Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone line of wheels have adorned many a ProTour rider’s bike for much of the last 20 years, and as the mass market for the everyday rider morphed at the turn of the decade from ever-lighter figures on the scale to aero advantage where it really counts, so the Cosmic Carbone SLS (now Cosmic Pro Carbon) became probably the most popular mid-depth wheelset in time trialling, followed by many appearances in triathlon transition areas and nowadays, even on club runs as riders begin to appreciate the benefits of prioritising aerodynamics over weight. How do these venerable speedsters hold up against today’s competition, including that offered by Mavic themselves?
LET’S CRUNCH SOME NUMBERS FIRST
If you remove the Mavic tyres that come with these wheels you’ll notice the ETRTO denoting the inner rim width is quite narrow, at 13mm. On a similar set of wheels from another manufacturer this gave me nothing but grief in the form of pinched inner tubes and tyres that would seemingly flat within mere sight of a road imperfection, but Mavic have still created a wide enough “basin” for the inner tube to sit in and allow the owner to change tyres and tubes without fear of inner tube death by errant tyre lever. They weigh 1695g without tyres and quick releases, very competitive at their price point indeed; in fact only a few offerings from various direct-sell companies even get into the same ballpark for this depth of carbon-allow clincher. And the tyres supplied are 23mm wide Mavic Yksion Griplink/Powerlinks, which will be covered later in the review.
OUT ON THE ROAD: EASY TO SPIN UP AND A JOY TO RIDE
Unlike the aforementioned carbon-alloy clinchers from another manufacturer which I couldn’t wait to get rid of after one season’s riding, the Mavics spin up to speed extremely well and despite the old narrow profile, have little trouble holding their own once past the 25mph mark. You’re conscious of potholes but with the spokes laced inside the carbon fairing it makes for a more compliant ride than other structural rims where the spokes end at the carbon. While the rims get pushed around some by strong crosswinds, they’re no different from other deep wheels I have tried and their low overall weight makes them easy to correct if they do break free on you.
The hubs are excellent. I’ve always thought that in the age of claimed light weights and ever-deeper rims that the hub is one area which is often forgotten as a vital component and indicator of a wheel’s performance but the hub update these wheels received in 2014 has gone a long way to eradicating the issues Mavic had with a lot of their upper-end hubs in earlier years where the small pawl springs often clogged up with gunk and refused to engage under acceleration. By contrast you get hubs which have been prioritised for durability and use in all weathers rather than weight saving (not that you notice any benefits from saving weight at the hub anyway) and this adds to the sense that you really are getting the upside of choosing a renowned manufacturer above some of the cheaper unbranded wheelset that seem to be appearing more frequently than ever before at road races. Perhaps the rationale behind this is that road racers crash wheels so often that they would rather not have to spend much on replacements, and I’m not saying that they’re wrong, but Mavic are one of only two companies I can think of (Reynolds being the other) to offer a protection plan which comes in at 7% of the purchase price, enabling you to ride with total peace of mind so that should the worst happen and that errant late braker ruin your late dash for sprint glory at Litherland or Salt Ayre you can have them repaired or replaced, no questions asked.
EXTRA POINTS: VERY POSITIVE SKEWERS, CONSIDER TYRE CHOICE CAREFULLY
Mavic stand together with Shimano and Campagnolo/Fulcrum in offering internal cam skewers, which for me are a bit of a no-brainer as it’s one less part to come loose or to be installed incorrectly should the dreaded P-word need to be called out on a group ride. Which brings me to a critical part of the review, the tyres, or rather what you choose to fit. Mavic’s own Yksion tyres are a good improvement over the mediocre offerings they first came up with back in 2012, however many racers often go for a 320tpi count tyre for competition to really get the “open tubular” feeling when cornering; I certainly could have done with this on a particularly wet left-hand turn at last year’s Cheshire Triathlon when the stock tyres went from their usual reliable dry selves to being rather skittish in the rain. While I see nothing wrong with the narrow rim profile, one drawback is that the clear “of the moment” tyres such the Specialized Turbo Cotton, aren't a particularly good fit. This one “light bulbs” on the Cosmic rim even in a 24c; one can only imagine how the handling must be impaired if using the more widely-seen 26c variant. Here‘s a plan: Use the stock tyres for training rides to “scrub them in”, then when your first race day rolls around, treat yourself to the absolute best tyre you can put on a 13mm wide rim, the 22mm Veloflex Record. These went out for the first time at last summer’s 10 mile time trials on the Tuesday evenings and as soon as the countdown ended and I set off down the first ramp it was apparent that an already good set of wheels had been transformed into a magic carpet ride. The end result was a saving of nearly half a minute compared to the previous windy 10 the year before, then a new all-timePB the following week despite still not really getting the rub of the green with wind speed and direction. The Veloflex Records occasionally come into the UK at various online retailers and really make a lot of sense as opposed to trying to battle with wider gravel-style rubber; save these for your shallower road wheels which you would surely be using on cobbled classics anyway. Failing that, a supple 23mm tyre such as the Continental Supersonic or Grand Prix TT should fit the bill.
FINAL THOUGHTS: STICK TO NARROW RUBBER AND THESE WHEELS STICK IT TO THE COMPETITION
Overall I’ve been very impressed with these wheels, so much so that I’m seriously considering using them on flat summer rides on my road bike (23mm tyre limit notwithstanding) and upgrading the ones on my triathlon bike to another Mavic set simply because the standards of manufacture are so high. The Exalith version of these wheels cost an extra £390 and by all accounts provide far superior braking, however this is quite a change up in price, especially when you consider that the CXR 60 which are only around an extra £250 feature the same Exalith rims and a 27mm wide brake track. These wheels include upgraded aero tyres featuring a unique “blade” between the rim and the tyre edge, the end result being a 60mm deep wheel that actually looks more like a HED Jet 9 with such a symbiotic wheel-tyre combination. If, however, you would prefer an all-alloy brake track and would like the flexibility to swap wheels in and out without changing the brake pads, you should definitely consider these wheels, you will not be disappointed.
Reveiw by Robert Chesters
If you’re looking for mavic road wheels, check out our range of road wheels at Formby Cycles. Happy cycling!