Mavic R-Sys SLR
Mavic has sometimes been criticized for not offering more wheels that fall in both the aero and lightweight categories. Review the bulk of their high-end wheel line and you find light wheels (the R-Sys line) and aero wheels (the Cosmic line) but seldom do the two meet. Only in the range-topping and phenomenally expensive Cosmic Carbon Ultimate do we get a light wheel that also has aerodynamic properties.
There's some distinctly European thought behind the spread of the Mavic product. We're all familiar with the rider types at the Pro Tour level - you have team leaders, climbers, rouleurs, TT experts, etc. In the Euro racing scene, these rider types descend through the ranks of the pros and all the way into the amateur scene. From young age, junior racers are classified into their specialities by skill level, body type etc. A junior is told "you're a climber" or "you're a rouleur" and henceforth they train to their skill set and choose equipment accordingly.
Our American mindset is to have it all - we want wheels that are light, fast, aero, stiff, etc - all in one package. But when viewed through the lens of the Euro racing system the Mavic wheel line begins to make more sense. If you're a climber, why would you want or need an aero wheelset? If you're powerhouse on the flats, why would you need a light wheelset? And so Mavic presents us with a wheel line made up of products optimized for their intended function.
The R-Sys SLR is the climber's wheelset. It is designed and made for going up long, steep mountain passes, then down the other side, very fast. A dedicated climber's wheelset must be two things: light and stiff. To achieve this goal Mavic has tossed a wide variety of its best technologies at their top-end R-Sys wheelset. The R-Sys wheels use Mavic's proprietary TraComp tubular carbon fiber spokes, which, unlike metal spokes, work in both traction and compression. This means that the R-Sys wheels are the most laterally stiff wheelset we've ever used. When climbing out of the saddle, leaning the bike from side to side, the wheels simply do not flex - it's an uncanny sensation, and assures that all energy is being put to forward motion, no matter how much lateral force is put on the wheels. The SLR front wheel uses a full array of TraComp spokes, whereas the rear wheel uses TraComp on the non-drive side and Mavic's Zicral aluminum spokes on the drive side - an arrangement that retains the stiffness level and increases the durability of the rear wheel.
Mavic has also paid attention to the rims, which are highly machined aluminum thus reducing rotational weight to a minimum. That Mavic has chosen alloy for the rim of their climbing-specific wheel may seem odd, when carbon would be the more obvious choice for a fly-weight wheel. The few grams gained by the use of aluminum versus carbon are made up for by Mavic's Exalith braking surface, which greatly improves braking modulation and power. After all, Mavic has designed the R-Sys to be a world-class descender as well as a climber.
Like the other SLR line of Service Course issue wheels, the R-Sys SLR comes with Mavic's Yksion front and rear-specific tires, padded wheel bags, quick release skewers and all the tools necessary to adjust the sealed cartridge bearings on the hub. The required Exalith brake pads are also included. While the SLR is a dedicated climbing wheel, we think it's a decent all-rounder. Uniquely, it also comes in both a clincher and tubular rim version, like any race-issue wheelset should. We'd also be remiss to not point out that the SLR is probably one of the most ideal cyclocross race wheels we've encountered. It's low rotating weight and extreme stiffness means it will accelerate eagerly out of the many sharp corners on cross courses. Plus, the Exalith braking system excels in wet, muddy conditions.