Michelin Talks Tires

Nov 24, 2015
by Richard Cunningham  

Jerome Clemetz at Michelin Tire test session
Michelin tire engineer Vincent Ledieu discusses a prototype with Jerome Clementz between testing sessions.

Michelin's history as a high performance tire maker is one of the headwaters of professional motor racing and in cycling, the French tire maker has molded a stellar reputation among road riders. Michelin's impact upon the mountain bike market, however, has been less successful, but we have seen an about-face recently as Michelin has aggressively turned its focus upon enduro racing, teaming up with the likes of Fabien Barel and Jérôme Clementz in a successful bid to win EWS races. And, according to Michelin, they are just getting started.

Successful tire design is as much about know-how as it is about luck and good timing. Changes are in the wind as enduro riders press tire makers to blend downhill durability and grip with lighter, fast-rolling casings. Adding to the pressure to innovate is the switch to wider rims and the subsequent need to rethink tread profiles to adapt to a wider contact patch. As a result, tire makers face a changing marketplace where a combination of new technology and a "sharpening" of established practice will be required to stay on top of their game. For Michelin, this is a crisis of opportunity. We spoke to Michelin tire designer Vincent Ledieu about his take on creating the ultimate mountain bike trail bike tire.
Michelin graphic


Michelin Wild Rock R2 Enduro Tire
Michelin's Wild Rock'R2 Enduro tire has an impressive row of edging blocks, which makes for a grippy front tire.


Five Questions with Michelin's Vincent Ledieu

Now that tubeless (or at least, "tubeless ready") is the base-line for all mountain bike tires, what do you see as the greatest challenges to making a competitive all-mountain/trail bike tire?

AM/Trail use is really interesting to study. I have always said making tires for this use is really hard. You need rolling efficiency and grip. You need light weight and robustness. Those are the two main balances that a tire designer is always thinking about. I dream about it! Tubeless ready (TLR) gave us the opportunity to prevent tires from puncture. The sealant is working quite well and enables the rider not to get stopped because of a punctured tire. But, TLR is not preventing riders from pinch flats. [In the case of tubeless], pinch flats damage tires, and can put a stop to a riding day if the tire is damaged too much. Another main point is to define new tread design and compound combinations so that the balance between grip and rolling efficiency is improved. This is a challenge for Michelin's Bike Team.

Tell us Michelin's thoughts on where rim widths should end up for all-mountain/trail/enduro and how that affects your tire designs.

Our challenge is to maintain Michelin DNA in our tires as the rim standards change. Rim width impacts a tire's handling. It really depends on tread design profile. I mean, a rounder tire will become squared, so when changing from a narrow to a wide rim, handling of the bike we’ll be completely different.

A rounder tire gives a more predictable grip on the angle. Changing the shape of the tire will change the grip on the angle. Today, we changed [widened] our rim standard to adapt our future tread designs to keep that predictable angle grip.
Michelin tire graphic
The new Michelin Wild Race'R enduro rear tire: In blue, the profile with a 30mm rim and in yellow, the profile with a 21mm rim.

Modern all-mountain and trail bikes are light and efficient enough to climb XC trails, and they make it possible to descend trails that were once the exclusive domain of DH bikes. How does Michelin balance the two problems - of making a tire tough enough to survive DH trails, yet lightweight enough to pedal and climb efficiently?

New uses are coming so fast in bike industry that we have to think differently to design our next tires. Using a new raw material is an issue we are considering, and also changing the profile and structure of the casing could be a solution. Michelin likes that kind of challenge, and R&D is in our DNA. I’m working on some ‘concept’ tires that could change the actual balance between mass and robustness.

How important is the rubber composition as compared to the actual tread design? How do the two components work together?

Rubber gives grip by its contact on the ground while edges and sipes give grip by digging into the ground. For each use, XC to DH, you have to think of compound and tread design as a couple. Stiffness is the key to get a tread pattern sticking to the ground. If during a test session I get a really sticky soft compound, but the rider feels an immediate and non-progressive grip on the angle - maybe the design of the knobs need to be adapted to get more stiffness. For example, Michelin's Wild Grip’R shows a good adjustment of rubber stiffness depending on its tread knob design. The center compound stiffness [we use] is higher than the shoulder compound because the central block's definition gives less stiffness than shoulder’s blocks.

