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Michelin Racing Line XC tire review

How do Michelin’s three new Racing Line XC tires compare to the current race and downcountry benchmarks?

Michelin Racing Line XC tires
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

An outstandingly, fast-yet-tough set of XC tires with a tread for all conditions. Definitely best for harder, drier environments rather than slippery or wet conditions though and size options are limited

For

  • - Outstandingly fast
  • - Likely to be hard wearing
  • - Trail tough
  • - Full set of treads for different conditions
  • - Easy tubeless setup

Against

  • - 10-15 percent heavier than competitors
  • - Not as grippy/damped as comparable treads
  • - Slippery when wet
  • - High price for a single compound tire
  • - Limited sizing

Bike Perfect Verdict

An outstandingly, fast-yet-tough set of XC tires with a tread for all conditions. Definitely best for harder, drier environments rather than slippery or wet conditions though and size options are limited

Pros

  • +

    - Outstandingly fast

  • +

    - Likely to be hard wearing

  • +

    - Trail tough

  • +

    - Full set of treads for different conditions

  • +

    - Easy tubeless setup

Cons

  • -

    - 10-15 percent heavier than competitors

  • -

    - Not as grippy/damped as comparable treads

  • -

    - Slippery when wet

  • -

    - High price for a single compound tire

  • -

    - Limited sizing

Michelin has been developing a trio of new XC2 treads with the KMC-Orbea MTB team and other professionally rapid people and they’re finally available to the public. Three Jet, Force and Wild tread designs are overlaid onto the same lightweight carcass and obviously fast compound in an attempt to create some of the best mountain bike tires for cross-country. Reasonable trail toughness - so far - makes them potentially versatile outside the tapes for riders prioritizing speed over grip and a high-volume, damped feel, too.

Design

All three tires sit on the same 2x150 TPI (Threads Per Inch) Cross Shield2 carcass construction which wraps up around the bead for a 4x150 TPI protective/stabilizing layer above the rim. Weights are around 10-15 per cent heavier than Maxxis EXO and Specialized Control XC tires of a similar size/tread and the carcass feel is similar too, and certainly not frighteningly skimpy. It doesn’t crumble or fold alarming (even as low as 20psi) although we did get some burping of fluid from the Wild tread at lower pressures as there’s more side lug to pull the tire around. We’ve not split them despite several rim slams either but, while Michelin gives them an E-bike certification, they still need treating with reasonable care in rockeries.

They only come in 29er sizes and the initial rim fit seems super tight. There’s plenty of stretch in the bead though so while it looked like mounting was going to be a real fight each time, they all eased on with a single lever. There’s a QR code for further setup information on the recycled cardboard header card, although as we’re writing them up pre-embargo that link wasn’t live yet.

While you might expect (want?) a slightly different rubber mix to match the differences in tread Michelin apparently use the same Gum-X compound for each tire. Even by race tire standards, it’s definitely a hard-and-fast compound that gives a proper sneaky grin that racers will love. Unsurprisingly, that means a faster slip and slide for a given tread design - particularly in wet/slimy conditions. That doesn’t mean they’re totally lethal, but you will need to be on your toes and/or back off your bravery a bit more than normal on damp rooty/rocky singletrack. The payback (besides the chucklingly obvious speed increase) is likely to be longer tread life and less chance of ripped knobs if you get your skid on but we’ve not had them long enough to actually confirm that. While there’s no mention of a specific puncture protection layer in the mix either we’ve not had any sharp or slice issues so far. 

Jet XC2 

Michelin Racing Line XC tires

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Jet has always been the fastest tire in the Michelin XC line-up and this time around it uses a small, low-profile trefoil center tread, intermediate boomerang bits and then a diagonal line of rhomboids rolling off to the shoulder. That makes it the fastest and quietest roller of the set and if things aren’t too hard and slippery (EG roots and rocks) from mud you can put a useful amount of power and braking through it before it breaks free. There’s no change in the knob height at the edges though and the same compound is used throughout. That’s great for an easy tip into corners on hard, stable surfaces and you won’t feel them slow down in turns either. If you’re wanting a physical edge to dig in and rail round these are not the tires you want though. We’d be wary of putting them upfront in all but concrete hard conditions, too, and they only come in a single 2.25in size. 

