Mavic are offering a completely redesigned line of Crossmax wheels for 2012. While the names – SLR (cross-country), ST (trail) and SX (all-mountain) – and many of the key technologies and materials stay the same, everything from the hubs to the rim extrusions has been revisited, rethought, redesigned and remodeled over a two-year period to produce a new line-up with some impressive characteristics.
Missing, however, is anything in the 29in size – something Mavic’s communications manager, Zack Vestal, addressed up front in his Crossmax product presentation attended by BikeRadar. “They’re all 26ers and there’s no getting around that fact,” said Vestal. “There are a couple of reasons for that. One, our product development process starts with professional riders and in this development cycle, professional riders, frankly, weren’t as hyped up on 29ers as they might be now. [And two,] building a 29er to Mavic standards requires a lot more work than just taking [the 26in wheel] and doing the little iPhone or iPad zoom up.
"You can’t just scale the thing up. When you increase the diameter and the spoke length, the ride characteristics change. It’s something Mavic want to tackle as its own unit rather than try to scale up existing products. We absolutely understand the importance of the platform… we’re already testing prototypes, you might be able to find pictures on the internet… they’re out there and we can acknowledge that. At the end of the day, when it’s ready, a new 29er wheel system will be engineered to Mavic standards, which is to say very, very high.”
This spring Mavic released a test video featuring Julien Absalon blind testing prototype Crossmax wheels; for those wondering the attribute they were testing in this specific video is spoke count and as a result, in 2012 Mavic reduces the spoke count for the SLR from 24 spokes to 20 front and rear.
Vestal said the pro riders had asked for a lighter, more responsive version of the Crossmax they already had. Feedback suggested they didn’t want carbon rims, and that the carbon-spoked prototype Beijing wheel was too stiff on many courses. So Mavic set out to improve upon the Crossmax SLR and its big brothers, ST and SX.
Change rooted in the hubs
The new line of Crossmax 26in wheels has been redesigned from the hubs out. The hub shells feature smaller flanges and new disc tabs, as well as more extensive internal machining to shave weight. The key performance benefits, however, come from a new level of axle standard compatibility both front and rear, and a new, lighter, faster and smoother rear ITS-4 freehub body.
The Crossmax SLR (cross-country) front hub offers 9mm quick-release and 15mm through-axle compatibility, along with a dedicated Cannondale Lefty version; the previously offered 20mm through-axle option goes away for 2012. The ST (trail) and SX (all-mountain) wheels share a single front hub that adapts to 9mm quick-release as well as 15mm and 20mm through-axles.
The hub profiles change significantly for 2012, especially on SLR; the flanges are smaller and the six-bolt disc mounts are improved to better deal with braking forces
The ST comes ready for 15mm axles with 9mm and 20mm adaptors available, as well as a specific Cannondale Lefty version, while the SX comes ready for 20mm axles with 9mm and 15mm adaptors available. As for rotor compatibility, SLR and ST will be available in both six-bolt and Center Lock versions, while the SX wheels will only accept the six-bolt standard.
The ITS-4 freewheel found on the current Crossmax SX wheelset has been refined to shed weight and reduce drag, thus making it acceptably smooth and efficient for cross-country use. The four-pawl design is said to offer 60 percent faster engagement than the FTS-X freehub used on the current SLR and ST wheels, with 7.5-degree instead of 17-degree engagement. This should go a long way to making good on the pro racers' request for a more responsive wheelset.
Mavic's entire Crossmax line features a new version of the ITS-4 freehub
The ITS-4 freehub also features a redesigned axle and wider bearing placement. The rear hub is compatible with all current trail-type axle standards, including 9mm quick-release, 12x135mm and 12x142mm. The SLR and ST wheelsets share the exact same rear hub shell, while the SX features a beefier version that accepts four additional spokes.
New UST rim profiles increase stiffness, width and tubeless performance
The next substantial improvement to the Crossmax range is the Maxtal rims; all three models feature new profiles that are wider and rounder, and also lighter. The SLR and ST wheels share the same rim profile, with a 19mm inner width versus the current SLR’s 17mm. This is said to add lateral stiffness and offer better support for larger-volume tires. The SLR uses Mavic’s ISM 3D (Inter Spoke Milling) to shave additional weight – the rim is said to be 20g lighter than the 2011 version.
The SLR and ST actually share the same rim extrusion and material, differing only by way of ISM machining and spoke drilling
The SX rim features a very similar profile, but with a 21mm inner width to better meet the more rigorous demands of all-mountain riding. All three rims feature a new rounded inner well that's said to increase stiffness and make seating tubeless tires easier. They all use Mavic’s FORE technology, where the rim is threaded to accept spokes (in sort of a quasi welding technique, where a super-heated tool punctures the rim without removing material) without the inner wall being punctured, thus creating a UST tubeless seal without need for any sort of tape or rim strip.
Mavic assemble their new Crossmax wheels with two versions of their Zicral spokes. The SLR gets 20 front and rear spokes that are butted and bladed. The front wheel is laced two-cross, while the rear has an ‘Isopulse’ pattern — two-cross non-drive lacing and radial drive side lacing. This is said to allow for a 2mm wider hub flange spacing and a more even balance of tension between the drive and non-drive spokes, thus creating a stronger wheel overall.
Mavic's 'Isopulse' radial drive-side lacing pattern is said to offer 2mm more width to the hub's flange spacing and better balance spoke tension side to side
The ST and SX models use round, straight-gauge Zicral spokes. The ST wheel uses 24 front and 20 rear, laced the same as the SLR wheelset. Mavic say the new, stiffer stronger rim allows the lower spoke count on the rear of the trail wheelset, while they've kept the compliance and stiffness added by the higher front spoke count. The SX wheel relies on 24 straight-gauge spokes laced two-cross on the front and non-drive side, and one-cross on the drive side.
Putting the technology together: the Crossmax wheel systems
The new Crossmax SLR is said to weigh 1,440g and comes with a full range of equipment including both 15mm through-axle and quick-release adaptors, a 12x142mm rear axle adaptor, quick-release skewers, tools, computer magnet and wheel bags. It costs US$999.90, the same price as the 2011 model.
Mavic's 2012 Crossmax SLR
The new ST weighs 1,590g and comes ready for a 15mm through-axle fork. The package comes with a rear quick-release, 12x142mm through-axle adaptor, computer magnet and tools; it costs $799.90.
Mavic's 2012 Crossmax ST
The redesigned SX weighs in at a claimed 1,750g, ready for a 20mm fork, and comes with 15mm through-axle adaptors, a rear quick-release, a 12x142mm adaptor and tools. It costs $899.90. Mavic say all of the wheels will be available for sale in October.
Mavic's 2012 Crossmax SX