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Review: Mavic Ksyrium SLR Exalith wheels

Now, the downside.

Mavic Ksyrium SLR Exalith wheels review
The non-drive side gets 10 Tracomp spokes, which work in compression and tension. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews

Exalith has a tendency to screech like a two-year-old with a bee sting if not properly coddled, particularly in the first 300-500km of use. New (or just bad) mechanics: be advised. There is very little room for error during brake setup. The pads must be properly (even dramatically) toed in to prevent an unearthly howl. With my rear brake, even that wasn’t enough. A small amount of play was allowing one of the pads to move a bit, incurring the screech under hard braking. It wasn’t until I shimmed the pad that I was able to stop in peace.

In the first 300km (might be longer for those not descending in the mountains, hastening wear), there was literally nothing I could do to get the these wheels to shut up completely. I got rid of the horrid screech, but the wheels still produced a light whistle whenever the brakes were applied. According to Vestal, this is just a function of the brake track grooves. The peaks are sharp at first, causing the noise. Once they’ve been blunted a bit the wheels quiet down considerably.

That said, I now have a bit over 2,000km (1,242 miles) on them, and they still whistle just a bit during hard stops and light feathering (but not in between … odd).

The brake pads wore very quickly during those first 300-or-so kilometers, but the wear slowed down shortly thereafter. I’m still on my first set of pads, and wear seems to be occurring at a normal rate. I expect the pads will last at least another 500-1000km, depending on the weather, and the next pair will last much longer without that initial wear period. For testing purposes, I did one ride with brand new regular black Shimano brake pads. About 6,000 feet of descending later, they were chewed to bits. They worked fine, but simply couldn’t hold up to the hard, grooved surface.

The rims have no real noticeable wear, other than a bit of smudging. There’s certainly no bare aluminum showing through.

Mavic Ksyrium SLR Exalith
MSRP: $1,800
You get: wheels, tires, tubes, special brake pads, wheelbags, skewers, computer magnet, various tools
Pros: best braking on the market, cool looks, durable brake track
Cons: improper shoe adjustment creates sounds like small-mammal murder

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