Mavic Crossmax SLR 29″er Wheels: First Impressions- by Grannygear
A geared 29″er hardtail is basically a fast machine, and in the right configuration, like this XC biased build using an old Giant XTC frame and some tasty SRAM XX parts, it can be a really fast machine. With an endurance race on the docket for the summer, I was looking for something that would be efficient over a relatively smooth course with lots of climbing at altitude. So out of mothballs came the Giant frame and out of the parts boxes came the XX stuff. And right about then the Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels showed up, which we highlighted here in the OOB post. They seemed like perfect wheels for this bike and they will likely live here through the spring training rides and up through the race event.
I typically run a pretty trail oriented tire, but this time I went with some rubber that was a bit more in line with a faster application like this one. The Vredestein Black Panther XTRAC (rear) and XTREME (front) 2.2 tires mounted on the Mavic rims with ease, inflated with even less effort, and held air like a rubber vault, barely losing a few PSI as the bike sat for a bit, waiting for some parts to complete the build. The 2.2 tires are a bit anemic in volume, not helped at all by the narrow rim, but that is fine for this bike. I have to think that the sealed rim bed of the Mavic rim and the good UST match of the rim and tires was a good part of the air sealing success. All rims for MTBs should be a sealed rim bed. All of them. Kudos to Mavic.
The first ride was a 40 mile training loop with several hard climbs, some on paved secondary roads, and some on dirt. I broke a rule of mine in that I did not ‘burn in’ the bike before the ride except for a spin in front of my house. I ended up with a new chain that did not like the used cassette and would skip in the 36T alu cog on the XX gear set. All the steel cogs were happy, but it meant I had no granny gear, and since I had an XX crank, I already had a 26T granny ring, hardly a low gear at best and now I had even less than that. Well this is just dandy.
But the light hard tail rolling on those Mavic Crossmax SLRs got me over the climbs with energy to spare. “Cheap 29″ers suck!” was a statement given to me by an engineer of a large bike company. We were talking about wheels and tires and the reason he said that was tied to wheel weight on a cheap bike. Cheap wheels and tires are heavy and dead feeling, and often as not, all while still being flexy. 29″ ones just make that worse. These wheels are not any of that. The response is muy rapido and they spin up right now, even with the less than fully racy Vredestein tires.
On the backyard trails, I put in a few more hours on the wheels and I have to say that one word kept coming to my mind: Direct. These wheels feel absolutely direct, both in steering, acceleration, and ride quality. I can’t feel any hint of directional challenges with these Crossmax SLRs. They just go where I point them.
Now I have heard many people talk about how a wheel rides, whether it can be smooth or harsh, and have even discussed this with wheel makers and there seems to be a disagreement about the validity of all this. No wheel can really deflect vertically enough to actually be felt as far as I can see, but can they be compliant in a good way or be more ‘alive’ feeling like, oh, say… like a steel frame as compared to an oversize aluminum frame (generalities, I know)? That could be. Adding to this conundrum is the fact that it is hard to separate the wheel from the smaller volume tire and the hardtail nature of the bike. But….if I were to bet on it, I would say these are ‘stiff riding’ wheels, whatever that means. But remember, compliance is flex. And just how much is good or not good is a bag of worms.
All that said, I have no real complaints so far. These are high end race wheels. I would expect them to be rock solid and to give me great energy transfer…I do not expect coddling. And that, so far, is just what I am getting out of them. The engagement is decently fast too, and the ITS4 free hub is nicely quiet but sounds expensive, like a high end fishing reel. Setting them up with the proper end caps (supplied with the wheels) for 15 through axle or 9mm was eezy-peezy. I wish they were wider internally, rim wise that is. It would only make them better wheels in my opinion. Mavic will have to respond to this tidal flow of wider rims across the board. Even my road bike wheels are nearly this wide. Things change.
The riding will continue and we will hang on to these into the summer and report back.
Note: Mavic provided the items for this test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review. We will strive to be honest with our thoughts and opinions throughout.