Michelin Tire Graphic
The Rock'R's central tread hardness is shore-55a and the outer tread hardness is shore-53a. Michelin says that the block designs must be profiled to provide adequate stiffness for each chosen durometer value,


Another example is the Michelin Wild Race’R Ultimate, our XC Race tire. The tread design is really low, so it gives a very good rolling efficiency. But, if we kept the compound hard like people used to ride in XC race, the grip efficiency would be not so good. Rudy Megevand, the previous tire designer, decided to put a Gum-X compound, coming from enduro, to achieve good grip without challenging rolling efficiency. It was a successful idea.

If you had one message to voice about the future of tire design as it pertains to all-mountain and enduro, what would that be?

Michelin all-mountain tires come from enduro experience garnered from EWS racing. The perfect tire must have more grip, more robustness, more rolling efficiency, and less weight. We know the need, we like challenges, we think we can do it.
Fabien Barel on Michelin tires
Theory and scientific research can only bring a tire to the prototype stage. Michelin then relies on development riders like Fabien Barel to ensure that they have achieved the right combination of grip and rolling speed. (Barel was instrumental to the enduro tire program, but has since moved on.)


MENTIONS: @michelinofficial / @RichardCunningham




83 Comments

  • + 51
 I really need that smoking Mich man poster. That is fantastic.
  • + 13
 Grabbing a top spot while it's open.
Pinkbike, what is your motivation for removing comments or entire comment threads? I've had neg propped comments and positive propped comments removed. Sometimes under someone else's initial comment, but it still leaves me wondering why. Negativity is a part of every Internet forum. You provide a means to down vote a comment but still feel the need to remove some. Just wondering why
  • - 2
 There is usually a good reason man, I don't know which comment you are referencing as I hardly read them all. But in the past, I've thought to myself "yea, that's about right"....
  • + 3
 LOL, I have had comments removed that were not even negative! Hell this one will probably be removed too.....
  • + 4
 Only time I've ever had mine zapped is when they are in response to something they didn't like. Any time they do that all replies go too.
  • + 3
 I've taken a screenshot to come back and check if any of these comments dissapear.
  • + 1
 La communité de Pinkbike, eee, le petit paranoic lately? This gets UnReal guys. Are we loading for Products of the Year "scandals"? Big Grin
  • + 4
 it's all a conspiracy .... nothing is as it seems
  • + 2
 Michelin Man rips stogies
  • + 4
 Michelin man gets it, he probably doesn't even know what wheel size he's on.
  • + 7
 Don't feel bad. I've just returned from a 98 hour ban for using a swear word (the C word, which is a used as a term of endearment in my home country)
  • + 1
 Sometimes weird things happen to the comments section -- once I had comments listed under my name that I never made... I don't think my account was hacked, because they were just innocuous comments, nothing malicious. It was as if someone maybe submitted a comment at the exact same moment. It never happened again.
  • + 7
 Yes, the comment section is being sanitized, just like our trails. Everything on here will just be flow, and no rough sections. I emailed pinkbike about how this makes PB less trustworthy.
  • - 2
 Comments do not make pinkbike untrustworthy. Pinkbike is not represented by every riders' comments. The comments are meant to provoke conversation about the subject posted. Comments that are not constructive or are not on topic do not belong under an article that could be read by someone just visiting the page to gain knowledge of the title subject. On another note, I bet all these comments about deleting comments will be deleted. After all, they don't serve a constructive purpose to the article.
  • + 3
 Its their right to censorship/limit free speech as its a private site.
I get the process to protect underagers from profanity but sometimes it does resemble a Chinese.gov is at the helm. This is pinkbike aka a bunch of goofy bikers hangn out yal!
  • + 2
 Dear Vincent and @michelinofficial Can you please please please start making the Michelin Comp 16, 24, and 32 again in 26", 27.5" and 29" with the modern materials and make everyone who rides a bike experience how amazing these tyres actually were, if the other tyre companies didn't copy you they would have not become so big.
  • + 12
 Props to michelin for putting a protection layer on the whole tire and not just on the sidewall like competitors. But, please, we need wild race'r enduro rear in 26!
  • + 3
 What is the "reinforced" layer made of? Is it just another layer of casing like the outside or is it a different material? Bead-to-bead protection is the way to go.
  • + 3
 It was historically an aramid like Kevlar. Looks like something woven anyway.
  • + 10
 The Michelin 26" DH32 2.8" was one of the best DH tire ever made, it was indestructible, incredible traction, long wearing, high volume. The Wild Rock'R2 Enduro tire may have just peaked my interest in Michelin again
  • + 1
 i had one, it was okay, to its credit it was old.

