03 November 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Michelin XCR Dry2 UST tires

I ordered a pair of these tires as an experiment. I was looking for any slight advantage I could find for my singlespeed rides in the foothills of Albuquerque with some folks who were regularly going faster than me, and looking like it was a Sunday stroll while doing it. I could see from the photos that this tire would be a fast tire and probably grip well on hard-pack and slightly loamy trails, but I wasn't sure it had the chance to do well on the loose granite ball-bearings over hard-packed clay/granite/other stuff that we call the foothills. At least they were about a hundred grams lighter than my current tires- I knew that would help (they weigh about 680g).

The only UST size Michelin makes in this tire is a 2.0 and if you have read my reviews before, you know I only buy and use UST tires. Anyway, I mounted them on my singlespeed bike with a bit of Stan’s sealant and admired the grey color of the tire. At first, I wasn’t that excited about a grey tire, but once I mounted them they looked great. Michelin used dual-compound technology on this tire but unlike other manufacturers, they use the in two layers like pancakes. The outside layer is softer and faster rebounding while the inner layer is harder and slower rebounding. The idea is that the softer rubber grips better while the harder layer supports the knobs and slows the rebound of the tire off of obstacles- which also enhances grip. One thing to point out is that Michelin uses Silica based rubber compounds for this (and other) tires. I don’t know much about what this means in real-world terms- other than it feels different to the touch, and it tends to break-off in chunks rather than little tiny particles like those using carbon black.

About 20 seconds after I got on the trail, I realized these were fast tires and they would help me keep-up with my crew. I was concerned however, that this might mean they didn’t grip well, or would be unpredictable. By the end of the ride I was extremely happy with these tires. Before I get into the details of their performance, I would like to remind everyone that this is a smallish XC race tire and was specifically designed for dry conditions. The XCR hooked up very well on almost any dry dirt/pebbles/sand/gravel that was strewn over a harder undersurface. It’s not great in deep sand but that has more to do with its small size than its tread pattern. On solid rock things take a step backwards. It wasn’t actually bad on rock, but it certainly wasn’t great either. I’m not sure but I think this is where the Silica based compound looses some ability. In corners, the XCR Dry2s are surprisingly predictable. It's not that they have high cornering limits (though they are good for a fast race tire), but this limit comes predictably and with plenty of warning. This is high-praise for the foothills which can claim the predictably least predictable trail surface in the state. There were moments that I wished I had a larger size- but then I would loose some of that speed. This is not a big 2.0. In fact they measure a bit small with my calipers- but just barely.

If you are looking for a fast, light, dry conditions tire, the XCR Dry2 is a great choice. The non UST versions are even lighter, if that’s what you are after. The Dry2s come in 2.0, 2.15 and 2.3in casings as well, which should make everyone else happy. MSRP is $58.99 for the tubeless version, $43.49 for the non-tubeless black version.



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