I got the chance to run the Michelin 29"er tire in some true off road conditions Saturday and all I can say is "Wow!". It's a pretty darn good soft soil, loamy conditions, muddy conditions tire. I found the trails to be frozen again at the start of the ride, and then later it got warm enough to get the ground soft, then muddy.
At the start, I didn't feel that the hardness of the trail was an unfriendly element to these tires. We start out with some steep, off camber switch backs, going down hill. Braking control is everything here. I didn't think the Michelin was going to hang on here because of it's narrower width, but I had zero slippage. Then the trails get into a fast, swoopy downhill run. Again, stable, no issues. After that, we have some twisty, tight single track. The trail conditions were still hard yet, so the performance on hardpack in tight single track was acceptable. I wasn't attacking it at warp speed with a higher lean angle though, so I'm reserving judgement on that aspect yet.
We then hit up a steep climb to a ridgeline. By now the temps had risen enough that the softer, loamy to sandy trail conditions of this part of the trail could be tested. First of all, this tire has some claws! I crawled right up the steep section with nary a slip or quibble from the tires. The trail continues to climb up, occaisionally going around a tree, which of course has some exposed roots. No issues, but the roots were dry, so I'll have to see about that when it's wetter/ slipperier sometime. Sand wasn't a problem, but then again, I've not met a 29"er tire that couldn't at least do okay on sand.
Unfortunately, the trails to the rockier sections were blocked off this weekend, so no tests on the rocks. Maybe next time!
At any rate, my first impression of this tire is really good. I think for the spring, or any time the trails are slightly soft to mildly muddy, this tire will be the weapon of choice. When it got warm enough to really get tacky/ muddy Saturday, the Michelins did the best job I have seen yet in this area for muddy riding. We were drifting in the corners, it was so slippery! Almost as if we were riding on ice and snow. In these types of trail conditions, tires here will usually pack full of soil and become huge, heavy slicks. The Michelins would do there best to clear out the mud, flinging clods in the air all around me. The spiky knobs dug in corners, but not until after they slid around a bit. Still, controllable but at a lower speed than you usually would ride. Good stuff! In less sticky stuff, you should get even better results. Black dirt is the king of sticky soils, so I would think anywhere else should be better with this tire.
That's it for now. I'll be back with more findings on the tires later.