Mavic, the French brand known for their eponymous yellow, have a long and proud history in both road and mountain biking. The company, which is based in Annecy, France, has its roots going all the way back to 1889. The name, unbeknownst to many, is actually an acronym for Manufacture d'Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux et Chanel
. Enjoy earning some serious street cred with that little nugget of trivia. It’s all part of the service.
Past glories are no guarantee of future success though. You may have heard in recent years about levels of uncertainty surrounding
the French stalwart. I’m not a business guru so I’ll spare you the pseudo analysis and I’ll stick to just the wheels today.
Mavic Crossmax XL Details
• Internal Width:
29 or 27.5"
• Axle Spacing:
Boost front and rear
1930g (900g front, 1030 rear)
24T Ratchet hub
24 front/rear contactless bladed steel spokes
€500 / £450
The brand, quite possibly as a consequence of the aforementioned problems, seems to be streamlining its range. One of these products in Mavic’s 2021 range is their Mavic Crossmax XL wheels. There are several Crossmax options within Mavic’s trail category. This model comes in as the entry level set at €500 / £450.
Although they are the cheapest they do share many traits with the more expensive Crossmax S XL - they use the same hub platform that uses two star ratchets engaging against one another, the same spoke design and the same internal rim diameter. The big difference is the machining they do to the S version that make the rim lighter. The S is also only available in 29” whereas the standard Crossmax XL also comes in 27.5”.
The wheels are available in the freehub body of your choosing with either six bolt or centerlock hubs. The wheels only use one spoke size and come with two spares in the box. There are also tubeless valves which are particularly easy to set up tubeless thanks to the Fore Tubeless Technology. You probably know this as UST. It’s a system I quite like, even if it means that conventional spokes can’t be used. The wheels come with a 3 year warranty as well as crash replacement and loyalty programs. They also have a guarantee of Mavic stocking spare parts for 5 years after
the wheels disappear from the Mavic range. Installation and Build Quality
The Crossmax XL wheels took tires very easily and inflation didn't pose any problems at all. I love the no-tape system - it’s just one less thing to think about. One thing that did concern me was a little bit of extruded metal that I found in the rim. It's not something that would have any effect on performance, but it did ting and rattle around until I was able to remove the valve and shake it out. For me it’s was a minor, temporary inconvenience, but I imagine others, particularly those who tend to take their bike to a workshop for things like tubeless setup, would not be happy with needing to take the time to deal with it.
I love this style of discreet and subtle branding. It's only my preference but it would be nice if these were the only decals on the rim.Performance
Riding the Crossmax wheels has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Different wheels can give drastically different feelings and the Mavic offers the characteristics that I seek.
Upon fitting them and embarking on my first ride I was quite taken aback by just how much more compliant they were than other wheelsets I’ve used recently. Now it should be said that these aren’t snappy wheels. Not by a long shot. They feel quite soft under acceleration while on hardpack or tarmac roads, and this may well concern those that do want something very stiff under power. Truthfully they’re not that and I consider this a good thing - what I want is for wheels to be vertically compliant while laterally stiff, and the Mavics seem to get this just right.
They’re not ultra light weight, but far from being so heavy that it’s a problem. 1930g is perfectly reasonable considering their intended use. The relatively middle-of-road 24T engagement is ample for me and the low, woody rumble of the freehub is a nice change from hubs that seem to want to scream and shout about just how much noise they can make.
They remove trail harshness very well and I’m very impressed with how they feel on choppy or rough terrain, where the spikes of compression are both harsh and immediate. On the rough and physical tracks of Innerleithen my body was often tired due to the sheer physicality but my hands were never in any discomfort. I think that the wheels undoubtedly had a large part to play in that. They are forgiving without being sloppy, combining comfort with adequate support through high load turns. In terms of tire stability, I think they perform just as well as any other 30mm internal diameter rim.Durability
The Mavics testing period coincided with my insert testing. In terms of rim durability and resistance to dinging this could be seen in one of two ways. You could argue that the rim was always protected by the insert, so it’s not surprising it got through the period without any damage, but this wouldn’t really be fair to the Crossmax XLs.
Before and after testing I benchmarked the inserts against no-insert runs and deliberately rode into the most horrible things that I could find with 2.5” Exo+ tires. The sheer amount of noise that came out of these rims as I smashed them into hard stone and pre-hopped into rock gardens before intentionally dropping my heels to try and hang the rear wheel up on square edges literally had me pulling over to check immediately afterwards. However, the Mavics held up well and they were still in great shape at the end of the test period.
Living with the Mavics has been a relatively easy proposition. However, that’s not to say there haven’t been some foibles. Nothing major but it’s all still worth noting. A spoke did wobble loose after around a month of riding. This isn't a big deal and Mavic provides the required spoke key to re-tension the wheel. It came back into true with minimal fuss.
Secondly, if you get the front hub especially wet it can often screech and scratch a little. It just sounds like metal on metal. I took apart the hub to inspect, and found there was grease on most of the internal parts, but not all of them. I don’t think water is being ingested into the bearings, but rather just sitting between the interfaces themselves. This brings me onto my next two points - one good and one bad.
The good news is that if you do take apart the Mavic wheels you will find they use a wavey washer to ensure there is no play in these wheels and to get the preload just right. I really like this system. Most
of the wheels I’ve used in the last year have suffered play from the rear hub and constantly readjusting it is tedious. This system works, in both front and back, and is a simple solution to an annoying problem. It should also ensure better bearing longevity by ensuring they’re under the correct amount of preload.
The bad news is that although the design of the hub uses end caps it’s not quite that simple. On the rear hub you need the wiry grip of a middle-aged CrossFitter just to get the things off. Should you, like me, be absent of such traits, you can use a set of Knipex pliers or maybe a vice. This isn’t something everyone would have. I think normal pliers would work but could risk scratching. Even with the Knipex I engaged my core in a way I didn’t even know I could.
The front hub is the same but different. It requires a small flathead, a suspension pick and then some circlip pliers to get to the bearings. This isn’t great for the home mechanic. I suppose you could argue that I’m being somewhat contradictory here as in one breath I champion Mavic’s maverick approach and then deride them in the next. I suppose you could well remind me that you can’t make an omelette without throwing stones in a glass house whilst crying wolf, and it would be a fair rebuttal, even if slightly convoluted. Would I take reliable hubs over easy to access ones? Ultimately, yes. Again, that might be easy for me to say though as I have a well stocked tool kit.
By the end of the test period, which included one of the wettest Mays in the UK on record, the wheels still span smoothly. There was some residual rust scarring to the rear axle from the outboard freehub bearing. The bearing still span smooth though.
One last, and admittedly superficial criticism that I have for the Mavics is that the large-area decals are very prone to scratching and they look slightly disheveled now. It’s not a big deal but it’s just a bit of a shame. I love Mavic’s subtle and discreet branding… it’s just a shame they combine both small and big decals alike on this wheelset to create something that is a bit obvious for my liking. It’s only my opinion, mind you, but I think the wheels would look better without the large CROSSMAX
stickers altogether. I like bicycles not billboards.
The rims certainly look well used now but it's not surprising really. The decals don't look great when scuffed up though.
Balancing price and performance+
Offer a great balance of compliance and stiffness+
Preloaded hub design works well+
Rims held up well, despite some scarring
Hubs aren’t that
easy to take apart-
Decals scratch easily-
Proprietary spokes (although two spares are included)