04 January 2010

bikefix Initial Review: Mavic Crossmax SX wheelset

These Rims have changed the mountain wheel paradigm! Yeah, I said it. These wheels have shuffled the criteria which I use to consider buying wheelsets. I’m not a downhiller or an all-mountain guy, so I had never used a wheel with rims substantially wider than your standard Mavic 819. I understood that wider rims give the tire a wider curvature, and hence more stability and traction, but these types of wheels were all really heavy, and I usually have to climb up everything that I plan on riding down. So I never rode any. Understanding it, and feeling it, are two different things though.

When Mavic introduced the 2009 Crossmax SX wheelset and it weighed 1755g (less than 819’s built up to DT 240 hubs) I knew I had to try them. As I've mentioned in some other reviews, I spent part of the summer “beef-a-fying” my 6.5 inch trail bike (Maverick ML8) to make it an even better descender. These wheels fit the bill perfectly- light enough to climb with, but wider and stiffer than normal XC wheels for more control on the downhills. I was shocked by the difference I felt on a 2.4 inch tire. Not only did the tires really start to shine but the cornering was much more planted. I could push the tires closer to their limits in every way with these wheels. Over the course of last summer I did a number of brutal rides with these wheels and every time I came away thinking about how great that extra 2mm of width is. But it also got me thinking- scheming even. The search for other wide wheels (that can go tubeless) began. At Interbike this fall, I found two others that I plan on buying and reviewing: Easton's new Havens and the absurdly priced DT Swiss EXC 1550’s. That is enough about them till their reviews. I don’t want to steal Mavic’s thunder after all.

Another noticeable and beneficial feature of the Crossmax SX’s is their new freewheel design, which Mavic calls ITS-4. It is basically two sets of two pawls that are out of sync with each other. This means a much quicker engagement than most hubs without resorting to overly small pawls or ratchets. I can feel the difference immediately when pedaling after coasting. The quick engagement can be beneficial in technical situations where you find yourself needing to apply power to the wheels ASAP. However, I can count maybe only four or five times where the quick engagement made a noticeable difference. It’s a cool feature and like having it, but doesn’t make much of a difference most of the time. I can see it making a much bigger difference for freeriding and such, where acceleration-on-demand is imperative to pull-off some of the stunts those guys try.

I’ll admit that I don’t have the mileage (250 hard miles or so) on the SX’s to tell you about their longevity, but my experience with Mavic’s wheel durability has always been good. Other than that, this is a wheelset that many people should look at for their trail bikes. There are lighter wheelsets out there, but I routinely see people on narrower, yet heavier and weaker wheels. The SX will enhance any rider’s technical abilities, especially when the bike points down. Heavier folks (180lbs-ish and up) in particular might benefit from the extra stiffness. The Crossmax SX's retail for $900.00.




Anonymous said...

Hi- what is the external width of these wheels?

bikefix said...

Sorry- Mavic only list the inside width (21mm)... That's really the dimension that matters as far as tire footprint is concerned. marc