Trials Tires for Trail Riding... Your 2 cents Worth?

Some of you are using maybe the X-11 Michelin Trials Competition tires for trail riding on non-Trials bikes. Seems that many people are still experimenting with tire pressures and such.. Maybe some of you have some tips that are more than just opinions based upon rumors or theories. All of my experience is from a Trials Bike point of view, but let's remember that these tires were designed for that bike. Now, how far can we stray from the intended use and pressures before the tire becomes a bad choice? I don't know. But I have written about this tire before based upon my Trials experience, mostly to help tone down some of the theories that I believe are not based upon real world experience.

Seriously, I would like to hear from the guys that have experimented with this tire and have tried running as low as we do on the Trials bikes. If you have never run the tire as low as we do, I would encourage you to try the next time the trail gets tight, loose and difficult and you don't see the need to 'fly'.

Following is a copy of a long answer to a post in one of the current threads that I think maybe could use some dedicated discussion from the Trail and Enduro riders that know and use this tire. I hope this helps someone in making the choice to use or even *not* use this tire. However, if you can use this tire and use it correctly, I believe the trails you ride will last much longer.. Just ask Loynz and Old Bones about the lack of damage the three of us did on our last ride to Salmon la Sac. It was great to look back and see the ground intact with only a light waffle print that easily disappeared with a foot print or even just light rain, even in the most dificult of places and steep climbs.

Sorry for the long read. Here's the copy:

" Quote:

Jeremy, you may have a very valid point. I do run my tires at 13 or 14 pounds which has worked great all summer long. Now that I am riding in mud it may help considerably if I drop down to 9 or 10 pounds. I do need to experiment a bit. I believe the other riders who had trials tires were running at lower tire pressures. Thank you, I will give it a whirl.

Close Quote

WOW!!! 10 pounds?!? If we (Trials Riders) pump up to 6 pounds, the tire loses most of it's traction qualities. In the mud, all the Trials guys including me drop to 3 pounds in the rear. Now when I say that, everyone comes back with flat predictions. Yes, most of our riding is at slower speeds but that is just because we are usually riding in very tight stuff. These bikes can fly too and we do when the trails open up. Granted, these bikes are more maneuverable, but much of that has to do with the rider keeping an eye out for stuff in the trail to avoid and I like riding fast trails as if I were skiing a slalom course.

Next come back is: Well, the Trials bike is MUCH lighter... Yes, but not so much that you need to run the tire 6 to 10 PSI higher than we do. My bike weighs 150 Pounds ready to ride. I weigh at least 240 with all of my gear and back pack.. 390 Pounds total and using 4 PSI in the tire.. My older Gas Gas weighs 170 pounds ready to ride... still 4 PSI. And the Bultacos we used to ride in the late 70's were 214 pounds ready to ride... STILL 4 psi in the rear tire.

But honestly, (no joking) thousands of these tires are subjected to incredible thrashing in the World Championships at 4 PSI with very few flats and most of those are sidewall cuts. This is a *Radial* Tire. Very different in the way the sidewall flexes and the tread lays down like a snowmobile track. It's not stable at high speeds, but if you are a rider that loves trail riding at the suggested speed by the USFS, then you should drop the pressure... WAAAAY down if you have the rim locks to keep the tire from creeping. If you have a tubeless rim, that's even better. All modern Trials bikes are using the Tubeless X11 Trials Tire and Sealed rear wheel. The wheel has a small bead inside that keeps the tire bead in place. We use no rim locks. the rim lock actually caused most of the flats by chaffing the tube or by pinching the tube if you happen to hit a rock right where the rim lock is.

When the pressure is low enough, you can press a finger into the tread and watch the knobs close up as if trying to pinch your finger. This pinching action is important. It also squeezes the mud out of the tread and allows it to fall out when the knobs open up. At these lower pressures, the tire will shape to the ground and even twist side to side without deflecting the bike such as on the edge of ruts or on a side-hill. They "trap" the small loose ball-bearing stuff under the tread instead of skipping around on top of them. The more weight you put on them, the more they grip. Just watch the top Trials Riders jumping up and down in slippery spots.. that can more than double their weight on the tire for the short burst of traction to get him through a slippery or loose spot.

Experiment: carry a new tube, tire pump, low pressure guage and tire irons with you and drop the pressure when you are at the tight, slippery stuff, loose rock and roots. Go down to at LEAST 5 PSI. Ride it that way for at least 30 minutes and keep your speed down to a cruise on the easy stuff.

