In the rugged mountains of the Maritime Alps, Mavic released their new adventure-focused wheelset this week - the Crossmax XL. It was the perfect terrain to launch the new wheels on as the steep-sided mountains test every aspect of a rider, both going up and down, and these new wheels are designed to cope with just those kind of demands. The idea behind this new wheelset is simple - to produce wheel and tires for riders looking to tackle long climbs and attack the descent too.
The Mavic Crossmax XL WTS
These are an important wheel for Mavic's mountain bike line, as it is the first time we have seen an all-new wheelset for all-mountain riding from them in a little while now. While the Crossmax Enduro wheelset they released last year have been undeniably popular, Mavic admit that they are very race-focused, especially the lightweight rear wheel, and are based very closely on the pre-existing Crossmax ST and SX wheelsets which have been around for a few years. This Crossmax XL wheel and tire set (WTS) has an entirely new rim construction and a new tire to match the style of riding they are designed for.
• Purpose: Trail/all-mountain/enduro • Material: Aluminium rim and spokes • Diameters available: 26", 27.5" and 29" • Axle options: 9/15/20mm (front); 9/12x135/142mm (rear) • Internal width: 23mm • Spokes: 24 Zicral spokes front and rear, with Isopulse lacing on rear • Tubless: UST compatible • Weight wheels only: 26", 1660g; 27.5", 1710g; 29", 1780g • Weight wheels and tyres: 26", 3150g; 27.5", 3390g; 29", 3520g • MSRP: $1,000 for complete wheel and tire system • Availability: Mid-June (may be slightly later in the US due to shipping issues)
While many companies are opting for carbon fiber as the material of choice for the flagship wheelsets, Mavic have made a conscious decision to shy away from the material. Manuel Berschandy, Product Line Manager for Mountain Bike Systems, is utterly clear on this, stating that, "We still don't think the benefits [of carbon wheelsets] match the price difference." When their wheelsets are already weighing in at $1,000 per set, which is not cheap, it is still around a third the cost of the top end carbon wheelsets. It's not just in their material they have remained conservative with either, and although the wheels do have a greater internal width than the 21mm (front wheel) and 19mm (rear wheel) dimensions of the Crossmax Enduro WTS, it's only a slight increase, and the new wheels have a 23mm internal width. At a time when people are starting to push internal widths up towards the 30mm mark, it is somewhat conspicuous. What Mavic has done instead, is take a wheel design that is fairly universally acknowledged to work very well, and incrementally improved almost every aspect of it.
We still don't think the benefits [of carbon wheelsets] match the price difference- Manuel Berschandy, Product Line Manager, Mountain Bike Systems, Mavic
The hubs should look pretty familiar to most existing Mavic owners, except these have been incrementally improved and laid bare in this stunning, polished finish. If you look closely at the rear wheel, you should be able to make out the two spoke lacing patterns - the radial pattern on the drive side, and the cross pattern on the non-drive side. On the rim you should just be able to see where the material is machined away between the eyelets, to keep the rims strong where they most need to be, but with no excess material where they don't need it.
Mavic has reduced the weight by 10g per hub, which while not a lot on its own, is the kind of attention to detail throughout the wheelset that means that while they have upped the size and spoke count from the Crossmax Enduro, the weight has remained constant. The rim shape has been refined in every area, from the hook shape on the sidewal which has been moved 0.3mm to offer a smoother and more impact-resistant profile, to the milling on the face of the rim to remove excess material between the eyelets and the more symmetrical v-shaped profile of the rim.
There are a whole raft of features carried over from their previous wheels too. On the rear wheel Mavic uses what they call Isopulse lacing - which is radial lacing on the driveside of the wheel to help power transfer, and a standard cross-lacing on the non-driveside to increase strength. The freehub is their ITS-4 freehub design that uses two engagements at any one time to help power transfer. Unlike the Crossmax Enduro they have not used different designs for front and rear wheels, rather used the same 24-spoke, 23mm internal width layout for both as they feel away from racing, riders won't see the same benefits from having a burlier front wheel and a lighter rear wheel. One thing that is worth keeping in mind with Mavic wheels is that they are pre-sealed for tubeless use, whereas most other wheels need a rim strip to seal them for tubeless, something not typically included in most weight calculations. There is one other aspect we cannot overlook either - in this polished finish the hubs are a masterpiece of functional beauty; they are undoubtedly some of the best-looking hubs anywhere in mountain biking.
Mavic have continued with their philosophy of developing their wheelsets in conjunction with tires so they form a complete system together. The approach with the Crossmax XL is quite different to the Charge and Roam tires for the Crossmax Enduro WTS, though. Most notably, both front and rear tires are the same here, a significant departure from the Enduro WTS. The aggressive front tire and fast rolling-rear tire of the Enduro WTS is something Mavic see as offering more benefits for advanced riders, but not something that will appeal to the wider majority of the market. The Quest tires are designed to be more user-friendly for riders of all levels, with a consistent overall profile across the entire tread, so riders should have similar traction wherever on the tire they are. They felt the marked differentiation between the centre and side tread on the Enduro WTS was not the best choice for the most people. Where both front and rear tires on the Enduro WTS are dual ply, here they are single ply, reinforced with Mavic's new Guard+ layer to help prevent punctures.
These tyres are designed to be truly all-round - the aim is that they will work for most people, most of the time. As such, they have a fairly small, consistent tread pattern, durable single compound rubber and a lightweight carcass with some added puncture protection.
A single compound is also used here - 50A throughout, which is seen by Mavic as the best balance balance between grip and durability. This is at the harder end of things, with 60A, the hardest compound we commonly see in mountain bike tyres and 40 representing the super-sticky tyres designed with aggressive descending in mind. In testing, Mavic found that harder compound lasted 50% longer than the 40A compound used on the Charge tyre. Multiple compounds were considered, but in testing they found that, while they offer advantages for some riders, they detracted from the consistency of feel they were aiming for with these tyres. One of our favourite little details of these wheels is in the weights. The 26" tyre weighs 690g, the 27.5" 780g and the 29" 810g. What struck us is that the weight gap between the 27.5" and 29" is smaller than between 26" and 27.5", despite the fact that 26" and 27.5" are the two closest diameters. They achieved this by reducing the volume of the 29" from 2.4", down to 2.35". They felt that the extra volume was less crucial with the larger wheels, and it meant they could keep the weight down. The tyres will also be available aftermarket, retailing at $70 per piece - this is worth keeping in mind when you consider the overall value of the wheelset too. For your $1,000 you do get $140 of tyres, which puts them ahead of much of their direct competition on the value stakes.