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First Ride: MICHELIN FORCE AM and WILD AM – the new all-purpose tires?

With the launch of their new purportedly all-mountain FORCE XC, FORCE AM and WILD AM tires, MICHELIN have promised no less than unlimited good times. But can these tires deliver the goods?

If, for any reason, you ever need a tire, then MICHELIN will surely have you covered: from tractors to motorbikes and cars, this iconic French tire manufacturer is well versed in rubber compounds. As they’re rarely off the podium in motorsports, it’s a success story that they want to emulate in mountain biking for 2017 with their all-new FORCE XC/AM and the WILD AM.

Michelin Wild AM
Michelin Force AM

MICHELIN have taken the expert-fed approach more serious than any other manufacturer around, assiduously relying on input from pro mountain bikers. Before officially launching the FORCE and the WILD, more than 250 tire iterations were tested at over 150 races. Their aim was to create an uncompromisingly high-performing all-rounder that can suit every condition and meet the needs of today’s market. The resulting rubber compound that they developed alongside their own durable SHIELD technology translates into tires that can also be ridden on E-MTBs without issue.

The MICHELIN FORCE XC, FORCE AM and WILD AM in detail

MICHELIN have strolled onto the mountain bike scene announcing that punctures and unwanted sliding are set to be a thing of the past. They’ve employed their Gum-X 3D dual-density tread compound in the FORCE AM and the WILD AM, which they claim is stronger and more grippy. It’s a compound that’s based on the Gum-X 2D compound used on the (obviously, cross-country specific) FORCE XC, and MICHELIN say that the only real difference is the reinforced edge tread and higher blocks on the AM model that render them more suited for all-mountain riding.

Tires that can’t grip are as annoying as tires that rip. So in order to keep these all-mountain trail tires at the top of the grip game, MICHELIN have relied on what they call ‘Trail Shield’ technology, which is essentially a 60 tpi casing that’s constructed to provide the necessary puncture resistance on rocky and technical descents – making it also highly suited for E-MTBs. The FORCE XC tires have been optimized for cross-country riding and have reached for a 110 tpi fabric instead, which adds a touch of nimbleness and is reputed to adapt to the terrain better. The FORCE AM model spans the biggest size spectrum, from the smallest 26″ × 2.25 up to various widths for the 27.5 (for E-MTBs too) and 29″ wheel sizes. The WILD AM will be limited to a 2.35 mm width for 27.5″ and 29″ models.

The MICHELIN FORCE AM on the trail

Dry, hard conditions with a scattering of rocks are exactly the sort of trails that the FORCE AM goes mad for, and the searing descents in the south of France are the ultimate testing ground for the MICHELIN FORCE to fulfill its potential. On both loose and hard-packed ground, they retained grip thanks to their comparatively large surface area, meaning that even just in the first few tentative meters of testing the FORCE AM instilled confidence in us. Those chunkier side lugs are an asset on corners and firmly keep rubber-side down. These tires also proved that what goes down well can also go up well; the MICHELIN FORCE AM had minimal rolling resistance on tarmac and gravel climbs, heaving a sigh of relief at the thought of long transfer sections. The claims of added puncture resistance due to an extra layer of high-density material withstood the testing too, bringing us out smugly flat-free. And no matter how off our line choice ended up over gnarly rocks, these tires were able to keep their line.

Yet if your home trails don’t really reflect what we were riding in the south of France, then we’d suggest grabbing their less tamed brother, the more enduro-inspired WILD AM.

Similarly, if you’re an E-MTB rider, then it’ll be worth checking out the MICHELIN FORCE AM 2.60″.

The MICHELIN WILD AM on the trail

But the weakness of one tire plays out to the tune of brilliance on another, so if you’re mainly found riding through loamy or pine forests in wet conditions, then the MICHELIN WILD AM can step up to the purpose. Its more aggressive tread profile hints at how it’ll dig satisfyingly into wet ground and carve up a decent amount of grip in the slop. With its softer rubber compound and more flexible casing we reckon it’s capable of gripping in pure filty – but, alas, while we hoped for a rainy testing day in France we unfortunately had to make do with some late winter sunshine so we can’t testify to its wet weather credentials. Those higher nobs mean that the tire isn’t well suited to hard, dry trails as they get a bit bouncy. Plus, the higher rolling resistance is noticeable on climbs, leading to a few more drops of sweat on your brow.

Those higher nobs mean that the tire isn’t well suited to hard, dry trails as they get a bit bouncy. Plus, the higher rolling resistance is noticeable on climbs, leading to a few more drops of sweat on your brow.

Pricing and availability

The FORCE XC and FORCE AM will hit the shops in March 2017, but you’ll have to wait until June 2017 for the WILD AM. Exact prices aren’t yet known, but they’re expected to retail between € 40 to € 50 per tire.

Our thoughts

The MICHELIN FORCE AM and WILD AM mark a giant leap forward for MICHELIN. If you’re looking for a precise all-rounder tire for dry, hard trails then the fast-rolling FORCE AM is a good option. For softer ground and more aggressive riding, the heavy-hitting, burlier WILD AM would be our ultimate choice. Yet for that elusive trail sweet spot, then the balanced package comes from the pairing of a WILD AM at the front and a FORCE AM at the rear. According to MICHELIN, this new line-up is still early days for the French brand so we’re stoked to see what they’ll pull out of the rubber in the coming years.

For more information head to michelin.com