On a beautiful, sunny morning in the French Alps, I hopped in my Peugeot 207 rental car and headed to check out Mavic’s new 2014 Enduro product in the mountains outside its Annecy headquarters. The problem was, I had no idea where I was going. My GPS could not for the life of it, locate the address of the hotel where the launch was being held. A cursory Google image search showed that this “hotel” was in fact, a ski chalet located on the Plateau de Beauregard outside La Clusaz, France, accessed only by 4X4 road in the summertime. In winter, the plateau is only accessible by chairlift, ski touring or snow machine. La Clusez (pronounced La Clu-za), host of the inaugural Roc des Alps enduro race is an outdoor mecca. Located near the Swiss and Italian borders, close to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, the area boasts world-class riding, skiing, hiking and pretty much anything else you can think of doing outside.
After coaxing my reluctant Peugeot up the rough dirt road to a vista, I used a telephoto lens on my camera to pan across the green plateau, scanning for some Mavic yellow. Sure enough, I spotted a blob of yellow in the distance and bounced down the road toward it, finally arriving at the Gîte Les Matins Clairs, a proper ski chalet with a full restaurant and bar, at least 20 beds, and a view that can’t be beat. Touché Mavic.
The riding wasn’t bad either. Wildflower-laden, alpine meadows flowed into dense, dark forests with deeply- rooted evergreens, which would lead into sun-spotted deciduous forests. Up high, we’d battle snow drifts, while down low we’d be drifting in the sand. After each run, we’d pile in shuttle vehicles and do it all over again. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Crossmax Enduro Wheel-Tire System
A few years back Mavic thought it’d be a great idea to start offering a wheel-tire system for the road market. The concept was mostly lost – I can’t tell you how many Mavic tires I’ve removed from brand new wheels. Not that the tires were terrible, people are just picky about their rubber. Folks find a tire they love and they stick with it. It sure seemed to me at the time, a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.
Which is why I was surprised to see the wheel-tire system concept make its way into Mavic’s mountain line. Road tires are pretty basic but mountain tires are extremely complex, especially nowadays with all the niche markets we’ve invented. Cross-country racers want super light, narrow, fast-rolling tires, while everyday trail riders are looking more for versatility, grip and durability. Plus, tire preference is very dependent on riding style, preference, conditions and trends. For instance, some people use controlled drifts to corner and others prefer pure grip. Mavic has its work cut out for them if it plans on making headway in the mountain bike tire game. The main advantage is that it will force people to try them- if you buy a set of Crossmax Enduro wheels, the tires come with.
Using input from top athletes, such as Anne-Caroline Chausson, Jerome Clementz and Fabien Barel, the Crossmax Enduro wheel-tire system is a race-specific setup designed for the increasingly popular enduro racing format. The wheels aren’t really anything new for Mavic, other than the concept of running different rim widths. In fact, upon closer inspection it seems like the Crossmax Enduro wheels are really just Crossmax ST rear and SX front wheels with aero spokes and yellow paint. Oh, and they’re available in 26 and 27.5-inch wheel sizes. We asked about a 29er Enduro wheel, but Mavic says it doesn’t foresee the wheel size being a player in the enduro racing format – although one could argue that assumption. It’s hard to make everything in all sizes, so many companies right now are picking a side and waiting for the dust to settle on the wheel size storm. It’s not an easy gamble.
Many riders already run slightly narrower tires in the rear for better rolling resistance and weight savings, while using a beefier tire up front for traction and control. Mavic took it one step further, by using different width rims as well. The 19-millimeter rear rim gives the 2.2 x 650b (2.3 x 26-inch) Mavic Roam XL tire a rounder shape, reducing the contact patch and increasing rolling speed. Up front, a 21-millimeter rim squares off the 2.4 Mavic Charge tire a bit more, providing greater cornering traction and excellent damping qualities.
At claimed weights of 950 grams and 990 grams for 26-, and 27.5-inch sizes, respectively, the Charge is pretty competitive for a full dual-ply tire. Rather than using a fabric liner to offer protection, Mavic uses a second layer of rubber, claiming that the fabrics offer a harsher damping characteristic.
With a considerable amount of snow melt at higher elevations, trail conditions were super mixed, making a perfect environment for tire testing. We were riding rooted loam one minute and then dip into a mud slip-and-slide the next. From deep, dark woods to open meadows with sweeping sandy corners, these tires saw it all. I really liked the way the Charge performed in every condition. The sidewall stability, from the two-ply construction allows low pressures without the risk of tire squirm. The Charge is aptly named, because that’s exactly what it’s begging you to do. Just like our ride that day, enduro races tend to pass through the gamut of trail types, requiring the tires to be generally be more versatile than a cross-country race tire, and the Charge plays nice with most terrains. All things considered, the Charge is a great tire for enduro racing and everyday riding alike.
Mavic Roam XL
If your motto is, “The more cornering traction the better,” you may not love this tire – it slides a bit. The Roam XL is made to drift, controllably. The tire never broke loose on me suddenly, instead it offered a consistent drift until the side knobs would catch. For me, it wasn’t cause for complaint. In most conditions, with the exception of mud, I prefer running a faster-rolling tire out back, which normally means less traction, so I’m quite used to the drifty feeling. Other riders may not be so at home with this trait.
Since the Roam XL uses a harder rubber on the top tread, I figured it wouldn’t be very good at pedaling over or holding a line on on wet roots, but again, I had no problems. Climbing traction on wet and dry was perfectly fine as well. I attribute this to the ability to run lower pressures, again because of the two-ply casing. In muddy conditions, however, forget about it. The Roam XL packs up and slides all over the place. If it’s a muddy climb, you’d be better off relying on your shoe lugs.
While I’m still unconvinced that the wheel-tire system is a solution to anything, Mavic has done a good job with these tires. Mavic wouldn’t reveal its tire manufacturer, however it says right on the side that they’re made in France. Since there’s only one company making tires in France, it’s not hard to get to the bottom of that mystery. The Crossmax Enduro system will be available July 1, and will cost $1,000, not bad considering you’d likely be spending around 150 bucks on tires.
Mavic Crossmax Enduro Shoes
Although I’m getting rather sick of saying – and typing – the word “enduro,” I’m pumped for the new racing format not just because it’s super fun, but because high-level racers are pushing companies to develop really cool products that can benefit the majority of riders. While World Cup cross-country racers help push development in many ways, most of us aren’t riding XC race bikes. Enduro racing is the reason we’re seeing stuff like these new Mavic Crossmax Enduro Shoes.
A cross between the Fury race shoe and the Alpine XL backcountry shoe, the Crossmax Enduro shoe offers stiffness, a solid retention system plus grippy soles and all-day comfort. Though the new shoe is the same weight as the Alpine XL – 470 grams—it’s more suitable for racing. The buckle allows for on-the-fly micro adjustments, and more mesh panels offer more breathability than the Alpine XL.
I really like the Crossmax Enduro shoe, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since I’ve long loved Salomon footwear – the two companies are under the same ownership and operate out of the same office in Annecy, France. Wide- footed people be warned though, the toe-box is a bit narrow on Mavic shoes. The Enduro’s are quite stiff, providing a very good pedaling surface and preventing foot fatigue during longer rides. They’re not crazy stiff though; they’re still walkable. The rubber lugs provide great traction when the going gets too tough to pedal, plus pre and post-ride wearability is much better than an XC race shoe. All and all, I’m a fan of the cross-bred shoe.
Congratulations for making it through my rambling. Here’s a little video from our weekend in the mountains.