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The original Mavic Crossmax ad depicted a silhouetted rider launching an impossibly high cliff. He may have been wearing a lycra helmet cover. He most certainly had v-brakes. The intention was to illustrate the unrivaled durability of these new race wheels, a stronger, burlier version of the venerable Crossmax.
Several decades later, the French company still endeavors to combine low weight and strength with the Crossmax Enduro wheel system.
Equipped with a pair of bright yellow wheels and their corresponding Charge and Roam tires, we set about determining whether Mavic’s enduro race-worthy wheels could handle daily abuse on the trails.
An unconventional approach
As detailed in our initial impressions of the Crossmax Enduro release, the wheels feature 24 straight-pull Zircal aluminum spokes on the front and a mere 20 spokes out back. Similarly, the Charge tire is 2.4 inches wide, while it’s rear-specific counterpart, the Roam, is 2.3 inches (on 26-inch wheels).
The trend continues with rim design: the front rim is 21mm wide and the rear is 19mm. Not surprisingly, this all adds up to a light rear wheel. In fact, at 835g, the rear wheel is only 10g heavier than the 825g front — again, weights are for the 26-inch diameter that we tested; 27.5-inch wheels and tires are also available.
If the buck stops at your workbench’s parts scale, then hold onto your shop apron. The Charge and Roam tires weigh an impressive 950g and 850g, respectively, thanks to UST dual-ply casings.
The whole shebang will cost you $1,000, including tires, which is fair, considering that DT Swiss’ Spline EX 1501 wheelset costs approximately $1,060 and weighs 1,650g for the pair (don’t sweat the math, the Crossmax pair is 1,660, again 26 inches). But the DTs don’t include tires.
Enduro race, enduro wheels — irresistible
According to conventional wisdom, one should take a few easy rides to shake out a new component. Well, we couldn’t resist.
When the opportunity presented itself at a press camp hosted by Stages Power Meters, we hooked up the Enduro Crossmax wheels and tied on a number for Winter Park, Colorado’s Enduro World Series race.
Dropping into the mountain’s roughest, fastest tracks, the Mavic’s stiffness was apparent, and pleasing. Unfortunately, a few days of rattling left us with loose hubs. We remedied this with Mavic’s hub spanner — included with the wheels — but the break-in period lasted beyond the Winter Park weekend. Eventually things settled out, but for a few weeks, we made sure to pack the tool for each ride.
The race was a bit unkind to the new yellow wheels. We left the weekend with a dent in the rear rim and a slight kink in one of the rear spokes that probably contributed to the wheel’s wobble. Thankfully, the tubeless tire held and the wheel was easily trued.
Beyond the course tape
God save us all when people start squirreling away their enduro race wheelsets in protective bags, saving them for race day, riding “training” wheels on off weekends. Yes, the Crossmax Enduro is intended to perform on a race course, but we weren’t going to let it off the hook at that.
As we noticed in Winter Park, these are capable wheels when things get ragged, but one understated advantage of Mavic’s design is how well the Crossmax can pedal. Yes, the tires are heavy, but the rear tread rolls fast, which is great for fire road climbs. Plus, the wheels’ stiffness makes punchy accelerations over small technical moves more doable.
The Roam rear tire design also affects how the wheels handle descents. Combined with the confident, driving feel of the square-shaped Charge up front, the round-shaped Roam skipped around and got loose pretty often.
Once we adapted our riding style to accommodate, it was very fun and fast.
Despite its seemingly impervious casing, we managed to puncture the rear tire on some sharp rubble in the high country. The ride continued with a tube, but we wished the sealant had worked.
Moab, the final challenge
The exclamation point on our summer season was a trip to Big Mountain Enduro’s final race in Moab. Over the course of two days of hard racing on the most unforgiving terrain, the Mavics delivered.
The tires stood up to everything from jagged red rock to snow to mud. The wheels held true and gave us the confidence to pick straight lines through rumpled terrain. And the hubs? Well, we did have to stop once on a transfer stage to snug up the rear. Perhaps the threads could use a little Loctite to shorten the break-in period.
One long-term tester did break two spokes, on separate occasions, and also found that the rear hub came loose periodically.
It’s satisfying to see that Mavic’s enduro race wheels haven’t strayed too far into the realm of cross country-style specialization that renders equipment useless on the average trail ride. Plus, we’re spared the cheesy cliff-jumping ads this time around.
Pros: Competitive weight, stiff wheels are good wheels, easy tubeless setup, solid tire design, hubs can accommodate nearly all axle designs.
Cons: Initial break-in woes, keep an eye on those hubs, tires wear quickly, proprietary wheel parts may give you headaches if your bike shop isn’t well stocked, broken spokes during long-term testing.
The Bottom Line: A versatile, high-performance wheelset with unusual but effective design features. We’d suggest that rough riders get Mavic’s $80 MP3 Protection Plan for peace of mind.