Force XC2 

Image 1 of 2

Michelin Racing Line XC tires

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Image 2 of 2

Michelin Racing Line XC tires

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

As the name suggests, the Force XC2 uses a very similar spreading, paired arrow tread to the Force AM2, just with a much lower knob height. It’s also shallower than the Maxxis Rekon that we used as the obvious comparison tire during testing. Add the hard compound, plus pronounced knob ramping and it definitely feels faster in terms of roll in all situations and almost as quick as the Jet which it’s 10g lighter than, too. It’s not quite as well damped or pliable over roots/rocks etc. so again it’s more likely to slip and slide if you start getting aggressive on brakes, power or line choice. You do actually get some side and shoulder knobs to work with but they’re still pretty shallow and hard compound so again soft, slippery or loose grip is limited but as a harder/hotter conditions all-rounder they should work really well. They do come in 2.1 or 2.25in sizes though making them an option if you’re limited for space. 

Wild XC2 

Michelin Racing Line XC tires

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The Wild’s look dramatically different to most XC tires with a wide-open, unramped square block tread more like a cut-down mud tire or old favorites like the Maxxis Beaver or the Bontrager Mud-X from years ago. The more open, blocky tread gives you more bite to work with in loose and wet conditions and there’s no danger of it clogging up on grassy/claggy CX style courses either. A centreline sipe split in each knob doesn’t skid off hard, wet surfaces quite as easily either making it a more leanable and predictable tire in mixed conditions. It’s such a marked difference that if we’re totally honest we actually thought it used a softer rubber than the Jet and Force before Michelin confirmed all compounds were the same. Having said that it’s still a comparatively hard mix that’s still definitely better in dry loose rock/loam conditions than wet situations. That means even with the big gaps and lack of ramping it’s still seriously quick rolling if used upfront with the Force XC2 or Jet XC2 at the rear. It’s the heaviest tire of the three and the only one available in 2.35in as well as 2.25in and while Michelin don’t say it’s got increased puncture protection it gets an extra half star on its ‘performance’ chart.  

Verdict

The new Michelin XC2 trio is slightly heavier than Maxxis and Specialized’s benchmark equivalents and a lot more expensive than Specialized, too. Using the same single compound across all three tires seems like a short cut too, particularly on the Wild which could be a really good tire on damp days if it had a softer compound. Compound and carcass give them a slightly stiffer rather than connected feel compared to the most supple rubber from Maxxis, Specialized and Schwalbe. It would be good to see the Jet and Force in larger volume 2.35/2.4in sizes, too. 

If you can keep them in line and hooked up you get an outstandingly fast-rolling performance as a reward though and if you’re mostly running them in dry and loose situations then they’re spot on for speed. Between the three tread patterns, you’ve got an arsenal for a full season of conditions and initial testing suggests they’ll also last well in wear and damage shrugging terms. 

Tech Specs: Michelin Jet XC2, Force XC2 and Wild XC2

  • Price: 2.1 and 2.25in £57.99. 2.35in £64.99
  • Colors: Black with ‘Racing Line’ hot patch 
  • Sizes: Force XC2 29 x 2.10in and 29 x 2.25in, Jet XC2 29 x 2.25in, Wild XC2 29 x 2.25in and 29 x 2.35in
  • Weight: Jet XC2 29 x 2.25in 720g (verified) Force XC2 29 x 2.10in 680g (claimed) and 29 x 2.25in 710g (verified), Wild XC2 29 x 2.25in 750g (verified), 29 x 2.35in 760g (claimed)
  • Actual width: (on 30mm internal rim at 20psi): Jet XC2 29 x 2.25in 56mm/2.2in, Force XC2 and Wild XC2 29 x 2.25in 56.5mm/2.22in 
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He got an archaeology degree out of Exeter University, spent a few years digging about in medieval cattle markets, working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit he’s also coughed out a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too. We trust Guy's opinion and think you should, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel Ltd MTBs, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Di2 Disc road bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg