Reviews / Wheels
It wasn't long ago that you couldn't move at a trail centre for a set of bright yellow wheels. Invariably these wheels were the iconic and undeniably 'enduro' Mavic Crossmax Enduro Wheelset. They were fast, stiff and light, but the narrow rear width and super fast rolling rear tyre didn't fully match up with the average enduro rider's needs.
Fast forward to 2016 and Mavic have launched these Crossmax XLs with a wider rim, a few more spokes and a redesigned rear tyre aiming to iron out any of the issues from those infamous yellow hoops. These wheels feature 23mm internal and 27 external rim front and rear and are available in all three wheel sizes. We tested the 27.5 size, but I've had multiple 29er test bikes recently with the same wheels. They come as a package with the Crossmax Charge XL and Quest XL tyres installed and all you need to get tubeless straight away. Both wheels have 24 bladed Zicral spokes keeping things true and the ITS4 freehub features a 7.5-degree engagement. All in all, a classy set of hoops.
Straight out of the box the wheels come equipped with the Crossmax Charge XL and Quest XL tyres with tubes installed and ready to roll. However, also included in the box are tubeless valves and sealant leaving you with a 20-minute job and you’re rolling tubeless, straight pull spokes threading straight into the rim, there is no need for rim tape, begging the question, why wouldn’t you? The 27mm rims give the tyres a good profile but are still not as wide as the current wheel trends would dictate.
First ride out on these I was immediately reminded of how a good set of wheels can transform a bike. The acceleration is instant and the quick pick up of the hub means there is no loss of power. My previous experience with Mavic wheels had given me a few questions about strength, but these were quickly put aside. Pointing downhill for the first time I got over excited and hucked a drop into the unknown, landing with my front wheel squarely on the edge of a rock. Blowing through 160mm of travel, and shaking my jarred wrists, I was convinced I must have written off my shiny new test wheels, but a closer inspection revealed not even a scratch, it was clear they could take a beating.
The Crossmax Charge XL front tyre has always been a favourite of mine, and it didn't disappoint. The aggressive profile gives huge confidence to get the bike leant over and finds grip in all terrain, which is essential when paired with the rear. The Quest tyre on the back is a different beast to the front, designed to be far faster rolling than the front and keep the bike moving as rapidly as possible.
The Quest is a great improvement over the old Roam, which was a character building experience. The Quest still likes to get loose, but is far more predictable and stable than it's predecessor. Unfortunately, the sidewalls were no match for my rocky local trails and it died halfway through the test period. The freehub has proved reliable despite the terrible winter weather they have lived through.
They've been set up with a standard XT cassette with an extra 42t as well as 11-speed and have not complained at all, still running smooth with clear and precise pick-up. Firing the wheels into corners the stiffness is instantly apparent, holding true over whatever unhelpful terrain is placed in their path. Although the rear tyre likes to slide around, if the super grippy and confident front end is trusted, the back nearly always follows, and encourages you to get on the gas out of every corner.
This is a seriously stiff set of wheels which makes your old wheels feel vague and imprecise. If you point, they will go forth and follow your line, no matter how crazy or ill-conceived. The proprietary spokes did have a tendency to come loose now and again, but the supplied tyre lever features a nice spoke key for tightening, and trueing up is a simple affair. I've tried getting replacement spokes in the past and it can be tricky to find a shop that stocks them, so always travel with spares! In the 29er version, I have had a few occasions where I've burped air from the rear tyre when running low pressures and getting sideways. This was when running non-Mavic tyres with a big diameter, which seemed to find the limit of what the rim can hold onto.
This wheelset firmly lives up to the Mavic's reputation, a light, stiff package with great features and ready to take to the trail. They are a fine successor for the Enduro wheels and as such can live up to some serious abuse. They have remained stiff, true and responsive throughout and never skipped a beat. The Crossmax XL's are a set of wheels which will transform your ride.
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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Dan, Joe and Edgar