you can still buy them by the way, at least recently with in the last two years, michelin wild gripper hd
bike.michelin.com/tyres/michelin-wild-grip-r-descent-heavy-duty
  • + 4
 Back in 2000s and until 2007 I was riding all those DH 16, 24 and the amazing 32. The perfect combo in 2006 for my Intense M3 was this amazing comp32 in front and comp 24 in the back. The grip was unreal so good, also the shock absorsion. They was massive 2.8 and now they only make 2.6 I would like to try in my Demo...
  • + 4
 Not to mention...Tubeless! Back in the day, almost no one ran tubeless DH. Those DH32's were hands down the best performing tire ever. Please re-issue these tires again Michi!!
  • + 2
 I just managed to find a brand new NOS Comp 32 for my Ironhorse project build I still have a set of new 24's too, can't believe they stopped making them
  • + 8
 Part of me wants Michelin to bring back those light green colored tires from back in the day and part of me wants those things to never see the light of day again...
  • + 3
 Wild grippers for the win! Lol
  • + 7
 props to Michelin for at least making some affordable tires these days.
  • + 2
 Bring the graphene already ????

I'm thinking an ultra lightweight diamond strength flexible liner might do the world of good.

Aldo have a great idea for electronic tyres :p how to sell it?!
  • + 3
 I have been riding the new Wild Mud for the UK winter and its probably the best mud tire I've ever had. It grips really well even on wet, slippery roots.
  • + 5
 What reasonable tread pattern hasn't already been done at this point?
  • + 3
 That's exactly what I think. When you look at the top latest tires, they kinda all look close to each other. Maxxis Minion and Spesh Butcher, Continental Baron is not so far from Hans Dampf, Onza Ibex is similar High Roller, etc... It's clearly a sign that tire design tends to an ideal, so we should be happy with that, it ensure that whatever tire we choose, we will have a good product.
  • + 4
 Yeah just stop it already R+D departments. All tire manufacturers should just stop trying to innovate and just copy whatever Maxxis is doing.
  • + 2
 Tread pattern, yes, casing, bed tech and profiles ... there are many variables. I still like Maxxis best in all these regards, but these new Mich tires look good. Would be willing to try.
  • - 3
 I dont know about you guys, but Im never getting back on a set of Maxxis tires as long as WTB is still in town.
  • + 6
 Have not ridden a WTB in a long time. I'm just smitten with recent TR versions of Maxxis tires like the DHRII. The weight is just right, they roll fast, mount up tubeless easy, yet don't roll beads, puncture resistant ... ticks all the boxes for me.
  • + 0
 Here in Finale Ligure lots of enduro riders are using this tires and they love it
  • + 3
 I have never had a pinch flat on tubless. I mean, if I would pinch flat on tubless, my rim would be probably already shatterd.
  • + 1
 I have, at least 6 times. All it takes is a paper thin casing: Schwalbe EVO SS or Maxxis EXC
  • + 1
 Ok, I got a minus point, but could anybody please explain, how can it happen. I have dented my rim many times but my tyre was always intact.
  • + 4
 Maybe you don't bash onto a lot of things. I've pinched flatted at least 10 times on various tyres (mostly maxxis).
  • + 4
 As your tire rolls over the edge of the rim it can pinch the edge and cut a slice into the tire just like you had a tube in there.
  • + 2
 Waki that's just poor set up man. Paper thin tires and you are running low enough pressure to pinch and slice the casing against a rock?- on a regular basis? More pressure is needed, or, a more robust tire for this riding style.
  • + 3
 You won't get pinch flats from roots, but a sharp rock is all it takes. It cuts through the rubber and presto - there is your pinch flat. But sure enough, tubeless is way more reliable in that regard than tubes.
  • + 0
 Yes Darkstar63, too thin tyre, I was a weight wanker. Next year I am running nothing but EXOs and GRIDs for the rear. Never pinch flatted those on same trails with same pressures. I doubt regular users of Rocket Rons have that trouble since they tend to run 35PSI+ for supposedly minimized rolling resistance. Now, why would you create a Magic Mary or Rock Razor in Evo SS, or Ardent in EXC...
  • + 2
 That's not a pinch flat. I have sliced plenty of tires on rocks, but I'm not bashing the rim into rocks and pinching the tire to cause that split. That is the result of tire pressure that is too low.
  • + 1
 Hole is a hole dude, the only time it is not true is between 20 and 35
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns I can run 25psi in my TR case Maxxis with no issues. The rim very rarely touches down and the tire is thick enough to resist damage. The extra stiffness in the carcass is key to it riding well also. I have come to loathe thin tires. Just not for me.
  • - 2
 I run 28 for the rear with 80kg butt with spandex and backpack full of sweeties. I punctured sidewall of Ignitor EXC few years ago. Otherwise no probs with Maxxis or Spec and all sorts with Schwalbe
  • + 2
