Review: Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Road Bike Wheel System
Mavic’s been slowly moving from just selling wheels to offering primarily complete wheel-and-tire systems on the road (it’ll be interesting to see if that ever shifts to the dirt), with their 2013 line only offering four standalone wheels out of the entire collection.
We’ve spent the summer on their Cosmic Carbone SLR carbon road wheels, which come wrapped with their Yksion front-and-rear-specific tires. The Cosmic Carbon SLR uses their R2R spoke layout, which cuts the number of individual spokes in half by running each one from one side of the wheel straight through the hub to the other side. Add in the fact that they’re carbon, and you end up with a pretty stiff, light wheel. This model line was also Mavic’s first general purpose aero wheelset, using a 52mm deep elliptical carbon fiber fairing but keeping an alloy rim bed and braking surface.
The upgrades over the two lower models are Exalith (versus the also-carbon-spoked SR) and carbon spokes (over the SLE). Move up from the SLR and you get into tubulars, making this model the top choice for those that don’t want to commit to tubies…
WEIGHTS, SPECS & DETAILS
The Cosmic Carbone SLR wheelset comes complete with the wheels, tires, tubes, valve extender, skewers, computer spoke magnet, truing tools and hub adjustment tool. The “Cosmic” logos are the side are reflective. Very reflective.
The Exalith brake track-equipped wheels come with warnings and specific instructions for use. First, you must use their brake pads (included) and you must put the wheels on the bike in the right direction. Second, they take a bit of break in time. Not much, but you should probably do a fairly safe, slow ride the first time out on them. In my experience, braking was fine straight out of the box for a solo ride in the country. A tightly packed, fast paced group ride is not the place to smash the champagne bottle.
The secret of Exalith is a combination of three things: Textured braking surface, special compound pads and the Exalith treatment itself. It’s a hardening process that penetrates into the alloy rim’s surface, and Mavic says it’ll last for thousands of miles before showing any wear. Ours still look brand new after a full summer under three different riders.
Small caps cover the R2R carbon spokes. The rear wheel comes with an unfortunate sticker detailing its build and the required use of a spacer with Shimano/SRAM 10-speed cassettes. It’s unfortunate because it doesn’t peel off cleanly. Fortunately, the problem disappears when you hide it with a cassette.
Here’s the spoke magic from the inside.
Most of Mavic’s wheels use their incredibly easy external adjustment point. The included tool doubles as a tire lever, so there’s no harm in throwing it in your seat pack or pocket for mid-ride adjustments. It quickly loosens or tightens the bearing preload and takes up any wiggle. Brilliantly simple.
The wheels come equipped with Mavic’s Yksion GripLink and PowerLink front and rear tires. They’re a dual compound tire with a slight textured surface on the edges to improve cornering and a smooth center section.
Actual weights with tires and tubes are 1100g front and 1260g rear, adding up to 2360g. Mavic’s claimed weight is 2205g for wheels and tires, so perhaps that’s excluding the tubes. Claimed weights for just the wheels are 725g F / 870g R = 1595g set.
Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone series, with the exception of the new CXR 80, don’t lay down the excessive aerodynamics research that’s coming out from virtually every major wheel brand these days.
Rather, they’re a basic aero shape that provides something better than a standard box section or shallow curved rim without paying too high a price in the crosswinds. They feel plenty quick during both acceleration and in a straight line. Just as importantly, they hold up to full on, out of the saddle sprints without squiggling around under my 180lb-before-any-gear body.
I could dive hard into a corner (I tested them on a Parlee Z5, they’re shown here on Evan’s BH G5) without hearing or feeling any brake rub.
The braking: Here’s where the wheels shine, but not without some potential issues. When I first installed them, the braking squealed like a screeched like a wounded dog. Mavic’s rep suggested putting some duct tape or similar on the backs of the pads to remove any vibration that could be caused by play between them and the carrier.
This only made the problem worse. However, oddly, once I removed the tape, they worked just fine inside the new SRAM Red calipers. Since that, they’ve been as quiet as they should be. Which is to say, they make a sweet, sweet bzzzzwooooo sound. If you’ve heard any energy source powering down sound effect in a movie, it’s like a softer version of that. I love it. More importantly, they offer the best braking I’ve ever felt on a road bike.
The tires: Perhaps I haven’t ridden enough different tires, but these are among the first I’ve used that actually made me think “wow”. They roll very well, grip great and, well, just ride fantastically smooth. Mavic sells them aftermarket, too, and they’re phenomenal.
The only improvement I’d make is simply including some tubes with 80mm threaded valve stems in the kit. Valve extenders suck.
My call is if you’re looking for a do everything aero set of wheels that includes some excellent tires and solid braking performance, these are a fair deal at $2,499 for the system.
Mavic time and again makes predictable wheelsets. Like any company,
they’re their record may not be perfect, but, for the most part, you can be confident that a Mavic wheelset is one of quality, dependability, and one that’ll rank well among its peers. The Cosmic Carbone SLR is no exception
To preface, I have been testing this wheelset on my BH G5. I have ridden the wheels on five rides for a total mileage of about 175. In Greensboro, NC, where terrain remains mainly flat, this wheel is awesome. I don’t have wind-tunnel data handy to prove it but, above 20 miles an hour, these wheels motor. They feel like rotating razor blades through the air – keep hands and fingers away. Seriously, the rim-to-rim, one-piece spokes are astoundingly thin and have edges that could probably serve as blades in some sort of food processor. These wheels reward speeds in upper teens and beyond. I like that.
For my one ride in the mountains my experience was not as bewitching. Obviously, the aero benefits get dropped on the climbs. Again, obvious, but compared to some of the 1200-1300g wheelsets I’ve been testing, the SLR’s roughly 1600 grams meant I wasn’t as spritely billy goating up the steeps. On the backside, though, there are usually good downhills. I managed to discover a couple. I felt confident with the handling of the wheel/tire combo and their lateral stiffness allowed impressive entry and exit speeds from the corners.
What really makes this wheel stand out though is the Exalith braking surfaces. It is far superior to just bare aluminum and has a profound effect on stopping ability. One additional perk is that it sounds like a rocket is launching as the brake pads come into contact with the rim. It does a lot on the intimidation front because no one wants to fool with a rider from NASA! Paired with Yksion tires creates a stealthily and mean looking all-black appearance making it hard for this wheelset not to look like a champ on any bike. Black rims, black tires, black spokes, black hubs, all black everything. FTW!