We tested the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate, one of the best World Cup wheels in the world

Mountain bike 14 jul. 2021 17:07 Migue A.

The Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate are the high-end wheels with which the French company aims to regain the leadership they have had for many years in this sector. We have had the opportunity to test them.

Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate, a clear evolution in the search for performance

Taking a superficial glance at these wheels, you might not realise that these are Mavic wheels. The French company has always manufactured its wheels with a very particular technology and appearance, setting itself completely apart from the competition. But in the case of these Crossmax SL Ultimate wheels the innovations are not so visual and aesthetically they follow the current trend.

The first thing that strikes you about these carbon wheels is their generous asymmetric construction profile with 25mm internal width. But the rims hide much more.

The design is based on what Mavic calls adaptive laminate technology and consists of reinforcing the areas close to the spoke holes with more layers of carbon fibre and reducing the thickness in the intermediate areas.

With this layering technology Mavic claims that its rims offer greater comfort and vertical vibration absorption and also achieve a weight of 340 grams per rim. An extraordinary weight and even more if we take into account its internal width of 25mm.

The development of these rims took 2 years between laboratory tests and field tests carried out by the Orbea-KMC team.



The wheels are mounted with 24 spokes both front and rear. They are flat steel spokes with double butted spokes. Thanks to the design of the hubs, the spokes do not touch each other when crossing each other, which avoids possible noises when they receive heavy stresses, either from the drivetrain or during braking. Interestingly, all the spokes are of the same length, which makes it easy to replace them, and the operation is simple as the hubs are designed so that neither the disc nor the cassette needs to be removed when changing a spoke.

As for the hubs, the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate is fitted with the new Infinity hubs which, in addition to being lighter, increase lateral stiffness and power transmission thanks to greater spoke clearance.
The rear hub uses the Instant Drive 360 freewheel system, with two ratchet-type locks for reliable gearing that is light and also almost instantaneous, as it engages in just 9°.

An interesting detail is the QRM self-adjusting bearing system, which automatically adjusts its preload so that the bearings rotate perfectly without increasing play over time.

The hubs are only available in boost version, 15x110 at the front and 12x148 at the rear. The three hubs currently used in MTB are available: Sram XD, Shimano HG and Shimano Micro Spline.
The discs can be mounted with 6 bolts or Center Lock.



With the purchase of the wheels, a tape and valve kit, two spare spokes for each wheel, a multifunctional spanner and wheel covers are supplied.



New for the 2021 Mavic carbon wheel range is the extension of the Mavic Care programme. If the user registers the wheels on the website within 60 days of purchase, they will enjoy a lifetime warranty.

First contact

When we received the wheels, the first thing that attracted our attention, apart from their light weight, was the feeling of overall quality and good workmanship. The rims have a striking asymmetrical shape. This makes the spoke alignment more symmetrical, thus balancing the tension that the spokes have on both sides and achieving greater stiffness and better performance. They have an aesthetic layer of unidirectional carbon.

A common feature in almost all wheels, but being Mavic wheels it is worth mentioning, is that the rims have holes in the inner sidewall, being necessary to use tape to mount them. By the way, we found this tape supplied by Mavic to be of great quality.



The hubs also show good design work, with the spoke anchors designed to be easily replaced without disassembling anything else. Certain parts of the wings have also been mechanised to eliminate unnecessary material and reduce weight.



The sound of the freewheel is clear and precise, as in any quality hub, and you can tell from the type of sound that we are dealing with a ratchet type system. It is not a strident sound, although we know that the type and quantity of lubrication used has a great influence on this.

The hub can be disassembled by hand for maintenance and we can appreciate the simplicity of the system. As moving parts between the core and the hub body we only find a spring and one side of the ratchet. The other side is fixed to the hub body. We liked this simplicity and it seems to be a reliable and durable system.

Before fitting the tyres we weighed them on our scales. With the tape and valves already fitted, it came to 1419g.

The internal shape of the rim helps a lot when it comes to filling the tyres and they can even be filled with a foot pump. After mounting discs and cassette we set out to put them to the test.

World Cup-level performance

It has already been said many times that the wheels are possibly the component that can change the behaviour of a bike the most, and in this case we reaffirm it.

The Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate gives the bike a more than palpable reactivity right from the start. Of course the bike accelerates more easily thanks to the lightness of the set-up, but it also increases the ease of handling in difficult terrain.

In situations where you have to move the bike with agility, such as in twisty corners or bumpy areas where you have to be very precise, the Crossmax help a lot and we notice that it takes less effort to get the bike where we want it to go.
When braking you also notice that there is less inertia, giving you fantastic control.

But lightness is not everything in a good wheel and the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate stand out a lot in terms of stiffness. We have already mentioned that the design of the hubs has been carefully studied in order to, in combination with the asymmetry of the rims, balance the rigidity in order to improve performance.

In addition, the adaptive lamination used in its rims means that, while a carbon rim usually has a very high stiffness index, in this case the performance is outstanding.

With both suspensions locked out, it's amazing how it feels to pedal standing up with this set of wheels. Twisting on the pedals you only feel forward and acceleration, not a trace of unwanted flex.

The stiffness of the Crossmax is also evident at high speeds, especially on very rough terrain. Where line accuracy is compromised due to the frequency of impacts, the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate gives us out-of-the-ordinary control, making the bike easier to handle and allowing us to reach higher speeds in certain places without fear of losing control.



We carried out our tests with 2.2" tyres. And in combination with the 25mm inner width of the rim it gives a lot of stability and allows us to ride at low pressures without fear of deformation or rim flats. Although the rims are suitable for tyres up to 2.4", we would prefer a little more rim width for this combination.

Conclusions about the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate

After having been able to enjoy and test these magnificent wheels for a while, we can say without a doubt that they are among the top wheels on the market today. After a few years in which Mavic had perhaps lost some ground to its competitors, with these wheels it shows that it can once again fight for the leadership in the wheel market.

The price of these wheels is 1850€, and although it is a very high price, we are talking about an elite product and if we look at the prices of the top of the range of the most competitive brands in the wheel sector, we can say that it is a very competitive price.

The new Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate is ready to make its mark and consolidate its position as the benchmark of a legendary brand. 

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