 I can air them down more, but over rowdy terrain (the rocks are sharp here) it's asking for trouble and starts to make the bike feel vague. For DH I don't even mess with tubeless. Full DH case and tubes for this kid.
  • + 2
 I ran a total of three sets of Schwalbe. I'm done. Magic Mary in single ply, Magic Mary, Rock Razor combo in super gravity. Hans Damf in SG, Racing Ralphs. Never had so many failures. The Super G's are difficult to mount and prone to leaking tubeless. The tread comes apart quickly and I am full aware that soft rubber with do that, I just have better luck with Maxxis in Super Tacky and I'm not feeling more grip with the Schwalbe alternative. They perform well, but reliability leaves a lot to be desired and that's just not ok when you have to shell out so much for rubber.
  • + 1
 I've pinched a Specialized Ground Control tubeless. What's more, it punctured on the sidewall just above the beat AND in the tread. No damage to the carbon rim luckily. Was able to plug both holes and keep rolling
  • + 1
 Since I've switched to tubeless almost a year ago I haven't had any pinches or burps and I wouldn't call the trails or my riding style smooth. Previously I would go through a tube every month or two. 26 psi to 30 psi depending on if the dirt is damp or hard packed. Tried control casing but the thinner casing would get a little flexy, love the grid casings, much more support in the sidewalls.
  • + 2
 I have never pinch a tire either. I have cracked two rims due to low pressure but never pinched a hole in a tire. I think if this were to happen, the rim would be dented to the point where it wouldn't seal any way.
  • + 1
 Interesting read: so many different experiences with the same tires...Here s another one: All saddled up for a ride I weigh some 83 kg. I ve been without flats for to seasons now, even when I cracked the shit out my Nextie 40 mm rear rim. (Still riding and waiting for my replacement rim.) I ve been running Dampfs EVO SS, tubeless, 20,5 PSI up front and 23,5 PSI in the rear. Zero issues, but I guess...I don't ride hard enough then...
  • + 1
 exo's to thin, industry is pretty much about to give us DH with folding beads.
I hope there going to think outside the box and move the tech forward with a robust design and less weight ?
  • + 1
 Try "TR" In my experience tougher than the EXO models. @enduroFactory
  • + 1
 Thanks for the replies. So it seems like a more complex problem...so many people with so many different observations. Somebody (like me) never pinched flat a tubeless and somebody had a lot of trouble. It actually might have more to do with top of the rim profile than with the tyres. It seems that some rims are just slicing through the tyres and other rims even dent without cutting through. But I am still wondering if those having pinch flats made the correct observation, or they are having regular cuts from outer objects.
  • + 1
 @DARKSTAR63 - isn't TR standing for Tubeless Ready? Which in fact would mean that bead is slightly tighter and smoother?
@enduroFactory - EXO is more than good for my riding level for most situations. I tore a knob off Minion EXO once, but I rode with locked wheel over sharp edge of a dry rock slab. I like the lightness of EXO casing making you stay on top of the stuff much easier. You can glide with the bike over rough bits and have it in the air anytime you want with little effort. I add no more than 5PSI to get stability and limit burping on machine dug trails. I run full on DH setup only for lift accessed riding at speeds I am not normally used to so I need to bulldoze over stuff with 2ply tyres with FR tube in the rear and regular in the front.
  • + 1
 @IluvRIDING - pinchflatting a UST tyre is for me a situation where you have a hole cut, near the rim bead, that is hard to see with tyre on because it sits exactly behind the rim wall, so it could not be a cut from an object.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns TR does stand for tubeless ready, they have a nice tight bead yes. Perhaps more importantly though the carcass is pretty rigid compared to exo models. I think it's a better tire all around tubes or not.
  • + 1
 Maybe some day in the future I will try them. But for now since there are no 2.5" Minions DHF and SS TR EXOs available in Europe I will go for Butcher control/ Slaughter Grid since they are on stock so much cheaper, while I am very suspicious of those Michelins as they look exactly as if they were designed and tested by people living around frickin Cote'd'Azur which climate and trail surface sadly does not resemble conditions in Sweden...
  • + 4
 Bring back the comp16 in a modern compound! loved those things, I miss having Michelin as a DH tyre option
  • + 2
 Try the rockr advanced reinforced for front, and gripr advanced reinforced for rear. Burly and better than their old stuff in my opinion. I honestly feel like I have to really push my speed to even get to where they are gonna slide. They are gnarly, and encourage you to step up your already gnarly riding. Its scary when you go faster with more control, and realize you can go even faster....
  • + 3
 i ran the wild rockr dissent and this bike.michelin.com/tyres/michelin-wild-grip-r-descent-heavy-duty

