Rock up at any enduro, or check any race report, and you’ll struggle to miss Mavic’s Crossmax Enduro wheelsets with their ‘shout it loud’ yellow colour scheme; it’s almost become synonymous with the sport, they’re that popular.
Where the Enduro WTS is quite clearly aimed firmly at racers, the Crossmax XL WTS, launched in the land of Trans Provence, embraces a whole new genre of ‘enduro adventure’; which I’m happy to report is where riders spend all day climbing up mountains before dropping back down.
So a light wheelset that will climb well and is strong enough to withstand a bit of abuse, fits well with my style of trail riding. In fact, I reckon it encompasses what we’ve all been doing for a long while now without realising it needed a name. If you fit into that category too, read on.
Wallflowers, introverts and the ‘prefer to blend in’ crowd will be glad to hear that the Crossmax XL are finished in a subtle and quieter colour scheme of polished silver and black, a classic look that still promises plenty of modern performance. First impressions are of a nice and light pair of wheels that buck the trend towards carbon with an easily repairable, replaceable and affordable alternative.
The wheels are available in 26in, 27.5in and 29in sizing. All current axle options are available; you can easily swap between 9mm/15mm and 20mm up front, plus 9mm or 12mm in 135mm and 142mm in the rear. Both Shimano freehubs and SRAM’s XD Drive are available and swapping out one for the other is a job no one needs to shy away from, it’s that easy. Included is a multi-use spanner that handles any adjustments that might arise with use, either at the spoke nipples or at the hub.
The wheels rotate around a set of sealed cartridge bearings, with Mavic’s ITS-4 freehub using two sets of pawls to hook up quickly. The hub has been sculpted to reduce weight while still providing a solid base for 24 straight-pull Zircal spokes. Rear lacing is radial on the driveside and three-cross on the non-driveside, to give a balance between strength and power transfer.
I’d be lying if I said this was noticeable out on the trail, despite the fact the wheels engage with no noticeable lag and spin easily up to speed. Let’s just agree that the sum of the whole is nice and nimble feeling, with any pedal input being quickly translated into an increase in speed. On long days in the hills this is a good thing and an overall feeling of climbing prowess is well within reach.
Out on the perimeter is a newly designed rim which sees a move away from the Enduro’s narrow/wide approach to mismatched width, instead measuring up at 23mm internal both front and rear. While this may be considered skinny under the current trend of wider is better, the rims worked well, with 2.4in tyres offering a decent profile with plenty of grip. The rims are machined to UST standard meaning there’s no need for rim tape – just add your preferred juice and go. Seating tyres was a doddle, inflating was straightforward and throughout the test I’ve had no issue with air loss, tyres burping or any other negatives.
The WTS in the product name refers to Wheel Tyre System – basically the combination of wheels and tyres into a unified product. In the case of the Crossmax XL, the tyres supplied are Mavic’s Quest; a 2.4in, small-knobbed, fast-rolling and fairly rounded tyre. On the back this complements the wheel’s quick acceleration but I was less impressed with it as a front tyre, where front-end drift and a lack of grip were common features of my autumnal riding. After one particularly sketchy ride I fairly quickly opted for something a little more aggressive up front, but was more than happy enough with the tyre’s performance to leave it on the back where it performed fine.
Four months down the line they’ve proved a very capable set of wheels; on the approach ride [the car park? – Ed.] they respond well to rider input, on long climbs there’s the psychological advantage of their lightness, whilst on descents there’s plenty of confidence inspiring stiffness and strength. They’re a well-balanced set up that are still as straight as when they were pulled out of the box and I’ve yet to feel any play in the bearings, despite a particularly wet winter.
The only downside is the need for specific spokes, which means a bit of forward planning on trips abroad to make sure you’ve got spares. I’ve yet to need one yet though, so it’s definitely a price worth paying.
Mavic markets the Crossmax XL as ‘the adventurers choice’ and I’d be inclined to agree that for the job of long days in the hill, it’s a good balance between weight and strength. Feeling light and nimble, without compromising stiffness on technical descents, with the right tyre choice they’re hard to beat.
|Product:||Crossmax XL WTS wheelset|
|Tested:||by Dave for four months|