Mavic Crossmax SLR 29 MTB Wheel Set Review

The Crossmax SLR 29 wheel set from Mavic is a lightweight set of hoops that rides surprisingly stiff out on the trail. How do they do it? It all starts with expert construction.

Construction

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Crossmax SLR wheels are the spokes. The Zircal bladed spokes look like they belong on a military chopper, cutting through the air as you descend. Zircal is an aluminum alloy with a good stiffness to weight ratio, providing a strong, rigid support system for large 29er rims. And with just 20 spokes both front and rear, these spokes need to take a lot of stress!

The spokes are laced 2-cross up front and in the rear, they’re 2-cross on the non-drive side. On the drive side, the spokes are radially laced and Mavic says this is to maximize drive-side dish and improve spoke tension balance.

The hubs feature double sealed cartridge bearings with 4 pawls in the rear. The rear hub can be run with a 12mm thru axle or using the included QR skewer. Up front, the hubs will accept a 15mm or 20mm thru axle OR 9mm QR (also included). All the adapters for running a 15mm or 20mm axle are included.

Mavic uses a custom aluminum alloy called “Maxtal” on the rims, an alloy the company claims offers a better strength to weight ratio than traditional 6106 alloys. The rims also feature a unique design on the lower bridge that requires zero drilling for the spoke threads, improving fatigue strength overall.

Performance

All these innovative features come together to produce a wheelset that weighs just 1620 grams while still offering incredible strength and performance on the trail.

If you’ve been riding a 29er for a while (or any bike for that matter) you know it’s important to minimize “rolling weight” whenever possible. At 1620 grams, this is one of the lightest non-carbon wheel sets you’ll find, plus they’re UST compatible so you can ditch your tubes for even more weight savings.

I found mounting tubeless tires to the UST rims to be a piece of cake–all it took was a floor pump and one try. In fact, these rims seem to hold air better than any UST rim I’ve run, losing very little pressure between rides.

I did burp my rear tire during the Snake Creek Gap time trial back in February and I never really determined the cause. Another rider had the same issue in the exact same place so I suspect it had little to do with the wheel–something must’ve been in the trail. Fortunately running these UST wheels with a tube wasn’t an issue and I was able to finish strong.

The Snake Creek Gap time trial spans some of the rockiest singletrack on the Pinhoti trail so I knew it would be a great test for these wheels. Sure, my scale confirmed they were lightweight but I was a little concerned they might not withstand the abuse. It turned out my fears were unfounded–the Crossmax SLRs handled the chunder like a much burlier wheel set. Of all the 29er wheel sets I’ve tested, these seem to feel the stiffest. I was able to rail corners faster than ever and I never got that sickening feeling in my stomach after banging the rim on a rock. Landing small jumps feels solid on the Crossmax SLRs, never spongy.

The only real weakness I found with the Crossmax SLRs is the rear hub engagement. The 4-pawl design claims 7.5 degrees of freeplay which sounds great on paper but in my experience wasn’t anything to get excited about. Touchy tech moves seemed to be on slight delay compared to other wheels I’ve tested. Then again, these wheels are geared toward XC riders where speed is more highly prized than the ability to parse densely technical terrain.

I’m tired of using QR skewers on my bike but sadly I’m still stuck with them in the rear on both my frames. So I was surprised to find that I actually like the Mavic QR skewers included with the Crossmax SLRs! The levers are solid and I haven’t noticed any creaking (unlike those on all my other rear wheels).

Additional features

Mavic really takes care of the rider when it comes to included accessories. The Crossmax SLRs ship with all the axle adapters you might need–9mm QR, 12mm, 15mm, and 20mm. Not only that, you get wheel bags, a complete set of disc brake rotor bolts (front and rear), skewers, valves, and schrader valve adapters.

Clearly these wheels are designed to look fast and racy but it’s not all for show. A single half-white spoke is placed at the valve on the front and rear wheels, making the hole easy to find during a quick tire change.

The Mavic Crossmax SLR 29 wheels are available at multiple retailers for around $1,000.

Mavic bills the Crossmax SLR 29 wheels as “fast and light” but I would also add to that “strong.” With very little¬†discernible¬†flex and UST performance, these wheels are not just fit for race day but should be durable enough to use as an everyday wheel set for years of blissful riding.

Thanks to the folks at Mavic for providing these wheels for review.

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