When the tough stuff is over, break out the pump and go back up to maybe 7 or 8 PSI. Don't expect this tire to be as good on the road as a dedicated street or enduro tire. It's a RADIAL, remember? It will squirm around a little and it resists sliding... not good if you want to break the rear loose, even at higher pressures.

But if you ride your bike like a tractor and then cruise on the easier stuff, it will be great!! I've run them for 30 years now at 4 PSI.. Only 2 flats and that was when we used tubes. We deal with slow leaks sometimes from the spoke seals but even when flat, the tire works. Carry a pump!

Oh yes, remember to *NOT* tighten that little lock nut on the valve stem. Back it off or remove it. Then check the valve stem often to see if the stem starts to tip from straight up. A couple of degrees is ok. If it tips up to 20 or 30 degrees, it's time to let the air out, break the tire bead and yank on the tire to slip it around till the stem is vertical again. Quite often, it's *NOT* the tire slipping on the rim. At low pressures as the tire squirms, the inner tube can "walk" around inside the tire.

So there ya go. X11 Michelin Tire tips from a Trials Rider that has used them for 30 years in competition through the Expert Class to trail riding in the Cascades and Sierras.

Disclaimer: Your experience may vary, use at your own risk. Or don't use at all.. (I like having the advantage and it makes me look like a better rider than I am)"

Steve Claus did a write up on his use of the tire back in April 2002 on TT

Steve Claus Write Up Link

An important point to know and ask before you buy a new X-11 Michelin but *Only* if you plan to be street legal:

My new 04 Gas Gas Pro came with X-11 Michelins that have a new and easy to read note that says:

"For Competition Off-Road Use Only" (or something to that affect)

:cry: Until now, they have always come with the DOT mark on them.

I don't think that I will ever try to make my Gas Gas street legal and I have 2 brand new *tubeless* X-11 rear tires with the "DOT" on them. If you are in a pinch, I could consider trading you a DOT tubeless tire for your new X-11 Non-DOT *tubeless* tire.. But, the catch is that it needs to be tubeless to be worth anything to me :cry:

The Michelin trials tire turns to goo on the pavement and handles in an uncontrollable manner (during wheelies and high-speed runs). My last set looked like new until I took them on the 1900 road at Little Naches last year. The pavement will cut the life of the tire in half, or even more. :cry:

I have been running a trials tire for about a year now and I think it's the best tire I've ever ran. I don't ride it on the road but offroad I normally run as low as 8psi and I haven't had a problem yet. I did do about 20 mile at browns camp about a month ago with only 3 psi in the tire (I forgot to check it before the ride). It was mostly second gear stuff butt it held up fine with no damge to the rim.

I am the one who has been running both front and rear Trials tires all summer long. It has been the best tire I have ever used for trail riding. It does not lose its traction, considerably less wheel spin. And I have enjoyed all this traction with 13lbs of air pressure. I even enjoyed an advantage in the first slick muddy hills as the riders behind me testify. I was able to stick to the high side of slick muddy switchbacks while they would slide right off the bank. They also told me I was throwing very little mud at them. This last saturday was the first time I had trouble in the mud and that was in one spot. I attribute it more to my own riding mistakes. I did notice that the mud was not cleaning out of the tire but in the past that did not stop the tire from working. I will have to ride some more mud before I come to a finale conclusion. I would definately purchase another trials tire. In the end, I may during the muddiest part of the season, use a more traditional tire but I'm not convinced of that yet.

there was an article in the BRC magazine (free when you join the BRC :cry:) that discussed usage of trials tires for trail riding dirtbikes. This article brought up similar points you have mentioned about great traction while at the same time less impact on our trails.

Reading the BRC article caused me to ask myself why I am not using a trials tire for trail riding and why I have resisted it. For the most part I don't think for the style riding I do the trials tire would be as effective as I rely less on traction and lugging the bike and more on momentum and speed.

However, in some areas, like salmon la sac, that are senstive and require good traction and less wheel spin I think the tire would be great. I would even go as far to say that it wouldn't offend me if certain sensitive areas enforced use of a trials tire. Or, I believe areas that are open to horses should be open to bikes equipped with trials tires as a bike with a trials tire probably does less damage than a horse.

good topic :cry:

This is a GREAT topic :cry:

So, what does everyone think about using on the front??