wild rock'r's are awesome
  • + 1
 Seems questionable to release a new line of squarish tread tires obviously intended for narrow rims when the market is trending towards wide rims
  • + 2
 Glanced quickly at the middle tread and thought I saw a Wu Tang logo... I'm going to go back to sleep now see you all later.
  • + 1
 Suggestions for who has the best pricing on the advanced reinforced tires?

I was hoping 650b would be lighter though (approx. 1000g each)
  • + 1
 Not for me ta. I've ripped the sidewalls out of 4 Michelin tyres (2 different ones) on trails that I haven't done so with any other tyre.
  • + 3
 Wild rock'r advanced reinforced are bad ass tires.
  • + 1
 All this "R+D" and "DNA" and "Enduro pro rider input" and basically we end up with a siped, pointy center tread minion. Yay
  • + 2
 I read the titles fast and thought it said, "Michelin Tanks"
  • + 1
 Heres hoping the mud3 makes a come back in 650b the only spike tyre worth owning.
  • + 0
 Those tires look grippy, for sure, but they also look like they'll produce a ton of rolling resistance.
  • + 1
 Anyone ride Michelin 29er tires? Like/Dislike?
  • + 0
 Full Dh tire and tubes. Flimsy tires ruin the day. Not enough travel puts strain on tires.
  • + 1
 So that guy said bunch of nothing....
  • + 1
 Vincent, you are sooooooo cute! Love you as much as your tires Wink
  • - 3
 I absolutely dont care which brand of tires I ride, I'll buy the less expensive tires that fill my needs ..
  • + 4
 Well most sick Michelin's like the gripr and rockr can be had for $50 at full retail...want the super tits advanced or heavy casing, $60. Pretty much the best bang for your buck right now, if you try them. And in my opinion, the rockr in the massive amount of sizes and casings they offer, is the most versatile tire for my area(out west)
  • + 3
 Michelin's are cheaper than most Schwalbes

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