The new Crossmax XL ‘wheel and tyre system’ from French wheel master Mavic is loaded with proven signature technologies, including the ITS-4 freehub and adjustable QRM+ bearings that come on its race focused Crossmax Enduro wheels. In the 10 months we’ve been hammering the Enduros, things have remained sharp and smooth, and so far it appears to be the same story with the XLs.
The cartoon-sized bladed Zicral alloy spokes, notched hub flanges and ‘straight into the rim’ Fore attachment at the far end have proved similarly bombproof too. While the wheels come with inner tubes installed, UST tubeless valves are included and the sealed-bed rims make inflation a breeze.
Mavic’s Maxtal rims are some of the toughest around. The inside faces are machined away between the spoke inserts to save weight too, and at just under 1,800g for the 29in version we tested (26in and 650b wheels are available for the same price), the XLs are just 70g heavier a pair than the Crossmax STs. The big difference is that they’re actually a decent width.
OK, 23mm is a long way off the 30mm-plus troughs being touted by some brands, but it’s 2mm wider than a Crossmax Enduro front rim and 4mm wider than an ST. Not only does this extra width fatten up the tyres noticeably but – together with the revised spoke profile – it makes the XLs far stiffer than the STs on the trail.
You’ll notice this most dramatically when braking or pounding the pedals, because the XLs respond instantly rather than pausing to gather up spoke tension and then almost reluctantly releasing power like many 29er wheels do. Overall stiffness is competitive with the most expensive alloy or much pricier carbon wheels. Tracking and cornering accuracy is impressive too, but this is where the tyre part of the package starts to get in the way.
The matching front and rear Quest 29x2.35in tyres are a classic all-round compromise. The tread pattern reminds us a lot of Continental’s Mountain King II and they’re similarly fine for all-round cruising and roll OK too. They don’t grip in the loose or wet nearly as well as we’d hope for though, and that meant repeated slips and spins at both ends when the bike and wheels had lots more to give. Smart shops won’t lose a quailty wheel sale by refusing to switch tyres though, and the XL wheels are well worth haggling for.