Choose your MTB wheels
How to choose your MTB wheels
Choosing your wheels based on your style of riding
When looking to give your bike that serious upgrade, new wheels are obviously the first piece of the puzzle that comes to mind. Quality wheels have such a substantial impact on the riding experience that it’s important to ask yourself the right questions so that you make the right choice. In mountain biking, this is more true due to the multiple disciplines, impacts on your bike, and how much you practice. We’ll tell you more and answer some questions below.
Cross-country (XC): The most practiced discipline
XC mountain biking is the discipline where the climbs are more important than in the other disciplines of mountain biking. In XC, performance is key on the climbs, which requires peak physical condition, but also technical skills on the descents to lose as little time as possible over the whole course.
In order to keep up with the demands of XC racing, it’s essential to have wheels that are both light and strong to maximize efficiency on all types of terrain.
At Mavic, for many years we have been offering two ranges designed for cross-country: the Crossmax, the flagship of MTB wheels, and the Crossride range, adapted to less demanding use. There are many different variations for each of these ranges.
The Crossmax wheels (for XC) are available in both 27.5” and 29” as well as 25mm and 30mm rim widths. The Crossride wheels are available in different diameters from 26” to 29” with rim widths spanning from 17mm to 21mm. We will come back to the technical characteristics later in this article.
The Trail: Ripping the downhill without sacrificing the uphill
When we talk about trail riding, we are talking about a discipline where it’s essential to have fun going down the hill as well as not completely suffering going up the hills. The weight of the wheels is still an important characteristic, but not as much as ride feel and durability.
Because of this, we tend to have slightly heavier wheels than in Cross-Country as they are generally wider and stronger. The reasoning for this is to be able to mount bigger tires, therefore more resistance and grip.
Trail wheels are categorized by the Crossmax XL family. The Crossmax XL and XLS are extremely versatile and made from aluminium. The Crossmax XLR on the other hand is made with carbon rims to guarantee precise handling and dynamic acceleration.
Gravity: All in for the downhill
Unlike the previously mentioned disciplines, enduro and downhill are fully focused on the downhill. Sensitive souls please look away now… Here we are looking for adrenaline and maximum commitment without losing control. It’s therefore essential to have a solid and reliable pair of wheels as the chances of impact are high.
Durability is the key word of the Deemax range, dedicated to sending it as fast as possible down a hill or mountain. Equipped with wide aluminium rims, they are your best friend for days at the bike park or DH competitions, when support and strength is the main priority.
You will find here the Deemax DH oriented downhill wheel as the name indicates, and the Deemax Pro, aimed at Enduro, used by multiple World Champions.
E-Bike: Ride hard, for longer
Finally, accepted by some and denied it is clear to see that E-Bikes are becoming more and more popular. For good reasons as well, the moto makes mountain biking more accessible therefore widening the possibilities.
As far as wheels are concerned, the development of the E-bike has allowed us to improve the durability of our equipment, a reinforced freewheel, 180kg load limit, and generally a wheel designed to be used without care on a bike heavier than 25kg.
The E-Deemax wheels are therefore the wheels you need if you want to improve the ride feel and handling on your E-bike while having peace of mind through rough terrain.
Beyond the discipline or compatibility with your bike, another piece of essential criterion is your experience. To put it simply, a wider rim will generally be stiffer (and therefore less forgiving of trajectory errors) even if other factors come into play (number of spokes, rim profile, tension, geometry, tire pressure and casing, etc.). Therefore, choose wheels that correspond to the program and the type of bike you own to get the most of it and increase the ride feel while being aware of your experience.
Carbon or aluminum rims: questions to ask
Aluminium, the right choice in most cases
Whatever your experience level, choosing a pair of wheels with aluminium rims will guarantee a solid and durable wheelset. One of the key characteristics of aluminium is the resistance to impacts as it absorbs shocks and filters vibrations efficiently. This is ideal when you want to rejuvenate your bike while cleverly investing because our wheels come with 3 years of warranty once signed up to Mavic Care!
Aluminium wheels are slightly heavier than their carbon counterparts, nevertheless, the top-of-the-range models such as the Crossmax SL S benefit from ISM4D weight reduction technology which allows them to compete with the carbon wheelsets.
Finally, aluminium rims are indeed more affordable which is a significant advantage.
Carbon to satisfy the quest for performance
Carbon is an increasingly more sought-after material with exceptional characteristics in terms of lightness and rigidity. Wheels with carbon rims are generally favoured by those competing in XC or Trail races as they offer more performance.
Carbon Wheels are ultra-responsive but favour a more careful riding style as they are less tolerant to makes due to the extra stiffness. Therefore, avoid doing lots of jumps on a carbon wheelset. This being said, we know the quality of our carbon wheelsets and that’s why we offer a lifetime warranty.
Carbon wheels generally have a higher cost than aluminium wheels due to the unique manufacturing techniques.
Finding your way around wheel diameters
There are three wheel diameters for mountain bikes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”. Sometimes not a choice but a limit imposed by the frame and fork of your mountain bike that must be adhered to. It’s important to know that this is a huge influence when choosing wheels.
