By Brice Minnigh
While Mavic is primarily known for its wheel-making prowess, in the mountain-bike world it has increasingly begun to introduce key components and apparel as part of an integrated approach to riding—particularly in the fast-growing 'enduro' segment, into which the French company was one of the first to confidently throw its chips.
All of these products have undergone rigorous testing—both in the lab and out on the trail—and with a hardcore crew of capable riders at the center of their development, they are designed to withstand the rigors of European enduro-style riding.
Indeed, with world-class racers like reigning Enduro World Series champion Jerome Clementz and Fabien Barel (both of whom have unfortunately begun this year's series with season-ending injuries) testing these products and providing copious feedback, there is plenty of reason to believe that they will hold up under pressure.
Since their introduction a few years ago, the Alpine XL clipless shoes (pictured below) have helped lead the charge in comfort-oriented, all-mountain shoes that offer both protection and exceptional traction for the inevitable hike-a-bikes that all true alpine and wilderness riding entails. The rubber at the toe and heel has been reinforced to give greater protection, and the catch-point of the Velcro closure strap over the bridge of the foot has been lowered for increased strength. A perforated neoprene ankle band offers protection and helps keep rocks and dirt from getting inside the shoe. And the shoes are light compared to other kicks in their class.
For us at Bike, offerings such as the Alpine XL clipless shoes have certainly stood the test of time, proving to be among the most functional, comfortable and durable all-mountain shoes on the market. Many of us have been running the same pair of Alpine XLs for the better part of three years—and only last week did I finally decide to graduate to a new pair.
New for 2014, Mavic is introducing its own hydration pack, the Crossmax Hydropack (pictured below). The bag is designed to hold all-mountain essentials such as a rain jacket, food, multi-tool, tubes, hand pump and shock pump, while also emphasizing a stable contact point to keep the bag from moving from side to side or up and down while blasting through steep, chunky sections of trail. The pack features a snug, comfortable fit and has sensible mesh pockets on the shoulder and waist straps that are perfect for a phone, multi-tool and extra food. Team riders—particularly Jerome Clementz, who was heavily involved in the Hydropack's development—offered considerable feedback on the pack. This is one of the reasons it has such a narrow profile, which is intended to keep it from snagging branches, brush or other trailside hazards.
The rugged Notch helmet (pictured below) hasn't undergone any design or structural changes since its introduction last year. The enduro-style helmet features broad occipital-lobe coverage and is well ventilated, with 18 vents that allow considerable airflow. The 'Ergo Hold SL' retention system features a three-position adjustment mechanism, and the adjustment dial is easy to use while on the trail. The visor is removable and the helmet features reflective highlights for nighttime visibility.
The Crossmax LS jersey (pictured below) has been updated for 2014, with a change in fabric to increase abrasion resistance and help prevent it from snagging on trailside brush. While the updated jersey has proven to be extremely comfortable, allowing for abundant freedom of movement while riding, it is a tad less ventilated than the 2013 version of the Crossmax jersey, which immediately became part of my rotation when it was introduced last year—largely due to its functional cut and excellent breathability for a full-sleeved shirt. While the new Crossmax LS is undoubtedly comfortable and has joined my jersey rotation, I’m not sure whether I’ll choose it over last year’s version.
This year’s Crossmax shorts (pictured below) are, in a word, awesome. Made of comfortable and durable ‘Trail Tech ST’ fabric, they are lightweight, breathable and offer plenty of protection. The cut of these shorts is ideal for ‘enduro-style’ riding, allowing for an ample range of movement—and featuring plenty of space around the knees to accommodate a wide variety of kneepads. They also have two front pockets, which is something I find useful in a pair of riding shorts, as they not only provide a place to warm your hands during cold-weather trailside stops, but they also are perfect for holding your phone and wallet when you waltz into the pub for a few post-ride pints.
Okay, at first glance the Mavic Stratos undershorts (pictured below) might seem better suited to a dubious European disco than a huge wilderness ride, but these are quite simply some of the most functional chamois liners in mountain biking. Though the mesh fabric might not be your first fashion choice, it’s there for a reason: ventilation, in an area that everyone knows needs it. Over the years, the Stratos undershorts have been a staple in my riding kit, and I’ve worn them all over the world—from the humid jungle trails of Ecuador and Hong Kong to the high-altitude deserts of Afghanistan and Tibet—and they’ve proven to be some of the most practical, functional chamois liners out there. Let’s face it: When you’re riding for several hours a day, for days on end, it’s pretty hard to avoid a gnarly case of ‘crotch rot,’ and the ventilation that the Stratos undershorts provide is the best deterrent I’ve found.
The Crossmax gloves (pictured below) are well-designed, offering both comfort and durability. My first pair has lasted for three seasons of sporadic use, and they have held up well after myriad beatings in the washing machines of my local ghetto laundromat (though I must stress that I have never put them in the drier). The cut of the gloves is roomy, making them easy to take on and off, and there is a comfortable leather patch over the thumb knuckle that is ideal for wiping the snot that perpetually drips from one’s nose while riding in cold, high-alpine environments.
The Crossmax H2O jacket (pictured below) is a well-conceived piece of survival wear, offering considerable protection from rain and wind. It is easy to fold down and stow in a hydration pack, and it also features an expandable back that allows you to put a small hydration pack underneath the jacket during heavy rainstorms.