Eighteen months ago, the first examples of Mavic’s redesigned ITS-4 freehub started to hit the trails. With two staggered pair of pawls, the new freehub design brought the French company quick 7.5-degree engagement while other changes were intended to address historically spotty reliability. A year and a half after receiving Mavic’s redesigned Crossmax ST trail wheelset, our pair has been on and off a number of bikes, adding a bit of flash but drawing no undesirable attention to themselves. Hit the jump to find out more about why the $800 STs have become trusted favorites.
While ‘just add tape’ tubeless rim designs have only gained market share since the Crossmax STs’ introduction, true UST rims have a lot to recommend them- especially to those who’d rather ride than fiddle. Sure, non-standard bead seats can work better with non-tubeless tires, but anyone who appreciates the reliability and durability of tubeless or tubeless-ready tires will have no problem getting tires to mount on the Mavics. In addition, as there are no holes piercing the 19mm (inside) rims’ outer wall, there’s no need for periodic tape refreshing (and no chance of mid-ride tape leaks).
The solid outer wall reportedly also makes for a stronger rim structure- and we’ve had zero trouble in that department. In fact, our set has never seen the business end of the included spoke wrench. While Tyler found the 1,590g wheels (26in- add about 150g for the 29er version) to be a bit flexy for his liking, I find them to be comfortable and have never wanted for more precision under my hard-riding 145lb. For a trail wheel, the Mavics do accelerate well- better than their weight would suggest.
The impression that the STs carry little of their weight at the rim 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’ (still reasonable) 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 48 points of 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.
And the area where Mavic had the most to prove is durability. While hub with sales as high as Mavics’ will have some failures, their freehubs’ reputation for quick wear and occasional howling was certainly earned. Happily, the ITS-4 Crossmax STs’ have largely been without trouble. Our pre-production rear hub did require a couple of adjustments early on (a wrench-cum-tire lever is provided and a mini tool will work in a pinch) and has spun smoothly and without play since. It’s not uncommon to hear the POP! of uneven pawl engagement from time to time- but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the hubs in the slightest. The hubs’ sound is on the soft end of the spectrum and pleasant- slightly quieter than but not unlike a DT Swiss freehub.
The Crossmax STs sit in the pleasant position of being not too anything. Neither too light nor too heavy, too wide nor to narrow, too cheap nor too dear. As an all-around “one wheel” for XC/trail riders, they’re pretty much ideal. The freehub engagement is quick without being drag-y or obnoxiously loud and our experience suggests that their durability is right up there with the best. The front hub works with 9mm QRs or 15mm thru axles while the rear will mount to 135mm QR and 135mm or 142mm x 12mm thru axle frames. Most importantly, once bedded in the Mavics have been the only wheelset that I haven’t had to so much as think about over two busy riding seasons. If, like many, you’ve turned away from Mavic wheelsets, it’s time to consider the brand again.