Mavic Crossmax Wheels
You’ve got to admire Mavic for their innovation. They’ve never been shy of going out on a limb and doing something quite different. Of course the results have varied, with some new concepts being chalked up as a glorious victories and a few others that they may prefer to forget…
Back in 1996 they launched the Crossmax and in the years that followed it changed the way we look at wheels. Before the Crossmax aftermarket mountain bike wheels were built from individually sourced parts; rims, spokes and hubs. Mavic popularised the pre-built wheelsets that we now take for granted. Pre-built wheels allowed them greater design freedom, as their rims and spokes no longer needed to conform to any industry standards. I distinctly remember seeing the top Euros riding the first Crossmax at the 1996 Cairns World Cup; their all black colour scheme, massive box shaped rim and minimalist 26/28 spoke count made them really stand out back in the day.
In 1999 they got together with Michelin and Hutchinson to design theUSTtubeless tyre system. Again, their unique rim and spoke mounting system allowed the inner wall of the rim to be solid and airtight. The use of alloy spokes is another area where Mavic pushed and others followed.
Of course, for every winner there’s bound to be a few things that either flop or just don’t work at the time. Mavic’s Zap and Mechtronic derailleur systems are one such example; electronic gear shifting may be the next big thing on the dirt (and it already is on the road) but the technology simply wasn’t ready for the market back in 1992. They’ve also had more than a few bad reports on their tubular carbon Tracomp road spokes, although those issues are supposedly sorted now.
For some theFTSfreehub system – employed in most pre-2012 MavicMTBwheels – also stood out as a disappointment. While there was nothing technically wrong with the system, it required regular 1,000km or three-monthly servicing. There’s no denying that the freehub was quick and easy to overhaul, but many argued that the design was poor, as no other hub demanded such a frequent service interval.
Now the entire line of MavicMTBwheels has been revamped with theFTScassette replaced by the new ITS-4 design. The older hubs were maintenance hungry because the inner part of the cassette body ran on a nylon bushing. Any contamination would combine with fine metal particles from the cassette pawls and accelerate bushing wear. For some this led to a sticky cassette mechanism that would vibrate when coasting down the trail (I also know of people who have had no issues with theFTShub, even after years of neglect). Now the chunky looking ITS-4 rear hub runs on cartridge bearings throughout.
In addition to extending the service intervals, the redesign has been used to incorporate a range of other new features. The cassette mechanism now has four pawls inside as opposed to the two pawl system of old. While only two pawls drive at any given time, there’s now 48 engagement points—a 60% improvement from theFTSdesign.
With all of the new axle standards popping up, it’s good to see that the new hubs are quite adaptable. Both the XC race oriented CrossmaxSLRand the trail focussed Crossmax ST wheels come supplied with fittings for 9mm quick release, 15QR front and 12x142mm rear. You can even get adaptors for 20mm front axles if required. Swapping between axle systems is a simple matter of changing the end caps.
Moving out from the hub, you’ll again find Zicral alloy spokes used on all four Crossmax models—the race orientedSLRuses thinner bladed spokes while the other three use round ones. TheSLRused to have a narrow 17mm inner rim width but this grows to 19mm for 2012—the same inner width as the trail oriented ST wheels. In fact, both the ST andSLRuse the same rim extrusion, theSLRthen undergoes a 3-D machining process to chop a further 20g or so from the rim weight.