Review: Mavic CrossMax SX wheelset

By Adam Newman

Designed and crafted as the most durable of the CrossMax series, the SX wheels are capable of everything short of full-on downhill riding. They were a perfect match for our Santa Cruz Nomad test sled, on which they tackled everything from lift-assisted gravity runs to taming the local cross country trails.

Like all Mavic wheel systems, each wheel in the CrossMax mountain bike line functions as a cohesive unit, with hubs, spokes and rims designed and built around each other, rather than piece by piece.

The CrossMax SX wheelset is completely redesigned for 2012. This wheelset incorporates several changes that have been implemented across Mavic’s wheel line. First, the hubs spin on sealed, stainless steel bearings and have smaller flanges that sit closer to the hub shell to keep the shape as compact as possible, reducing rotating mass. Mavic says its engineers also found the smaller flanges are less stressed by flexing and have better stress dispersion than larger ones. The new ITS-4 four-pawl freewheel system engages at just 7.5°, a huge improvement over the 17° of engagement in the old, two-pawl system. With the included adapters, the front hub is compatible with 15 or 20mm thru-axles and the rear with 9x135mm, 12x135mm and 12x142mm.

Specific to the SX wheels are rims that have a 21mm internal width for a larger tire footprint. They also have a more rounded external profile for strength and a rounded inner channel to aid in the tire bead seating when used with tubeless tires. Setting up the wheels was painless, with no special tools required to swap axle adapters. Mounting tubeless tires on the UST rims was equally painless. The tires inflated easily and the beads snapped right into place and stayed put.

Like most Mavic rims, only the outer wall is drilled, with the nipples threading directly into the rim. Yes, the nipples require Mavic’s special spoke tool, but thankfully one is included with the wheels. Both the front and rear wheels use 24 round, aluminum spokes, which Mavic claims allow a more compliant ride while the stronger rims keep the wheels as laterally stiff as before.

If I had to use one word to describe them, it would be “solid.” There is no discernible flex, they stayed perfectly true, and the freehub engages almost instantly when putting the power down. I obviously don’t notice it going downhill, but when climbing, it really helped when ratcheting the cranks through difficult sections. I don’t have quite the cojones to hit the biggest drops, but I have no doubt the CrossMax SX wheels do. Plus, weighing in at less than 1,800g, there’s no significant weight penalty to their toughness.

If you’re looking for a durable pair of wheels that can tackle the mountain, both up and down, the CrossMax SX should fit the bill.

MSRP: $800

Weight: 1,755 grams

Country of origin: Made in France, assembled in Romania




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