26”: The disappearing historical standard
The historical standard of mountain biking, the 26” is now disappearing from all bikes apart from kids bikes or dirt jump bikes. Today, only certain Crossride models come in the 26” diameter.
27.5”: Responsive and precise
Long considered an intermediate size, the 27.5 has extremely crisp handling and therefore allows for precise riding when playfulness is the key tone of the day. Widely used during the 2010’s we now find that 27.5” bikes are becoming less and less common, although they haven’t had their last dance yet due to the rise of the “mullet” on downhill bikes and e-bikes.
29”: Stability and Comfort
We now find most mountain bikes equipped with 29” wheels in 2022, this is mainly due to the increased comfort and stability that the wheel platform provides. The obstacle clearance capacity is also superior due to the increased contact points with the obstacle. The greater inertia created by the larger diameter allows for higher speeds to be maintained and compensates for the extra weight. Previously perceived as less manoeuvrable, larger wheels are now perfectly integrated into the geometry of the bike to make the handling snappy.
“Mullet” What is it?
When we talk about a “Mullet” setup we’re simply talking about using two different wheel sizes between the front and the rear. For example, some downhill and enduro riders use a mullet setup with a 29” at the front and a 27.5” at the rear (only on compatible frames). Therefore, we give you the option on our entire range to buy two wheels of the same model but with different diameters.
User experience is our top priority
Tubeless: the reference
Today, the majority of mountain bikers ride tubeless, this hasn’t always been the case. Mavic started the tubeless revolution back in 1999 and we’ve not stopped innovating tubeless technology since.
In layman's terms, a tubeless system allows riding a tubeless-compatible tire without an inner tube. This offers more comfort and grip. The tube is filled with a sealant which can quickly fill holes between the rim and tire, as well as any holes made by road debris that would normally cause a puncture. Tubeless systems also avoid pinch flats, as there’s no tube to pinch when running at lower pressures.
The major disadvantage of tubeless tires is that they require a little more maintenance, and repair is not quite as simple as switching a tube if needed at all. In desperate times a tube can be used!
Finally, to make the user experience even better we introduced Fore technology. Fore means that you don’t need to use rim tape because the inside of the rim isn’t pierced by the spokes, thus providing a perfect seal.
Even if this situation rarely occurs, sometimes a spoke breaks because of stick getting stuck for example. We have therefore made sure that they are easy to change (we explain how here) and provide two spokes with each wheel.
We have also chosen to have identical front and rear spokes to make them easier to replace as they are all the same length.
A finish that lasts
Thanks to Blackshield technology, our wheels are protected from scratches so that your wheels keep their youthful look.
Easy maintenance of your freewheel
We have chosen to offer you freewheel bodies that can be removed without tools to facilitate their maintenance and simplify the adaptation of a freewheel of another standard (HG, XD, MicroSpline) according to your cassette. Do not hesitate to have a look at this video to learn more.
Warranty and crash replacement
In case you encounter a problem with your wheels, you should know that they are guaranteed for 3 years when registered online on mavic.com (otherwise 2 years) and that parts are always available for a minimum of 5 years after production has stopped. You can also benefit from crash replacement with our Mavic Care program as we want to offer you a solution whatever your problem.
Denomination and lexicon
In order to find your way among our different ranges, here is a small table summarizing the denominations of Mavic wheels.
Boost, non-boost, and super boost hubs
There are different sizes of hubs that you can choose according to the width of the spacing on the frame and fork.
Specifically, Boost hubs are the new standard and are 12x148mm wide for the rear wheel, while non-boost hubs are 12x142mm. The major difference of the Boost format is a higher lateral stiffness. Finally, the Super Boost format of 12x157mm is sometimes found, mainly on downhill bikes.
To know which hub size to go for, you need to know what width your frame allows as there might be adapters.
Choosing the right discs
Depending on the wheels you use, there are 2 systems for fixing disc rotors.
The international standard (6 fixing screws) and the Centre Lock fixing (a single central nut).
The different freewheel bodies
There are 3 standards of freewheel bodies: HG, XD and Microspline, as well as different adapters.
The HG or Hyper Glide freewheel body (initially introduced by Shimano) is the historical reference standard. It allows the mounting of sprockets with 11 or more teeth on the smallest sprocket and is therefore used for a very wide range of sprockets.
The XD freewheel body (developed by Sram), on the other hand, makes it possible to mount a small sprocket with only 10 teeth thanks to a slightly smaller diameter.
Finally, the Microspline has some similarities with the HG format as it was also developed by Shimano but also allows to mount cassettes with a small 10-tooth sprocket following the appearance of 12-speed groupsets.
So, what’s the right choice for you?
In mountain biking, the differences in experience and discipline inevitably lead to differences in equipment, as the constraints are so important. If you want to rejuvenate your bike, a pair of wheels will undoubtedly make a major difference, but you must be precise when choosing. Your riding style, the bike you want to use them with, and your technical level should all be considered. We hope to have enlightened you through this article and if you still have questions, we will be happy to answer them!