knobs more stable. They make a 2.4″ and 2.6″ width for both 27.5″ and 29″ diameters.
My other expectation was that the Force AM2 wouldn’t be as hardy as what I usually run for a tire, with its huddled knobs. I usually ride with a more aggressive tire in the rear, but nothing too bananas. Something like a Maxxis Minion DHR II, a 2.4″ Teravail Kessel, or Versus’ new all-mountain tire. All in all, I’m happy to report that the Force AM2 has exceeded my expectations.
On the trail
The AM2 looks a lot like an Ardent. The prior Force AM looked like an Ardent that had skipped one too many meals; the AM2 looks like an Ardent with a Quarantine-15. With the extra weight, the AM2 has some interesting qualities, in that it rolls nicely for a trail tire and doesn’t sap your energy, and it’s not too meek a tire to be concerned about if you end up on a more aggressive trail.
There’s definitely no mistaking the AM2 for an XC tire, nor is it an all-mountain or enduro tire. I suppose if I were categorizing it like a bike, I would call it a trail tire and the dusty mix of slickrock and hardpacked trails around Fruita, Colorado were a perfect match.
Closer to the Front Range of the state, the tire can feel limited on loose and rocky trails where it breaks loose and takes a little longer to stop, but if you understand that you’re not using a knobbier tire, it’s easy to manage those situations on the AM2.
Cornering feels secure enough on this tire in most conditions. Negotiating the angles between the center and cornering knobs feels devoid of any dead spots and the tire hooks up well in dusty to semi-loose conditions. I haven’t had the AM2 in any conditions wetter than a patch of mud here and there, but it does feel like it loses bite pretty quickly in the muck. That should be no surprise.
Durability and wear seem fine for the AM2, but testing has been limited by moody spring weather, and I’ve mostly had the tire on trails that are within its comfort zone. Again, it feels surprisingly confident in conditions beyond “mixed/hardpack.”
The “all-mountain” moniker still seems ambitious for the Force AM2, and it’s hard to say who the tire is for as it’s on the heavy side for serious cross-country riders. But, for someone who categorizes himself as an aggressive trail rider, I like it more than I thought I would. Often times, tires that prioritize efficiency aren’t durable enough to withstand more force, but the Force AM2 blends durability, a quick (not fast) rolling speed, and confidence beyond hardpack quite well.