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Sea Otter tech: Mavic debuts 29er wheelsets

  • By Caley Fretz
  • Published Apr. 20, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM EDT

Mavic has debuted three brand new 29er wheelsets, the full line of big wheels wheels in their range. The Crossmax SLR, Crossmax ST, and Crossride sets all offer up Mavic’s signature system-engineered approach to wheels, as well as competitive weights and a good price spread.

The launch comes almost a year after Mavic’s original intended release date, following a number of design challenges, particularly with the lightweight SLR set.

Availability for the Crossmax SLR 29 is set for mid June, while the Crossmax ST and Crossride won’t be hitting shops until August.

Crossmax SLR
At a claimed 1620 grams, the Crossmax SLR is competitive in weight with other high-end aluminum 29er sets, and hits a reasonable price point of $1000 as well. The top-of-the-line SLR was also the most difficult to engineer, according to Mavic. Extruding a larger version of the 26er rim and building it up with longer spokes was inadequate, dropping stiffness by more than 30% and causing problems with broken spokes and poor ride quality.

“Simply upsizing the 26-inch wheels just didn’t do the job,” explained Mavic communications man Zack Vestal.

To solve these problems, Mavic increased size of the aluminum Zircal spokes, adding about 1 gram of material per spoke, and shot-peened the rear drive-side spokes to further increase strength. To deal with the increased spoke strength, which allowed higher tensions and thus more stress on the rims, Mavic also used a thicker rim extrusion. The result is a set of wheels that meets Mavic’s own standards for stiffness and durability.

The 29er does use the same hubs as the 26″ SLR, including the ITS-4 freehub and compatibility with every commonly used XC and AM axle standard.

Crossmax ST
The ST is aimed at trail and all-mountain riders, or XC types who need a bit more durability. The ST’s spokes are thicker and round, rather than bladed as on the SLR, and the rim extrusion gets a bit more heft for added strength. Most of the added weight comes from the rim, in fact, since the ST and SLR are based on the same hubs.

Total weight for a set is 1710g, 90g more than the SLR, and price is $825. Unlike the SLR, the ST 29 is really just an upsized 26″ Crossmax ST. Since the 26″ ST model is already built with strength and durability in mind, it was not necessary to add additional strength in the move to 29 inches.

Crossride
The new Crossride 29 offers up much of the same Mavic tech at a much lower price — only $300 for the set. At 2020 grams it’s no lightweight, but the set isn’t a pig, either. Mavic has spent a lot of time working on the rim extrusion to decrease weight where it matters most, and the result is a rim weight that sits very close to that of the Crossmax ST. Most of the wheelset’s additional weight comes from heavier hubs and the steel spokes.

The Crossride features steel spokes, rather than Zircal aluminum, and a new ITS-2 freehub, which uses two pawls instead of the four used on the ITS-4. Just like the Crossmax hubs, the Crossride are compatible with any common axle configuration.

First ride
The VeloNews crew took a pair of bikes Friday morning out on the rolling Sea Otter cross country course — a Moots full suspension with the Crossmax SLR, a Spot hardtail with the ST.

As always, it’s difficult to get a good feel for wheels on an unfamiliar bike with unfamiliar tires. That said, both the SLR and ST were noticeably stiff, tracking well in the hard, brake-bump-filled corners on the course and reacting well to a stiff kick up the short climbs. We found no immediately noticeable flaws, and that’s about as deep of an analysis as one ride allows. We’ll have a set of SLRs in-house for more extensive testing early next week.

Looking to 650b
The principal trend at this year’s Sea Otter Classic is the rise of the 650b/27″ mountain wheel. Though Mavic took quite a long time to jump on the 29er bandwagon (nearly half a decade, in fact), don’t expect the same with 650b.

“Tech is in place to do a 650b in short order,” explained Vestal. “We’re paying very close attention to it. That said, nothing 2013, for sure.”

FILED UNDER: 29er / Bikes and Tech / MTB / Sea Otter Classic TAGS: / /

Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz

Tech Editor Caley Fretz came on board with VN in September 2010, and now splits his year between Boulder, Colorado and Annecy, France. Beyond his journalistic pursuits, he is a category 1 road, 'cross and track racer. He also holds a pro XC mountain bike license, though unlicensed racing is now more his style.

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