General wisdom among adventure riders holds that when it comes to tires, you can have off-road grip or you can have on-road stability and decent mileage, but you can’t have all three. Even tires billed as “50/50,” or equally proficient at both on- and off-road scenarios, tend to fall toward one side or the other. So common is the conundrum that I’ve known riders who have strapped a set of 50/50 DOT knobbies to the backs of their bikes so that they don’t burn up the valuable tread blocks on their way to the backcountry.
Enter the Michelin Anakee Wild. Inspired by its multiple-Dakar-winning Desert tire, Michelin says the Anakee Wild was designed to combine on-road stability, a long service life and off-road traction for a true 50/50 tire. So what did it do differently? Michelin started with an all-new compound that resists heat buildup and balances on- and off-road traction. A new tread design with offset blocks and curved tread grooves provides off-road performance, while Bridge-Block technology adds rigidity and stability at high lean angles on pavement. But most importantly, Michelin made it a radial (as opposed to the bias-ply designs of its competition, and indeed of nearly all off-road tires in general).
The big question on everyone’s mind at the North American press launch of the Anakee Wild was: did Michelin pull it off? Our test ride started the way most dual-sport rides do: With a highway run that put us in position for the off-road portion of the test later that day.
The Anakee Wilds’ performance on the sweeping curves of Highway 33 in California was quite impressive; clearly the radial’s on-road potential was paying off. My 2016 BMW R 1200 GS seemed to fall into the corners with no input on the bars at all; I simply shifted my weight and the bike leaned in willingly. The tires are also stable at speed, and with an R speed rating good for 106 mph, I was free to open it up a bit on the long straightaways.
After lunch we headed for the Ballinger OHV area where we had the opportunity to put the tires through their paces in a variety of off-road situations. As good as the Anakee Wilds were on pavement, they were also everything one would expect out of a DOT knobby off-road: confidence-inspiring, grippy in the loose stuff, and capable of guiding a big adventure bike through mud and sand. The following day I set out on a longer off-road ride on my own, a 36-mile stretch of rutted and rocky dirt road with the occasional sandy section and loose incline. The Anakee Wilds performed admirably, holding the bike upright as I edged alongside ruts and soaking up bumps even with the 32 pounds of pressure I was running.
At this early stage my only nitpick is how noisy the tires are, particularly between 50 and 70 mph. Knobby tires are noisy, that’s a fact of life, but the Anakee Wilds produce a howl that drowns out engine noise. Earplugs are a must with these tires especially on longer trips.
I look forward to completing a more thorough and longer-term review of the Anakee Wilds, including a mileage report. The tires are very good both on-road and off-, but if they can’t deliver on that third promise they’ll still have a lot of quality competition out there.
The Anakee Wild is available in four sizes to fit most larger dual-sport and adventure bikes, with more to follow. Visit motorcycle.michelinman.com.