While American wheel manufacturers play fast and loose with rim widths and layup, Mavic has held firm in its stance that safety and proven design take sole precedence over flashy trends. So with Mavic finally going full carbon with its XA Pro Carbon 27. 5in Wheelset, you can rest assured that the brand would not have released it if it hadn't thoroughly vetted the design to handle the kind of trail abuse garnered alongside today's breed of hard-charging, 5-in sleds.In typical Mavic fashion, the XA Pro Carbon wheels are shot-through with an expansive list of technologies whose ultimate aim is to increase drive stiffness without taking away from the rim's slightly compliant bump absorption-- speed that privileges comfort. Or comfort that privileges speed, if you'd prefer. Ultimately, the wheels strike one of the best balances of efficiency and cushion in the trail market, and they do it while foregrounding Mavic's insistence on safety and reliability. Despite that staid approach, the XA Pro Carbon does represent a pretty drastic change to Mavic's mountain wheel philosophy, so there's a lot to cover; however, since the wheels are built with one of Mavic's first full carbon rims, that seems the most appropriate place to start.The rims feature a lay-up that targets radial flex to balance the inherent lateral stiffness of carbon with the forgiving vertical compliance of low-profile alloy rims--or, in other words, to allow a little bit of squishy cush for gnarly runs. We like stiff wheels while hammering, but wheels that are too stiff present issues beyond just comfort. Cushion aside, the lay-up's real benefit to aggressive trail riders is that it helps maintain contact with lumpy terrain by absorbing impact through engineered flex, which means it bounces less and keeps tires glued to the dirt. That focus on traction, stiffness, and comfort is obviously well-suited to a tubeless setup, and Mavic's UST design returns with some impressive developments. The most notable of...
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