Mavic Ksyrium SLR – review

We took a first look at the Mavic Ksyrium SLR wheelset at the end of June. Having ridden over 1,000 miles on them, we remain impressed.

Mavic produce two wheelsets with their Exalith coating, one claimed to harden the aluminium rim for longevity: the Ksyrium SLR we have on test (rrp  £1200) and the more expensive R-Sys SLR (rrp £1330).

The differences between the two can be summarised as follows:

The Ksyrium SLR has a carbon front hub with Zicral aluminium spokes. The R-SYS has an aluminum front hub with carbon spokes. The rear wheels on both sets have identical aluminium hubs and both are laced with Zicral aluminium spokes on the drive side and carbon spokes on the non-drive side. The Ksyrium SLRs are laced with 16 spokes at the front and 20 at the rear.

For an additional £130, the R-SYS owner is rewarded with a weight saving of 30 grams. Mavic claim a weight of 1415 grams for the Ksyrium SLR (635 grams for the front wheel, 780 grams for a rear wheel equipped with the Shimano-specific M10 freehub). With tyres (but without cassette), our set weighed 1900 grams.

The unseasonable weather allowed some fairly severe wet weather testing, normally reserved for the winter season. The milled rims, with the Exalith coating impregnating the surface and the grooves on the brake track, delivered a consistent stopping performance in both wet and dry conditions.

The reliable performance encouraged later braking and harder tyre testing than we would usually undertake on a new set of wheels and tyres. The supplied front and rear specific tyres proved up to the task. The rear gripped without complaint even on changeable damp road surfaces, while the front delivered a composed feel which inspired confidence and aggressive cornering.

The confidence in the front end also came from the wheel’s excellent lateral stiffness. The Zicral aluminum alloy spokes limited the amount of sideways flex without creating an unduly harsh ride. Our 68kg test pilot rode with pressures between 100 and 110psi; experimenting with higher pressures made no significant difference to the ride quality other than to diminish the contact patch perhaps a little too much.

The Exalith-specific brake pads squealed on the first ride, but were silenced by toeing-in. Only a small adjustment was required to stop the noise. We tried them on a regular test bike equipped with Bontrager Speed Limit calipers, and on the Pearson Easy Come, Easy Go ridden in the Dunwich Dynamo, which was equipped with fairly standard long-drop units from Shimano. The pads delivered adequate stopping power in both.

After a month of damp testing, on roads frequently covered in a layer of gunk and debris from overflowing drains and soil from fields, the Exalith coating showed no signs of wear. The surface treatment has stood up well. A “relaxed” approach to cleaning can sometimes increase wear rates, and we ventured out a few times with a grubby bike just to see what happened. The answer: nothing. The elegant anthracite finish if anything encourages cleaning. These are smart hoops and proved to be head turners among the local cycling cognoscenti at the coffee stop.

There is nothing aero about the Ksyrium SLR, whose rim surface is flat. However the low spoke count and slim side profile meant that cross winds did not slow our progress. They felt very stable in high wind speeds, either in gusts or from descents.

On climbs, this wheelset can feel sluggish. However, its light weight, combined with stiffness and strong pick up from the freehub meant that while they may suffer in comparison with wheels intended for climbing, they were excellent on the flat and on descents.

To conclude, the £1200 price tag makes the Ksyrium SLR a serious purchase, but in our opinion, they are a wheelset that could become a mainstay for year-round riding.

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