We knew Mavic were launching some new wheels soon but we weren't expecting to see quite so many variants at the opening round of the UCI World Cup. Here in Pietermaritzburg, we spotted not only a new 29er version of the company's Crossmax SLR but also an alloy tubular version, a 26" Crossmax SLR alloy tubular, and even the elusive Crossmax Ultimate with carbon spokes.
The new Mavic 29er wheels were showcased on the bikes of Cannondale Factory Racing – which also confirms a Lefty-specific edition is coming. Though they weren't labeled as such, they look to essentially be a 29" version of the current Crossmax SLR – so we're going to go ahead and declare these to be C29ssmax SLR based on Mavic's existing nomenclature.
The machined aluminium hubs and round Zicral aluminium spokes are similar to the current 26" Crossmax version and the tubeless-compatible aluminium rims are also heavily machined on the sidewalls and inner walls to reduce rotating mass. Rim width, however, looks to be about the same as the current 26" Crossmax SLR or perhaps just a slight bit wider. Unfortunately, we didn't have calipers on hand to verify.
Team rider Jeremiah Bishop stuck with his usual tubeless setup but European pros Marco Aurelio Fontana and Manuel Fumic were spotted with alloy tubular editions instead wrapped with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. We don't have official information from Mavic to confirm this but presumably, the tubular rims should be a fair bit lighter than the tubeless hoops and based on previous experience, we expect the tubular tires to deliver a smoother and more ground-compliant ride as well.
Elsewhere, we also spotted tubular-specific versions of Mavic's 26" Crossmax SLR wheel wrapped with multiple variations of Dugast rubber. Just like in 'cross and on the road, cross-country racers are starting to favor tubulars for their ultra-supple ride quality and ability to conform to the ground. Weight benefits as compared to top-end aluminium rims and tubeless tires are honestly quite negligible though we've also seen some carbon rimmed tubulars here as well (more on that later).
Most surprising were the Crossmax Ultimate tubular wheels fitted to the bike of Jean-Christophe Péraud – yes, the same Ag2R-La Mondiale professional road racer who has decided to compete for a spot on the 2012 French Olympic mountain bike team.
We've seen these wheels before – as early as 2009, in fact – but their reappearance here lends a bit more hope that they'll be slated for production. Based on earlier information, the carbon-and-aluminum hybrid tubular rim and carbon fibre spokes yield a total claimed weight of well under 1,200g without sacrificing stiffness like some other ultralights currently available.
It's unclear at this point which of these new mountain bike wheels are team-only items at this point. To be fair, mountain bike tubulars still have limited applicability to amateur mountain bike racers but with the coming wave of disc-equipped 'cross bikes, those C29ssmax SLR alloy tubulars would be appealing indeed.
Mavic is set to announce their new wheel range this April at Sea Otter so we'll have more information then.