I've read several contradicting opinions about the use of trials tires on the front wheel :cry: :cry:

there was an article in the BRC magazine (free when you join the BRC :cry:) that discussed usage of trials tires for trail riding dirtbikes. This article brought up similar points you have mentioned about great traction while at the same time less impact on our trails.

Reading the BRC article caused me to ask myself why I am not using a trials tire for trail riding and why I have resisted it. For the most part I don't think for the style riding I do the trials tire would be as effective as I rely less on traction and lugging the bike and more on momentum and speed.

the guy who wrote that article rides pretty fast. he's a former d36 vet enduro champ. the guy that turned *him* onto trials tires was the top american at the '86 isde, so they work fine even you go fast. they do work differently than full knobbies tho, and not everyone can get used to them, for whatever reason.

btw, there are hundreds of posts here and on ktmtalk about trials tires. no matter how much you read, some people won't try them, and some people that do won't like them. fine with me.


just to clarify, I wasn't implying that they don't work for fast riders, just that I don't think they would work for my riding style. Think of puttting a trials tire on a 125 2-stroke (I have a 200 EXC but I ride it like a 125, on the pipe a lot). It might work, but I have a feeling it wouldn't be worth it. I'd like to hear from someone that has tried them on a small-bore 2-stroke and hear how they did.

For my DRZ I would definitely consider a set and think it would work perfect on that bike.

Yeah, Tony loves his on his 400 EXC thumper. Not sure what pressure he's running though. I bet he's on the high side of 2ply's recommendations. We should get him to chime in on this.

I've seen him easily motor up some obstacles that I was spinning on, like those nasty rock ledges down at GP on that ride we did with Kelly.

couple guys down here (shelton) run a trials tire on the rear of their KDXs. i don't know how well they do, or how they ride, however: two turns and they're gone.


This is a GREAT topic :cry:

So, what does everyone think about using on the front??

I've read several contradicting opinions about the use of trials tires on the front wheel :cry: :cry:

Hard to say.. Again, we (Trials Riders) run the front tire at about 5 PSI and at that pressure, it lays down a good size contact patch with the ground. But the front tire uses a tube (Haven't seen a tubless one for about 12 years) and it's NOT a radial ply, but the rear tire is.

My guess is, if you run the pressure up higher than we do, it might not be as effective. Also, there is more weight on the front tire on a non-Trials bike. the Trials bike is very light in the front and we are taught to NOT depend upon the front tire for turning. Turning is achieved by tipping the bike over hard to the side while counterbalancing the weight with body weight on the opposite foot peg. the bike will turn the same circle with the front tire on the ground or in the air if the turn is done correctly. Most other bikes depend upon more front tire action. However, the same turning technique will work on any bike, just that the slim design and no seat on the Trials bike allows you to tip the bike further before the bike shape interferes with your body position. This is most affective at slower speeds where centrifugal forces can be avoided in a turn. At higher speeds, you can't make a balanced turn with bike and body weight centered over the center of the Earth. there will be some amount of side forces. Trials tires and bikes are designed to work best at the speeds where side forces can be avoided. Of course, if all of your high speed turns are banked or bermed turns, then it doesn't matter.

The most common front tire (and the only size I have ever seen) is a 2.75 x 21 size. I think that is a little more narrow than a regular dirt bike front tire.

They work great on my Gas Gas Bikes and I thnk Old Man Time is happy with his. However, I get the impression that he is not as much of a "Racer" as many other trail riders and therefore he is the perfect example of the type of rider the tire would work for.

I would like to see Old Man Time drop his pressure to 5 PSI in the rear and 6 PSI in the front for awhile in this wetter climate and then give us a report. Maybe I should buy a set of inner tubes for him to sweeten the deal? :cry:


........Think of puttting a trials tire on a 125 2-stroke (I have a 200 EXC but I ride it like a 125, on the pipe a lot). It might work, but I have a feeling it wouldn't be worth it.

From what I know and have heard Trav, you are right. The Trials tire is a traction tire pure and simple. It's not a good choice for a bike with a lot of upper horsepower but not much low end torque. In a "pipey" bike, something has to slip as you take off. It's either the tire or the clutch that has to do the work. So, tire spin is an important tool in keeping the RPM's up in the power band. It's the "other clutch" on an MX bike. Once you are up to speed, it might work ok.

Once you get a Trials Tire spinning, it loses most of it's effectiveness. It's a "Hook-up" tire and will bog a pipey bike down or be of little use once the tire starts to spin.

Unfortunately, this type of bike does a lot of damage on our single track trails, but that's another subject.

