2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

Mavic’s been slowly moving from just selling wheels to offering primarily complete wheel-and-tire systems on the road (it’ll be interesting to see if that ever shifts to the dirt), with their 2013 line only offering four standalone wheels out of the entire collection.

We’ve spent the summer on their Cosmic Carbone SLR carbon road wheels, which come wrapped with their Yksion front-and-rear-specific tires. The Cosmic Carbon SLR uses their R2R spoke layout, which cuts the number of individual spokes in half by running each one from one side of the wheel straight through the hub to the other side. Add in the fact that they’re carbon, and you end up with a pretty stiff, light wheel. This model line was also Mavic’s first general purpose aero wheelset, using a 52mm deep elliptical carbon fiber fairing but keeping an alloy rim bed and braking surface.

The upgrades over the two lower models are Exalith (versus the also-carbon-spoked SR) and carbon spokes (over the SLE). Move up from the SLR and you get into tubulars, making this model the top choice for those that don’t want to commit to tubies…


2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

The Cosmic Carbone SLR wheelset comes complete with the wheels, tires, tubes, valve extender, skewers, computer spoke magnet, truing tools and hub adjustment tool. The “Cosmic” logos are the side are reflective. Very reflective.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

The Exalith brake track-equipped wheels come with warnings and specific instructions for use. First, you must use their brake pads (included) and you must put the wheels on the bike in the right direction. Second, they take a bit of break in time. Not much, but you should probably do a fairly safe, slow ride the first time out on them. In my experience, braking was fine straight out of the box for a solo ride in the country. A tightly packed, fast paced group ride is not the place to smash the champagne bottle.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

The secret of Exalith is a combination of three things: Textured braking surface, special compound pads and the Exalith treatment itself. It’s a hardening process that penetrates into the alloy rim’s surface, and Mavic says it’ll last for thousands of miles before showing any wear. Ours still look brand new after a full summer under three different riders.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

Small caps cover the R2R carbon spokes. The rear wheel comes with an unfortunate sticker detailing its build and the required use of a spacer with Shimano/SRAM 10-speed cassettes. It’s unfortunate because it doesn’t peel off cleanly. Fortunately, the problem disappears when you hide it with a cassette.

Here’s the spoke magic from the inside.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

Most of Mavic’s wheels use their incredibly easy external adjustment point. The included tool doubles as a tire lever, so there’s no harm in throwing it in your seat pack or pocket for mid-ride adjustments. It quickly loosens or tightens the bearing preload and takes up any wiggle. Brilliantly simple.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

The wheels come equipped with Mavic’s Yksion GripLink and PowerLink front and rear tires. They’re a dual compound  tire with a slight textured surface on the edges to improve cornering and a smooth center section.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

Actual weights with tires and tubes are 1100g front and 1260g rear, adding up to 2360g. Mavic’s claimed weight is 2205g for wheels and tires, so perhaps that’s excluding the tubes. Claimed weights for just the wheels are 725g F / 870g R = 1595g set.


2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review

Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone series, with the exception of the new CXR 80, don’t lay down the excessive aerodynamics research that’s coming out from virtually every major wheel brand these days.

Rather, they’re a basic aero shape that provides something better than a standard box section or shallow curved rim without paying too high a price in the crosswinds. They feel plenty quick during both acceleration and in a straight line. Just as importantly, they hold up to full on, out of the saddle sprints without squiggling around under my 180lb-before-any-gear body.

I could dive hard into a corner (I tested them on a Parlee Z5, they’re shown here on Evan’s BH G5) without hearing or feeling any brake rub.

The braking: Here’s where the wheels shine, but not without some potential issues. When I first installed them, the braking squealed like a screeched like a wounded dog. Mavic’s rep suggested putting some duct tape or similar on the backs of the pads to remove any vibration that could be caused by play between them and the carrier.

This only made the problem worse. However, oddly, once I removed the tape, they worked just fine inside the new SRAM Red calipers. Since that, they’ve been as quiet as they should be. Which is to say, they make a sweet, sweet bzzzzwooooo sound. If you’ve heard any energy source powering down sound effect in a movie, it’s like a softer version of that. I love it. More importantly, they offer the best braking I’ve ever felt on a road bike.

The tires: Perhaps I haven’t ridden enough different tires, but these are among the first I’ve used that actually made me think “wow”. They roll very well, grip great and, well, just ride fantastically smooth. Mavic sells them aftermarket, too, and they’re phenomenal.

The only improvement I’d make is simply including some tubes with 80mm threaded valve stems in the kit. Valve extenders suck.

My call is if you’re looking for a do everything aero set of wheels that includes some excellent tires and solid braking performance, these are a fair deal at $2,499 for the system.

2012 Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR Exalith road bike wheelset and tire review


Mavic time and again makes predictable wheelsets. Like any company, they’re their record may not be perfect, but, for the most part, you can be confident that a Mavic wheelset is one of quality, dependability, and one that’ll rank well among its peers. The Cosmic Carbone SLR is no exception

To preface, I have been testing this wheelset on my BH G5. I have ridden the wheels on five rides for a total mileage of about 175. In Greensboro, NC, where terrain remains mainly flat, this wheel is awesome. I don’t have wind-tunnel data handy to prove it but, above 20 miles an hour, these wheels motor. They feel like rotating razor blades through the air – keep hands and fingers away. Seriously, the rim-to-rim, one-piece spokes are astoundingly thin and have edges that could probably serve as blades in some sort of food processor. These wheels reward speeds in upper teens and beyond. I like that.

