Wind tunnel testing has changed the conversation about wheel aerodynamics. It’s no longer enough to look at the wheel. You’ve got to look at the tire on the wheel. Change a tire and you can change your speed. It’s maddening.
Mavic has been touting its WTS (Wheel Tire System) products and on the road, they’ve proven to be stunningly fast. They’ve taken the same concept of mating a particular wheel with a particular tire to give riders optimal performance.
The Crossmax XL WTS pairs a surprisingly lightweight wheel with an aggressive aimed squarely at riders who will aren’t afraid of pedaling uphill but plan to attack the descents. With the Crossmax, Mavic has remained agnostic on the question of wheel size. The wheel is available in 26, 27.5 and 29-inch diameters. All three sizes use 24 Zircal spokes per wheel. While Mavic has some wheels that use centerlock rotors, the Crossmax are six-bolt, a system in which most users have inherently more faith.
Mavic is just as agnostic in axle type; you can choose between 9, 15 or 20mm up front and 9 or 12mm and 135 or 142mm in the rear. Flexibility might be in their articles of incorporation.
The rim is UST (Universal System Tubeless) and the tire is UST-ready. If there’s an easier way to mount a tubeless tire to a wheel, I’ve not encountered it. That inner rim shape makes mounting the tires a process that requires no advanced machinery and allows an initial seat for the tire that enables you to skip the compressor and use a CO2 cartridge to pump the tire up the first time; I’ve even heard from a friend that he managed to use a pump for that first inflation. The Crossmax proved to hold air better than any other tire/wheel system I’ve ridden.
Mavic lists an impressive weight of 1660 grams for the 26-inch wheels, but the 29-inch set just 120g more, at 1780g. The tires weigh in at nearly as much—1740g (870g per tire), for a total claimed weight of 3520g. When I weighed the wheel set, I got a total of 3490g. Some of that additional weight carried an additional benefit. A common experience for me at the end of a ride is to see the tires sweating milk due to the sidewall grazing the wheels suffer in the rocky terrain I ride. The Crossmax Quest tires with Guard +, which is an aramid fiber that protects the whole of the casing, rather effectively I can attest.
This is not an especially wide rim, at just 23mm. Despite the fact that these aren’t as wide as the latest stuff to hit the market, I was able to run pressure in the low 20s without the sidewalls collapsing under hard cornering. More about the tires in a sec.
My primary wheel set is a pair of carbon fiber Roval Control Trail SLs. There’s enough side-to-side flex in those wheels that when I got on the Crossmax, I noticed a bit more precision in my line when cornering hard. Of course, the increase in weight (the Crossmax WST weighs a few hundred grams more than my Rovals) meant that the bike was just a bit harder to turn in. I didn’t really object as the Crossmax tire bit so well on terrain that ranged from Saharan to Hero that it proved to be one of the most versatile tires I’ve ridden. The weight and bite of the Quest tires can be attributed, in part, to the fact that the tires are 2.35-inches wide. Not the sort of tire you’d run while racing cross country, but rubber this wide comes equipped with fun the way kittens are packaged with cute.
Suggested retail for the Crossmax XL WST is $1035, which is a fair chunk of change, but given what some other high-zoot wheels are going for, given these come with a terrific set of tires and are tubeless ready, the value is as apparent as a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck. (Unless you don’t drink wine, in which case we might want to talk about water bills in the Deep South.)
I’ve ridden lighter wheels, wider rims and tires with bigger blocks. The Crossmax XL WST are as trustworthy as a Boy Scout, as fun as your first rock concert.