Mavic CrossMax SL wheelset review£870.00

Blisteringly quick, tough and user-friendly XC wheels with serious stealth appeal

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Mavic’s latest wheel combines nearly 20 years of technological evolution into a quick yet user-friendly XC/fast trail-focused wheelset.

At 1580g (710g front, 870g rear) it’s impressively light for an alloy 29er setup, and within 100g of the lightest carbon wheels that can be trusted to steer straight. The latest ISM (Inter Spoke Milling) 4D rim sculpting shaves excess metal from the rim for the minimum of weight at the outside edge, where it matters most for reducing inertia.

Critically for split-second off the startline/out of corner reactions the ITS-4 freehub has almost instant (7.5-degree) engagement. Mavic’s unique big bladed Zicral alloy straight-pull spoke arrangement mixes with the seems-wonky-but-works radial driveside Isopulse lacing to punch power straight from your pedals with dramatic and ego-boosting directness. Despite having only 20 spokes at either end they’re obedient enough to hit aggressive racing/overtaking lines and hold onto them as well as all but the most expensive carbon XC wheels.

It’s the same lacing system and freehub we’ve been giving obscene amounts of abuse to in a set of CrossMax Enduro wheels for over a year, so we’re not worried about it being able to handle whatever mileage or torque most riders will throw at it. You’ll have to send the wheels back to Mavic’s service centre if a stick takes a spoke out, but we’ve only had to do that once in the past few years despite having multiple Mavics on the go at any one time.

The easily adjustable bearings are smooth and long lived if you check them for wobble occasionally. Axle swapping (QR to 15mm front, 135mm QR, 135x12mm, 142x12mm rear) is swift and simple and all fit kits are included. As long as you’re patient swapping pawls it’s a cinch to switch to a SRAM XD driver too.

The totally sealed rims blow up easily with most tyres and don’t burp or bleed even at silly low pressures. They’ve stayed sealed even when we’ve dented rims badly on some sets and worked even after we’ve bent them back with pliers. The skinny (19mm internal) width does mean rubber more than 2.2in wide gets pinched but that’s normal for an XC rim. Even the full black finish is an easier cosmetic match to more bikes than raw metal panels like the previous CrossMax SLs are.

Finally, while they’re undoubtedly expensive for alloy, they’re a lot cheaper and more practically tough than the carbon wheels they’re otherwise competitive with.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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