Mavic XA Pro Carbon wheelset review£1,400.00

Light and lively XC and enduro wheelset

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Weighing 1,570g (29in, Boost), Mavic’s long-awaited carbon MTB wheels sit between super-light XC (around 1,400g) and sturdier enduro (1,800g+) sets.

The 26mm wide (internal) hookless rims are similarly middle ground and support 2.3 to 2.4in tyres really well, with easy inflation as long as you’re careful not to damage the taped seal.

While the hubs are new, the ITS-4 freehub is the same robust, quick-reacting 10-degree unit we’ve been using for several years. The wheels come in 650b and 29in sizes, and all axle flavours besides 20mm front.

Considering the R&D time that’s gone into these wheels, the price is impressively affordable (for carbon)

‘Laterally stiff but vertically compliant’ is an established frame cliché and some pro downhillers have been running deliberately soft wheels for years, but Mavic is among the first to implement the idea on production hoops.

The carefully-calculated carbon fibre lay-up and offset two-cross lacing of the 24 double-butted, bladed spokes (no signature Mavic fat alloy spokes here) delivers a noticeably quiet, smooth feel too.

At less demanding ride intensities that means excellent micro traction, ‘path of least resistance’ compliance, enhanced comfort and reduced fatigue, and they feel great on potentially harsh trail hardtails.

Start pushing them hard, though, and the 3D distortion — particularly as they unload out of corners and G-outs — can be momentarily, but significantly, disconcerting. There’s noticeable softness through the cranks too, and off-camber wander if you really stamp on the pedals.

Considering the R&D time that’s gone into these wheels, the price is impressively affordable (for carbon) — especially given that it includes a set of Mavic’s Quest Pro tyres. In theory, these complement the wheels perfectly, but I dumped them pretty quickly.

The large 2.35in ‘Guard2’ carcass is beautifully damped and shock sucking, and the ‘X-Mix’ dual-compound rubber is enduro-soft for outstanding adhesion in loose, loamy or kitty-litter bike park conditions. But the kilo weight and noticeable rolling drag (enough to keep us pedalling constantly on singletrack descents where other riders were coasting) kills the potentially lively feel of the wheels.

The small knobs also mean wet and sloppy trails need care, and wear is rapid too. After repeatedly getting dropped by riders I normally ruin, I switched to a faster-rolling rear and grippier front tyre combo. This immediately made the wheels feel a whole lot livelier, restoring my faith in them.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK 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: 45
  • 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 than 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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