By Adam Newman
For the past decade or so, Mavic has moved its thinking that bicycle wheels are made from individual components to a philosophy of "wheel systems". Since a change to any piece – hubs, spokes and rim – affects the other, the French manufacturer designs and builds wheels with all the components working together to provide the best ride.
Note that I didn’t say "stiffest", or "lightest", or "most compliant", because the best wheels are crafted with a combination of all these qualities. Mavic isn’t into chasing records; they feel their build quality – and ride quality – speak for themselves.
So today I traveled to the Granby Rance and SolVista Resort in Colorado to see how they have improved the already-impressive Crossmax wheel line.
Each of the three wheelsets unveiled today is completely new for 2012. The Crossmax SLR will continue to be the weapon of choice for cross country riders and racers, the Crossmax ST is built for aggressive trail riding, and the Crossmax SX for extreme all-mountain abuse.
Changes across the line
Each of the three models feature some of the same innovations. First, the hubs have been redesigned with smaller flanges that disperse stress within the hub shell. The ITS-4 freewheel system gives a 60 percent faster engagement than the previous system – now at only 7.5 degrees between two engaged positions. The rims have a more rounded profile, the internal groove is now rounded instead of squared to improve stiffness and aid in UST-tire inflation (new rim is on the left in the photo) and the ISM machining on the rim surface is even more advanced. Linking the hub and rim are now fewer spokes, allowing for a lighter, more compliant ride, with the same stiffness as the previous generation. Plus each hub is convertible to almost any axle size, so buying a new frame doesn’t mean you need new wheels.
The three wheelsets should begin shipping in October, I’m told.
Developed in concert with World Cup racers in Europe, the 2012 Crossmax SLR design was finalized after riders gave blind feedback after trying several build setups. The new version has 20 bladed spokes front and rear, aggressive ISM rim machining and a slightly wider rim, now at 19mm. The pair weigh in at 1,440 grams, and will set you back $999.90.
An all-purpose trail wheelset, the ST features the same rear hub as the SLR, but the same front hub as the brawnier SX model, to allow for the 20mm axle. Because of this, it has an unusual 24 spokes front and 20 rear, but they are round instead of bladed. The rim has the same 19mm width and rounded internal and external shaping, but no external machining. They weigh 1,590 grams and will retail for $799.90.
The most aggressive wheelset for the most aggressive rider, the SX has 24 round spokes front and rear and a wider 21mm rim. The same rounded shaping, faster freewheel and compact hub flanges from the other wheels make an appearance here as well. They tip the scales at 1,750 grams and will empty your wallet of $899.90
The thing about the 29ers…
It’s important to note that all the wheels discussed here are available in 26-inch versions only. There are a few reasons for this, Mavic says: One is that most of the product development and testing is done in conjunction with European World Cup racers, who still prefer 26-inch wheels. Another is that making a 29-inch wheelset with the ride quality Mavic demands is much more complicated that simply sizing up a 26-inch wheelset. It must be completely developed from scratch. However we are assured that prototypes exist and that as the 29er market in Europe catches up to demand in the US, we will likely see new 29er wheels from Mavic.
Check out our riding impressions from Colorado here. And keep your eyes peeled in a future issue DirtRag for a long term test review.