The evergreen tyre that refuses to go away
So once again – a couple of years on from their last outing at the Tabor World Championship, Wout got out his green Michelin Muds. Or at least his Dugast tubulars with a green Michelin Mud tread on them. The debate on the Youtube coverage in Wout’s winning ride yesterday was hard to stifle. Maybe Ant and Simon were just a bit cold, but their mouths were very busy indeed chatting about his retro tyre choice. So what is it about these iconic tyres from the late 1990s that made them still worthy of choice on today’s races?
It’s tempting to think this is about sentiment. It may even be a little bit of that for us old giffers, but for someone like Wout and his mechanics / advice team, you don’t go and ride the most important race of the year on tyres for sentiment. So let’s explore what was good about these treads.
Firstly, if you’re new to this, you need to know that these tyres (okay – ‘tires’ if you’re over there in Trumpland) were never available in tubulars. It was around 12 years ago that I first saw a pair of their treads carefully sliced off and glued onto the supple carcass of Dugast tubulars. It was on the grid of a National Trophy race in Cheltenham actually – and I was next to Keith Murray. I looked at his tubulars and was immediately smitten.
The reason is relatively simple. Given that clinchers are generally not much of a good choice for ‘cross (can’t run them low enough to grip without chancing a pinch puncture), most of us stopped using our ‘Greens’ when first Dugast and then FMB brought out wonderfully responsive, supple and yes, pricey, tubs. The Rhino (tread of choice for most muddy courses) and Typhoon (a bit less aggressive) were followed by FMB’s SuperMud and SSC Slalom. All decent treads, but that was pretty much all you could get if you wanted proper cotton-carcassed tubs.
The problem was, for connoiseurs, that those two basic tread patterns per brand weren’t enough. Everyone knows that there are 326+ types of mud and there can never be too many choices. Frivolity aside, the green muds have the most incredible quality to grip AND to shed the dirt. Grip is obviously important. but the ability for a tyre to grip starts to go out of the window when the tyre gets clogged. Green muds have a profile on each ‘knobble’ that makes them slightly sloped, making it harder for things to stick in them.
Being a geek, I’ve done a few races where I have had a direct comparison of the Greens to SuperMud / Rhino tread. Swapping a bike in the pits on the same course at race pace gives you brilliant insight into what’s happening. Anyon ewho rides them can tell you that it’s not in your imagination. They grip beautifully on cambers and corners, whilst cleaning themselves that much better.
So why did Michelin stop making them? I don’t know for sure. The cyclocross market back in the 90s / early 2000s was definitely not the place it is now. The growth then as a manufacturer was definitely in road and MTB. Michelin’s green compound was also susceptible to poor durability – the tread wear was less than ideal for the all-important leasure market. Many dealers sold them discounted to get rid of them when Michelin brought out its (less grippy, more clogging) Mud 2.
I’m not sure if the tyre mould ever went anywhere, or if the tread pattern is still restricted by Michelin’s Intellectual Property department (let’s assum it is), but it’d be a wonderful project to see this tread pattern have a new lease of life. Green or otherwise… the tread is amazing. For now, we’ll have to ogle Wout’s ones … or mine, if you’d prefer.
Te koop, tuben type Dugast Michelin. Goede staat, bouwjaar 1997. Ik doe ze weg wegens met pensioen. pic.twitter.com/vqnENBtB1D
— Sven Nys (@sven_nys) January 30, 2017