9-8-08 // Previewed: Mavic’s Whistler Wheel Debut

Mavic introduced some significant improvements in its mountain bike wheel line at Crankworx last month. All the usual suspects are there–decreased weight, increased performance, new graphics. Expect to start seeing these wheels on bikes and in shops soon.

Given the nature of the Crankworx venue–Whistler’s bike park–Mavic only showed its four newest big-hitter gravity and all-mountain wheels. (Or, in a French-to-English-translation of Mavic parlance, “Extreme MTB” and “Enduro FR.”)

At the heart of Mavic’s new wheels is the completely redesigned “ITS-4” (Instant Transfer System) freehub system. Gone is Mavic’s longstanding two-pawl engagement mechanism. Instead, the new wheels feature a four-pawl ITS-4 freehub body, which engages approximately 60 percent faster, or every 7 degrees, a significant improvement over the old system’s 17-degree engagement. Only real-world testing will prove whether the new freehub lasts longer than previous versions, but the extra pawls should increase durability, and the quicker engagement gives the wheels a snappier feel. What’s more–the new system weighs 20 grams less than the freehub it replaces.

The UST-ready Crossmax SX, launched two years ago to a chorus of praise from aggressive trail riders, received updated graphics and shed 165 grams this year. Twenty of those grams come from the ITS-4 freehub body, but the balance has been pulled out of the interior of the rim profile, a feature Mavic calls ISM, for Inter Spoke Milling.

This feature isn’t new for Mavic, but it is new to the Crossmax SX. Also thanks to the new freehub body, which has a wider inside diameter than the previous version, the Crossmax SX now comes with a 12- by 135-millimeter rear axle. Additionally, the front hub will come standard with a 20-millimeter front axle and will no longer be QR compatible. That’s bad news for forks built around standard QR dropouts, but good news for anyone who has had the 20-millimeter spacer fall off previous Crossmax SX wheels. The rear wheel also has a bolt-on option, new for this year. Although some riders may be sad to see the QR option go, those riders might be better served by Mavic’s XC wheels, anyway. The wheels tip the scales at 1,755 grams with 20-millimeter front/QR rear combination. Suggested retail is $850 for standard QR rear axle, or $875 for a thru axle.

For riders interested in the new freewheel, but not on the price of the high-end Crossmax SX, Mavic offers a new, less expensive option called the Crossline, which costs just $400. At 2,055 grams, the wheels weigh a bit more than the Crossmax, but the value quotient is high and the features are aplenty.