Mavic's CrossMax remains a solid wheel choice thanks to a durable, reliable build.
Mavic offers three tiers in its mountain bike trail wheel range and the CrossMax XL is the budget model. Like its siblings, it’s built around a 30mm asymmetric Maxtal alloy rim, which is SUP welded and machined, the difference is it doesn’t get the ISM inter spoke milling process, so is slightly heavier than more expensive models.
This double wall rim does feature Mavic’s innovative Fore technology, which involves drilling just the inside wall and threading in an oversized alloy insert into which a conventional spoke is then inserted. Eliminating the hole in the rim bed means you can run tubeless tyres (or regular tubes for that matter) without needing rim tape. It also makes the rim stronger, allowing Mavic to run fewer spokes (24 front and rear in this case) and cut weight from the rotating mass where it matters the most. On the scales the CrossMax XL wheelset is about 150g more than claimed, but it’s still fairly light in its class – it undercuts the similarly-priced Spank OOzy 395+ wheelset I tested earlier this year by nearly 200g.
The rim gets Mavic’s Black Shield treatment, which is designed to protect the rim against impacts and scratches. It’s a sort of double hit of anodising and paint, and on the E-Deemax wheels we tested previously, it was pretty hard wearing, but on these Crossmax XL wheels I’ve noticed a few little nicks and areas where the treatment has worn ever so slightly.
Mavic previously used a conventional pawl system in its freehubs, but the CrossMax XL features the new Drive 360 freewheel technology. This has a spring-loaded double ratchet, which is a little like the system used by DT Swiss, but it only has 15º of engagement. The freehub produces a nice purr, but there is quite a bit of lag before it picks up. So why bother? The ratchet ring mechanism is just more durable than using individual pawls, and that makes a big difference on an e-bike, or when you’re putting a lot of torque through the drivetrain.
You can buy the CrossMax XL with either a Shimano HG, Shimano Micro Spline or SRAM XD compatible driver body – they all cost the same. Both 29in and 27.5in are offered and you can also mix and match sizes if you have a mullet bike.
At the heart of this wheelset is Mavic’s new Infinity hub. This uses sealed cartridge bearings with labyrinth sealing and slotted flanges, which on the rear means you can hook a replacement spoke without having to remove the cassette body. Spare spokes are included in the box and the great thing about this design is they’re all the same length. My only issue with bladed spokes is they can twist out of alignment during truing – normally you’d hold the spoke, but a few of the spokes on the test wheels still seemed to wander off-line.
I tweaked the rear once when it first arrived, but overall these test wheels have remained relatively true despite me slamming the rim a few times. They’re not quite as lively as previous Mavic wheels I’ve tested, but as an entry-level option I think they’re excellent value. There’s no messy tape, so setting up a tubeless tyre is a doddle, and you don’t have to worry about the tape pulling to one side or not sealing properly.
If you’ve bought an entry-level trail bike in the last year or so and are looking to upgrade the factory hoops, you won’t go far wrong with the CrossMax XL. You may not notice a massive improvement in ride feel or hub pick-up, but they’ll be easier set up and bring increased reliability.