IF your bike can produce smooth low end torque without stalling the engine, then a Trials tire could be just the ticket you are looking for.

If you've ever seen or heard a modern Trials Bike in action, you will notice that they are almost ALL about torque and smooth power. They can be quick but they do not "explode". The big flywheel, small carb and restricted exhaust are all designed to improve the low end power and smooth delivery. The Trials Tire is a perfect match for this type of engine.

For you mud riders, the moment you sense the tire starting to spin, blip the throttle off and on in very short bursts but not all the way off or on. This will allow the Trials Tread to settle back in for another short bite before it loses the grip again. do this with the right timing and you can go places all other bikes will be stuck, even if they have the same tire as you. Add this with a little jumping action on the pegs to increase the tire pressure just as the tread bites and you have a winning combination.. It takes time to get it down, but it's one of the Trials Rider's (or any good rider's) "secret weapons" This probably works with all tires and all bikes.. don't know.


There has been some questions about tire life.. How long do they last? Now I can only give you an answer based upon the life I experience on my Trials Bikes, but for example, My 2002 Gas Gas 280 (the one Old Bones and Loynz were riding this Summer with me) has three full seasons of use on the tires.. front and rear. They are considered too worn for serious Trials Competition, but they are working just fine for trail riding..

There's even enough life left to run them one more year or even more, but a fresh tire is always a good confidence builder so I'll probably start next year with a fresh set.

I do find this interesting. Guys have run them here and said they are junk but it seems like they should work. In the super gnarly races trials riders are always doing well but they are on trials bikes.

I'm thinking I need to adjust my thinking by actually using one. I ride my 125 lugging everywhere except balls out wide open hills. If I'm already lugging it a gear higher all day wouldn't it make sense for this tire? My question is this. How does it work on hard packed wet clay? Green mossy rocks? A mixture of both? Also powder hills?

I run ultra low pressure Pirelli MT16's and they are so far the best combo I've tried but now you guys got me thinking about trying a trials tire... :cry:

I remember Racinace's friend Jeff's bike was set at 7 lbs in the rear when we started. He couldnt get up a muddy hill so I rode it for him. I let the air out and he liked it the rest of the day. When I got home I checked the pressure and it was 2 lbs. That's the kind of pressure I prefer to run when muddy. In fact, I start the day at 3 lbs. :cry:

I put around 1000-1500 miles on my X-11 last year, and it still had about half the life left. I gave it to OldManTime

a few weeks back.

I ran 4-6 lbs, but I don't like them at speed, or roads, or mud, and definitely not snow. That's why I didn't run one this year. It was THE BEST TRACTION for everything else I had ever run, but the back end is very squirrely from the big sidewall and low pressure. I can't tell you how many times I stopped last year to check if I had a flat!

Torture, I don't think you'll like it in the clay, I rode out there once, and remember it being very greasy. But it should do great on wet rocks, powder hills, etc.

I put around 1000-1500 miles on my X-11 last year, and it still had about half the life left. I gave it to OldManTime

a few weeks back.

Roy is telling the truth about the condition of that tire after 1500 miles. It had like 60% of its tread, it was in great shape. Thank you very much Roy.

This is very cool! I ride my crf's 99% in the TSF and i am always looking for some extra grip and by reading the ride report and the testamony here i am going to give the rear a try this coming spring on my crf450, if it works well i wil put one on my new 250r as well :cry:

I have 9 rides on an X-11. I rode knobbies for 30 years, mostly on the lugging chugging trail bikes. I really like the Trials tire. I don't know if it's just the traction or the ability of the bike to move on the trail. It feels like the back end is nailed down with a 100 X 110 knobbie. The trials tire makes the bike (300 KLX) feel like a mountain bike, it goes anywhere I want with hardly a twitch on the bars. An excellent trait on the trails where we weave through the rocks. The shop told me not to bother with track racing or snow riding with the Trials tire. I run 10-12 psi. Mostly 10 in the mud. It offers a much softer ride than a knobbie. The bike's back end tracks better for me. Both tires tend to stay in line with less effort.

TC wish I was coming over, I'd bring one, mount it and try it. You should do well in the rocks, wet or dry. Clay can be very slick or tractable, I never know till I give it a go. Loose dirt will be fine if there is a base close to the surface. If it's too deep, I don't think so.

Negative factor

I'm taking the tire back the shop to show the owner checking and tire cracking on the braking side of the square waffle knob. With nine rides on it, that has to be a defect. I hope so- I want another X-11

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