From a distance, it seems the only thing to have changed compared with the standard wheelset is the colour and the price. But there’s a lot more going on than that. Mavic have slimmed down the rims’ outside width by 1.5mm to an all-mountain-esque 27mm.
Shedding the weight at the outer-most point of the wheel decreases its inertia, making both acceleration and braking more responsive. The spokes are slimmer too. Not only do they use less stainless steel, but the double-butted spokes – 32 rear and 28 front – are also bladed for aerodynamics.
If you’ve ever had a flat-out rider fly through the air next to you, all you can hear is the spokes whooshing in the wind. That sound is wind resistance, and when every tenth of a second counts, it is important.
This crash diet has seen the overall wheel weight tumble. After last year’s 500g drop, this year sees another 230g slide off the scales, bringing our 150mm rear hub spec pair in at a paltry 1,930g.
This weight loss is instantly noticeable and benefits the bike in so many ways. The obvious one is acceleration. Hit the gas and the super-quick ITS4 freehub body locks in drive and has your thumb working overtime banging up through the gears.
Another easily quantifiable benefit is increased agility. With so much less inertia, changing direction is much easier, and flicking the bike onto a different line requires much less rider input, and is definitely quicker.
What isn’t so easy to quantify is increased suspension performance. The lighter wheel essentially lowers the unsprung weight at both ends. This allows the suspension to react much quicker to the ground, giving greater traction and control.
We were worried the narrower rim and slender spokes would flex under heavy side loads, but there is significantly increased spoke tension in this wheelset, giving strength from structure, not from bulk.
There is marked improvement to a bike’s performance when fitted with a lighter wheelset, and the Ultimate can take the abuse too, not even needing a true during our test period. It is a lot of money to pay, but if all that counts to you is those tenths of the seconds against the clock, then you won’t find much better.