Though they get relatively little attention in a time of freakishly light aluminum and freakishly expensive carbon fiber wheelsets, Mavic really do deserve a look when shopping for mountain wheels. Why? The company that practically invented the factory-built wheelset category (to say nothing of standardizing the tubeless interface) has a long track record of building darn solid wheels. Yes, the company’s freehub bushings have had a tendency to wear quickly in dusty conditions, but with a bit of hub love we know a number of riders who’ve been riding the same Mavic trail wheelsets for the past six or seven years.
This June, we were sent early samples of Mavic’s revised-for-2012 trail wheelset: the Crossmax ST. Beyond the de rigeur annual weight reduction (to an actual 1,605g in a 15QR front / 135mm rear configuration), Mavic have redesigned their freehub to wear better over time and engage more quickly. Five months later and with the STs now hitting stores, how have they fared? Hit the jump to find out!
Though ‘tubeless ready’ wheelsets and tires are quickly eclipsing their true UST-certified equivalents, maintenance-averse riders may be better served with a tire tubeless setup where there’s no tape to damage with tire levers and tires will hold air long after sealant has dried up. With no spoke holes penetrating their rims’ tire bed, Mavic feel that they are able to build a stiffer, stronger rim for a given weight- and create an airtight chamber with the addition of a UST tire. The Zircal (aluminum) spokes’ nipples thread directly into the rim’s outer wall, which is machined between the spokes to minimize weight and make the Crossmax STs accelerate more quickly than their 1,605g weight would suggest. While the STs inside width has gone from 18mm to 19mm for 2012, Mavic have not taken this redesign as an opportunity to incorporate still wider rims in line with current trends, and that will put some riders off. My own experience has been that a good number of tires just seem to grip better and feel more stable when mounted on wider rims- that said others don’t seem to benefit noticeably.
The impression that the STs carry little of their weight at the rims seems validated by the chunky hubs. Though Mavic do not provide individual component weights, it stands to reason that a good deal of the STs’ (competitively low) weight sits at their center, where it does little harm. With their new ITS-4 freehub, Mavic have split engagement between two staggered pair of pawls. Doing so allows for a technical trail- and drop-friendly 7.5 degree engagement, maintains decently-sized pawls and teeth, and spreads wear between four pawls and spring assemblies. It also means that, at any given time, only two (rather than the old design’s three) pawls are engaged. Happily, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pawl failure- and the presence of an independent backup pair is comforting when far from home. Also for 2012, Mavic claim have improved their hubs’ seals with an eye toward improving longevity. Only time will tell if that has been successful.
In practice, the fast new engagement is certainly nice- though I have experienced the POP! of uneven engagement on a number of occasions. This suggests that the new 17mm Monobloc axle could still do with a bit of stiffening- but occasional partial engagement hasn’t proved a liability in terms of durability on these wheels or those from other brands with the same issue.
Speaking of flex, Tyler and others have found the STs a bit flexier than they’d prefer in ruts and on rough descents. At 145lb, I found the STs comfortable rather than imprecise. It’s something for bigger or more aggressive riders to keep in mind, however. For them, the Crossmax SX might be a better choice.
Over our five months together so far, the rear hub has loosened twice- though the revised adjuster is easy to tweak with a mini tool (and a bearing adjuster-cum-tire lever is provided with the wheels). Nine speed XT and XTR cassettes both required two .5mm spacers behind them before the lockring would engage- don’t stray too far from the shop before mounting yours. Keep in mind, however, that these are pre-production wheels and that manufacturing tolerances may well have been adjusted by now.
At $800, Mavic has plenty of trail competition in the mid-weight trail wheel market. An additional $54 buys in to Mavic’s two year MP3 no-fault replacement program- something no other wheelset at this price can boast. The brand’s funky Zircal spokes have proven themselves over time and are not as difficult to find as they once were. While the ITS-4 freehub is relatively unproven, Mavic have been well aware of their hubs’ reputation for premature wear and are keen to put that reputation behind them. If the number of Mavic Crossmaxes currently in the field are any indication, the rest of the wheel should hold up well. For the truing-averse rider looking for a competitively light wheelset for everyday riding, with the chops for both occasional racing and lift-serviced days, the Crossmax STs look to be a solid choice. We’re planning on putting many more miles on Mavic’s ITS-4 hubs and will report back on their performance over time.