By STEPHEN KRCMAR
A good mountain bike tire is like a great dance partner — it reads your lead and helps you look better than you really are. When it comes to two-wheeled dancing on the dirt, Michelin’s latest addition to its mtb tire lineup plays a great Ginger Rogers to my never-gonna-be Fred Astaire. Designed for cross-country pedaling, the Wild Race’R was released this spring and replaces the company’s long-running “Dry” tread design. Changes include a new tread mold, new rubber compounds, and a revamped tire casing.
How’s it ride? If you’re looking for a tire that slays the hardpack, the Wild Race’R is your tire. I’ve ridden ‘em for the past few months in areas like Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham, Ala., outside of Flagstaff, Ariz., and on trails throughout the Eastern Sierra in California near my home. Whether in the tacky East Coat dirt, the hard-packed Southwest soil, or pumice — and the occasional snow patch! — in and around Mammoth Mountain, Calif., the tire has been intuitive and grippy.
Low-height center knobs provide plenty of traction when you’re heading straight, and slightly taller triangle side blocks ensure good traction on turns. Plenty of space between the knobbies help the tire excel in loose conditions. But the real secret to the Wild Race’R’s grippy-ness is in the rubber itself — the center blocks are built with a harder rubber (a 68a durometer for any rubber geeks out there), which minimizes rolling resistance and deflection. The side blocks are a softer, dirt-devouring rubber (63a durometer measurement).
The combo of the hardness of the centerline and the softer side blocks let you ride a lower tire pressure, which in turns adds traction and grip on the ground. Here in the Mammoth area, where there’s a mix of loose pumice and dirt, I typically run about 33 PSI; with the Wild Race’R, I dropped it to 29 PSI, and it rolls solid and smooth.
The Michelin tires cost $49.99 apiece and are a solid middle-weight — the reported weight for the 26- x 2.25-inch is 735 grams, and at 2 inches wide the same tire is 540 grams. My only regret is not getting a set for my 29er bike, for which Michelin sells the tires in 2.1- and 2.25-inch varieties. Big bikes like to dance, too!
—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.