Mavic's baby Crossmax shares high performance DNA in a more wallet friendly form
Now well into its third decade of development, Mavic Crossmax should be a name familiar to most riders. The latest Crossmax range consists of three models, all of which are available in either 27.5″ or 29er versions. We’ve been putting the entry model, the Mavic Crossmax Elite (29er version) to the test.
Personally speaking, I’ve always lusted after Mavic’s Crossmax wheels ever since clapping eyes on them during the first Olympic Cross Country MTB race. Way back at Atlanta in 1996. At that time, they were the first mountain bike specific wheel built as a system. One in which the rim, hubs and spokes were designed to work perfectly together, as well as having differing designs for both front and rear wheels.
Brothers from the same mother
Put the Elite and its more expensive Pro stablemate next to each other and barring the obvious spoke differences, there is little to tell them apart. The Elite shares the same familiar and shapely Maxtal aluminium rim. Mavic use the clever ISM4D milling process to pare off any superfluous material from the rim, leaving just the important bits. This gives the rim its recognizable, organic ‘thick/thin’ shape. The Elite’s rim features standard spoke drilling (so requires the use of a rim tape). Whereas the more expensive Pro gets proprietary spoke drilling enabling a tubeless setup without the need for rim tape. Mavic has increased the internal width to 22mm too.
The Crossmax Elite are sold as tubeless ready and Mavic provide valves, sealant and rim tape in the package (the wheels come with a pair of tubeless ready Mavic Pulse Pro tyres). Setting up the Elite tubeless proved to be a doddle. As a test I ran tyres from several different manufacturers and all seated quickly and properly on the hookless rim. Despite Mavic stating the rim’s 22mm width will work with tyres up to 2.5”, performance proved best with narrower 2.0”-2.2” XC tyres. It pinched my go-to Maxxis Ardent Race 2.20” into a more rounded profile, but one that didn’t interfere too much with the tyres handling characteristics. Though the rim is a little narrower than others, the secure tyre seat means the Elite is perfectly happy running with lower pressures. Although be aware that large volume tyres tend to fold a little easier.
So how do they ride?
Okay, firstly they don’t share the bonkers stiff and direct ride of the Pro version. This we can put down to the more regular steel spokes of the Elite, rather than the less forgiving aluminium versions of the Pro. However this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if racing isn’t your number one priority. This more forgiving, slightly softer ride characteristic makes them less fatigue inducing on longer jaunts. I managed off-road rides of sixty miles plus with no undue problems. It isn’t all good news though as the Crossmax Elite does become a little vague under hard cornering. This is most apparent in its 29er guise when it can struggle to hold its line.
The other aspect I felt is a little lacking is the lack of immediacy in acceleration. Since I’m a bit of an XC racer at heart, I really like my wheels to respond as soon as I apply power. With the Elite I felt a little bit of wind up when really stomping on the pedals, almost as if the spokes need a minute to process the fact they should be driving forward.
Should you consider a pair?
In consideration, where the Elite’s hold their own in comparison to other similar priced wheels is in their sheer reliability. After several months on this particular pair, plus riding a set at Les Gets on some pretty inappropriate tracks, I can attest to their robust build quality. Looking at them now, they are still looking and performing as good as new. Spoke tension has remained impressively uniform, the rims are running true; even the bearings are still silky smooth. And all this is despite my best efforts to neglect and abuse them as much as possible.
Furthermore, if you do manage to snap a spoke or damage a hub internal, the good news is spares are readily available and not too expensive. Whilst weight weenies might baulk at losing the weight war to similar priced competitors such as Stan’s Crest mk3 wheelset. Personally the fact the Elites are so dependable is way more important than the 100 grams they give away. Heck, they even look great!
The Mavic Crossmax Elite is a wheel that you can certainly put your trust in. Dogged reliability and a comfortable, forgiving ride makes it a set of wheels suitable for a wide range of riders. Furthermore, Mavic's creation of the full wheel 'system' should be applauded; strap on a cassette and some rotors and you're ready to go!