What it is, really, is a street-going knobby for big, heavy adventure bikes, which are all the rage lately in case you hadn’t noticed. The leader of that dusty, BMW R1200GS-riding pack has for years been the Continental TKC80, which Michelin had squarely in its sights with the new Anakee Wild, as well as your Metzeler Karoo 3 and Heidenau K60 Scout. The Anakee Wild (not to be confused with the Anakee 3) cleans all their clocks, according to Michelin (as well as being good at cleaning itself in mud).
On pavement, you’ll notice the spider chart rates the Michelin 30% higher in high-speed stability as well (based on Michelin’s own testing). According to the engineers Michelin shipped in from France to ride around with us for a day up in Ballinger Canyon, California, that’s mostly because the new tire uses radial construction, instead of the more typical bias-ply used in most of these tires, including the TKC80. “The bias tire is like a balloon,” said one of the engineers, “That’s not the case with this radial; its profile never changes.”
I don’t remember ever riding on a TKC80 for comparison, but I can vouch for the Anakee Wild’s high-speed and on-road performance. On one long, straight outback portion of California 33, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Michelin kindly set me up with for the day said it was doing 110 mph, and the bike felt perfectly okay. Highway 33 also has some of Southern California’s tastiest curves, and banking through them, the Suzuki also felt pretty solid if maybe not quite so planted up front, call it 8% less, than it does on its standard 19-inch front tire. The rear felt perfectly fine. But what the hell, the Anakee Wild is claimed to be a 50/50 street/dirt tire, as opposed to the way more street-oriented tire the Suzuki wears as original equipment.
Meanwhile on some dirty, sandy fire roads, the Wilds work much better than any tire I’ve ever ridden a big beast like the V-Strom upon – which isn’t really saying much since I can only remember riding on the stock tires the motorcycle manufacturers loan those bikes to us upon, all of which are always more street-biased. The rear Wild digs into the earth securely enough that I actually switched the Suzuki’s traction control off and enjoyed blasting around like on an actual dirt bike, with the front keeping right up. The V-Strom also provided me with a plausible excuse not to attempt what looked like a pretty easy hillclimb; I was more worried about the descent, since you can’t switch that bike’s ABS off. Probably woulda been fine, but I have vivid memories from early in my dirt career of a couple of out-of-control descents on small bikes that I don’t want to relive on a big one.
Sand is really the bane of heavy bikes like these, and while we didn’t go into any actual deep sand washes, we went through enough to make me think I could make it out the other side intact if we did. The Suzuki plowed nicely along in second gear at low rpm, fast enough not to sink, not fast enough to be scary, with the front tire sending encouraging feedback that it did have some slight control over direction of travel instead of none whatsoever like most street tires in sand.
Anyway, as Michelin’s North American Marketing Director Scot Clark points out, the people in this market segment are the most experienced, most discerning motorcyclists in the tire-buying public: “There is no GS50 for people to start out on. These guys all came from somewhere else. They’re all highly experienced off-road riders, ex-sportbike riders – a very hard-core, discriminating bunch of experienced riders, and you have to get the tire right for them. We think we did.”
In fact, most of those guys are way more hardcore than yours truly when it comes to serious off-road adventuring, since I have a job of sorts and all, and at least one of them who was present on the ride claims he’s heard nothing but high praise from his hardcore pals who already have these tires on their adventure bikes.
In any case, unless you’re roadracing or something equally stupidly competitive, there’s no other category of motorcycle where a tire swap can so effectively upgrade your riding experience. If you’re never going off the pavement, you don’t need them. But these things turned my V-Strom-for-the-day into a bike I’d happily set off on down any dirt road without worrying too much about how gnarly it might get. For me, a recipe for disaster. For you, well, that’s up to you. It’s an adventure!
The Anakee Wilds are available in two front sizes (110/80-19, 120/70-19) and two rears (150/70-17, 170/60-17), with MSRPs ranging from $256.95 to $320.95. You’ll find much lower prices if you search around a bit.