After spending summer 2014 shredding on a set of wheels that–while they survived and did the job–were less than ideal, I wanted to install a pair of hoops that would take my endless abuse in style. While I could probably get away with running my previous wheelset, I prefer to ride bikes that I am confident can take way more abuse than I can dish out. With XC/Trail gear, I often find the robustness of the products to be the limiting factor. But with radical advances in quality and construction in today’s enduro/all mountain gear, I am routinely reminded when riding such excellent products my skills are the main thing holding me back.
Mavic sent over a combination wheel/tire system, comprised of a pair of Crossmax XL WTS 27.5 wheels and the new Crossmax Quest 27.5 tires. Tires are a relatively-new product for Mavic. They’ve entered the tire market in an attempt to provide a cohesive wheel/tire system that meshes perfectly together.
The Crossmax XL WTS wheels weigh in at a claimed 1710 grams/3.77lbs for the pair, and the tires each weigh in at a claimed 780 grams/1.72lbs. If you do the math, that equals to a combined system weight of 3270 grams/7.21lbs. However, according to the Mavic website, this entire 27.5 system weighs 3390 grams. They may have added weight to the overall system by including the valve stems and sealant in their calculations. But regardless of the number discrepancies, for a pair of burly alloy enduro wheels/tires, these are pretty dang light weights.
The Crossmax XL WTS wheels are UST-compatible and are designed for “adventurers.” According to Mavic, these wheels are “strong enough to support aggressive riding, [and they] remain light where it really matters.” The rim measures 23mm wide and features Fore drilling, and 24 lightweight aluminum Zicral bladed spokes lacing hub to rim. According to Mavic, the rim features “new optimized rim extrusion with ISM weight reduction.”
These wheels are available in all varieties of hub standards front and rear, and all three wheel sizes.
The Crossmax Quest tires are fully UST compatible, ensuring a great match with the Crossmax XL WTS UST wheels. These treads feature a high-volume, 2.4″-wide casing that protects against flats with Guard+ reinforcement and offers a comfortable ride with maximum traction. However, the knobs are relatively low profile and spaced widely apart. While this doesn’t optimize traction, it does reduce weight drastically and makes for a fast-rolling tire. However, Mavic does try to compensate with the wide casing and high-grip Contact Compound rubber.
These tires were designed specifically with the Crossmax XL WTS wheels to optimize performance and aesthetics.
Out on the Trail: Tires
Despite supposedly having been designed by Mavic as a complete wheel/tire system, I found there to be a very noticeable dichotomy between the tires and the wheels in this Crossmax system. First, I’ll tackle the tires.
For a 2.4″ tire, the Crossmax Quest treads are light, and they are fast. I can easily envision this being a good race day tire for an enduro rider: incredibly light and fast rolling, and decently grippy and reliable.
As I noted above, it seems that the grip on these tires comes primarily from the wide casing and the soft rubber compound. The knobs aren’t very tall and aren’t very… well, knobby. I personally love big side lugs for cornering prowess and while I couldn’t quite dig these tires in the way I’d like, I was pleasantly surprised at the traction they offered in all kinds of conditions, ranging from hardpack to loose to mud.
However, that traction just doesn’t last. As a result of the highly-grippy rubber, these tires wear out incredibly fast. In about a month of riding I’d flattened the middle row of knobs, shredded side knobs, and generally decimated these treads. I kept riding them a little longer, but the loss of traction and control was highly evident. I was quite pleased with the durability of the sidewalls and had no failures there, but the tread was seriously thrashed in no time.
Now as I said above, perhaps the Crossmax Quest could be a good race day tire for a pro racer. But yo soy pobre (that means “I’m poor” for all y’all non-Spanish speakers). I don’t have cash to drop $140 for a pair of tires every time I toe the starting line. And even if I’m not racing, I can’t afford to replace tires every month. I want treads that will last me most of a riding season… depending on how much I’m riding, of course. But just a few weeks? That’s a no-go in my book.
Out on the Trail: Wheels
The Crossmax XL wheels are also light and fast, but that’s where the similarities end.
I could try to explain exactly how these wheels ride to you, but in this case I think it might be easier to tell you what they don’t do:
They don’t flex. These are stiff wheels that track straight and true through even the hairiest of lines! Issues with pinging spokes and groaning protests on your current wheelset? Snap up a pair of these wheels and forget about it.
They don’t warp. You can also forget about flat spots, warping, tacoing, coming out of true, you name it. Sure I bet you could toss these on your DH rig and slaughter them, but for gnarly enduro riding, they’re bomber.
They don’t go slow. Basically I mean they go fast. Really fast.
They don’t crack. Exploding carbon rims? Skip it, these are bombproof aluminum
They don’t look ugly. The Crossmaxes are a superfly pair of rims, and combining Mavic’s classic bladed spokes and shiny hubs for a gorgeous look.
They don’t cost a lot. This set of carbon Enve wheels that Syd reviewed is designed for a similar application to the Crossmax XLs, weighs just a tad bit less (96 grams less), but they cost $2,718 for the pair. Yes, that means the Enves save just 5.6% of the weight of the Mavic Crossmaxes but carry a price tag with 272% of the cost.
The Crossmax XLs are one of the most confidence-inspiring wheelsets I’ve ever ridden. They ride splendidly, they look great, I’ve not had a single issue from them, and for the weight, performance, and durability that they provide, the price tag is a steal as well. The tires, on the other hand, I’m not a fan of.
My suggestion: snap up a set of these wheels, and mount up your personal favorite AM/enduro tire. Skip the “system” concept.
Wheels MSRP: $1,000 for the pair.
Tires MSRP: $70 per tire, $140 for a pair.
Thanks to Mavic for providing the Crossmax XL WTS 27.5 Wheels and the Crossmax Quest 27.5 tires for review.
I loved the performance of my Crossmax SLs from a few years back, but they had a couple significant flaws.
1. The hubs required frequent servicing, much moreso than other wheels
2. Although the flat spokes were cool, they were proprietary which meant I needed a special spoke wrench. Also front and rear were different, as were drive and non-drive side on the rear so I had to carry multiple spares. This wasn’t a problem when the wheels were new, but after a few years of hard riding when spokes started to fail, it became an issue.
So the obvious questions are:
1. Did your hubs hold up under the abuse?
2. Are they still running “special” spokes.
Thus far I’ve had no issues with the hubs, so so far so good on that point.
To the untrained eye the spokes look identical front to rear and side to side. However, I do mean untrained eye as I’m not much of a wheelbuilder. The nipples look like they probably require a special spoke wrench, though.
I have one if you need it!
Haha awesome, thanks!