Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) tested his reconstructed ACL at this past weekend's Mellow Johnny's Classic with a new front wheel and tyre design, both of which we expect to be officially introduced later this year.
Craig's new tyres looked to fill the gap between Michelin's current Wild Grip'R and Wild Race'R treads, with a low-profile centre section for low rolling resistance and minimal squirm on hardpack linked to progressively more aggressive transition and shoulder blocks for a confident hold through the corners.
The central knobs are also hollowed out to provide more biting edges – a critical feature on hard terrain – and the shoulder blocks are notably well supported for what's expected to be a solid bite when the bike is leaned far over.
Craig says the new design feels nearly as fast on hardpack as the Race'r but is more predictable and less prone to sliding when the ground is covered with loose gravel. Michelin have yet to announce details on the new tyre but we expect to see a full range of sizes (2.0-2.3in) later this year.
Craig's front tyre was mounted on an as-yet-unannounced Shimano XTR wheel that uses the same scandium-enhanced tubeless-compatible rim and unique brazed-on spoke eyelets as the current version but is built around a 15mm through-axle hub.
Shimano US press officer Devin Walton wouldn't confirm that the new axle fitment is on the way, saying, "We have a 15mm E-thru front hub, but not a wheelset ... yet." It's quite clear that it's coming soon. Stay tuned.