Words: Ben Winder
Photos: Jeremie Reuiller
Last week I was up in the beautiful mountains of La Clusaz, France, to check out the new Mavic Crossmax Enduro wheels. La Clusaz is in the heart of the Alps, which holds up for some true mountain biking and is an excellent proving ground for the new ‘enduro’ wheel.
Mavic have been making wheels for what seems an eternity, they’ve been around since 1889, developing their first MTB rim in 1985, and they’ve become one of the largest MTB wheel companies in the world. With all that experience gained they’ve finally decided to branch out and new for 2013/14 they give us the Enduro Crossmax – Wheel Tire System. Yes that’s right, not only are Mavic making wheels they have branched out into tyres too! This ‘system’ (as in the wheel and tyre) has been specifically designed for enduro racing and they’ve had great feedback from enduro racers Jerome Clementz and Anne-Caroline Chausson, who have apparently been working very closely with the team at Mavic to ensure they have the best product for enduro racing.
The idea started at the drawing board (like every good idea does), where the team decided exactly what attributes they wanted the system to have. According to Mavic, they agreed that front and rear wheels need to be different, ultimately because they have two very different jobs, and this is where they established what they wanted from each wheel:
And of course on top of all that they needed to make something lightweight and strong. Mavic had all these things to achieve, and produced a wheel and tyre that on first impressions does a very good job of ticking the boxes…
The new Crossmax wheel is available in 26" and 650b, but there is no 29", the reason being that the Mavic team think that enduro races will be predominately fought on 26" and 650b wheels.
Mavic have chosen to make the new wheels from aluminium instead of carbon: they don’t believe that there is enough of a reason to start using carbon. To save some extra weight Mavic use inner-spoke milling. There isn’t too much of an issue with weight as these wheels aren’t heavy by any stretch of the imagination, tipping the scales at XXXX.
The spokes are mounted in such a way that there isn’t any need to drill all the way through the rim, there are 24 straight pull spokes, which are cross-laced, which Mavic say is for stiffness and comfort. As Mavic are producing a tyre for a specific wheel, they are able to make the two work together. The rim width is 21c and the tyre is a 2.4, which allows the tyre to take the ideal shape.
The rear wheel spokes are mounted in the same way as on the front to keep the strength of the rim. There are only 20 spokes, however they are laced in Mavic’s ‘Isopulse’ system, which is supposed to keep strength under a lot of force.
The tyre is made up of a very soft, slow rebound 40a rubber compound (that's really rather soft) and is tubeless ready. The tread pattern has a lot of space for mud clearance with the outer knobs raised quite high to allow for a smoother transition whilst cornering. We were able to ride this tyre in a couple of different locations, and I found it to perform extremely well in mud, on slick roots and in dust too. So that’s a thumbs up. It held itself on corners, and under heavy braking in some not-too-friendly environments.
Rear: Roam XL
The rear is dual compound: On the inside is a firm 60a and on the outer is slightly softer 50a, to offer a little more grip in the corners. The rear tyre has been designed with pedalling in mind and for that reason it has much shallower knobs, which when combined with the harder compound makes for a faster rolling tyre.
After watching the presentation of the new wheels, I was itching to get out riding and see what they performed like out on the trail. The tracks out in La Clusaz are far from the safe tracks around my base in the Forest Of Dean, to put it lightly. I started by taking the loose corners pretty easily, but as the day progressed I found myself letting off the brakes more and more.
The front tyre was giving me huge amounts of confidence. Even when I found myself going too hot into a section, I could get away with some heavy breaking on somewhat sketchy surfaces. However, I found my back end getting out of shape all too often, and the roots my front tyre was gliding over, the rear ended up sliding off to the side. I know that the tyre’s purpose is for racing, but in the mud and rocks of, say, the opening Enduro World Series, not to mention pretty much any UK Gravity Enduro round, I can’t help but think that something more substantial in the grip department may have been a better choice. At the end of the day there’s nothing stopping you using a Charge on both ends of the bike.
In the drier conditions later in our ride the rear tyre felt incredible, it didn’t have any troubles hitting dusty corners and the speed it allowed me to carry was phenomenal (well, it was pretty exciting at the time).
Stay tuned as we'll have a full test of the wheel and tyre set up at a later date. First impressions are good and nobody can doubt Mavic's ability to produce a top wheel, but as far as the tyres go only time will tell.