For my one ride in the mountains my experience was not as bewitching. Obviously, the aero benefits get dropped on the climbs. Again, obvious, but compared to some of the 1200-1300g wheelsets I’ve been testing, the SLR’s roughly 1600 grams meant I wasn’t as spritely billy goating up the steeps. On the backside, though, there are usually good downhills. I managed to discover a couple. I felt confident with the handling of the wheel/tire combo and their lateral stiffness allowed impressive entry and exit speeds from the corners.

What really makes this wheel stand out though is the Exalith braking surfaces. It is far superior to just bare aluminum and has a profound effect on stopping ability. One additional perk is that it sounds like a rocket is launching as the brake pads come into contact with the rim. It does a lot on the intimidation front because no one wants to fool with a rider from NASA! Paired with Yksion tires creates a stealthily and mean looking all-black appearance making it hard for this wheelset not to look like a champ on any bike. Black rims, black tires, black spokes, black hubs, all black everything. FTW!


  1. I have owned these and have raced them for 2 years. You do need to follow the break i, but once you do they work as noted and make little noise. People often comment on the “spoiling down” noise, like a jet engine ,under breaking. This is the best braking performance on the market, period. It would be huge if Mavic made an all carbon tubular rim and put this breaking surface on it. I think I have seen some of their disks with this, but nothing for the public. It is a great all around wheel, flat to rolling RR’s, TT front wheel, and the best crit wheel I have ever used. The breaking surface saved my back side a few times when someone crashed in a corner in front of me, I was shocked at race speed how quickly I stopped, and in control, while other went down.

    I do get frustrated with Mavic, they tend to move at a snail’s pace with development, verses other companies. I am not sure if it is because Mavic is French, or just their design philosophy. But the developments at HED, ZIPP, ENVE and Stans move so much faster than Mavic.

  2. >> the best crit wheel I have ever used.

    never in a million years would I risk a $2500 pair of wheels sprinting for handlebar tape…but that’s just me.

  3. The spokes have gone through a ton of r&d. The hub design (mechanically, not cosmetically) is incredibly reliable, light, and servicable. Never been a fan of a bonded carbon-aluminum setup like these, but braking is a pretty cool feature. Thats why I have Ksyriums and want Carbone Ultimates! And a wind tunnel.

    Mavic makes the only wheel systems I will pay for. Nothing they offer has that “afterthought” feeling. Maybe it comes down to patents, but Mavic wins hands down. Everything else I hand build, and i’m an outspoken proponent of handbuilt wheels. For both commuting AND racing. Gonna get on my Ksyrium equipped cx now, all this talk made me hot.

  4. Lol @ dave. I wouldn’t risk it either!
    Especially if it was a wheelset that I paid for.
    I’m always happy to see racers bust out the fancy wheels for crits. It is good for the economy!

  5. Mike S,

    I think what Tyler means by a fair deal at $2499 is that you get the wheelset, tires, innertubes, and brake pads versus other manufacturers that just give you the wheelset alone, some charging more than that.

    But, I still wouldn’t get it. I have broken spokes, and I just take it to my shop and get it fixed in couple of days.
    This wheelset would need to be sent to Mavic, and wouldn’t surprise me if those spokes are super expensive.

    Looks cool though.

  6. MTB – yes, as a system, it’s not a bad price considering they come with all that and have carbon spokes and the Exalith. Forgot to mention, the spokes are both replaceable and true-able, too. High performance brake pads alone can be $30-$40 per wheel.

  7. The hubs might be reliable if you only talk about things that aren’t the plastic bushing in the rear. There are more than a few folks who have to replace that sad piece of engineering all too frequently.

  8. I owned these wheels for more than a year(non exalith version) . Its a bulletproff wheel and i’m 200lbs. No need for trueing even if you go offroad! But this wheel tech is soo old, i think mavic change their stickers 3-4 times but no other major change. This year i sold those and buyed Zipp 404 carbon clincher. The thing is that slr are poor in aero profile and weight more than 404 that have a taller profile too! 3rd reason is that mavic bearings are cheap and you can easily see that zipp’s are way faster. The price for slr is to high even with tires, they are ooold and you can buy 404 at the same price (no tires). And you will feel a big difference in riding experience. Here you can find at page 96 some tests with many wheels and you can see big differences: http://www.tour-qtr.com/epaper_4_2011

  9. I personally don’t think wide tubular rims bring anything to the table. But all the big guys in the wheels world are only making rims at least 5mm wider than Mavic makes.

  10. I used a set of Cosmic Carbone SLR’s earlier this year and found them to be less than satisfactory. I’m aware that, at 150 lbs., crosswinds are going to have a greater effect on me but these wheels were exceptionally poor when compared to Zipp 404 Firecrest or 3.4 & 6.7 Enve Smart clinchers. Also. I was expecting the almost-mythical Mavic stiffness that we all hear about but instead experienced noticeable deflection and even brake pad-rub during sprints, hard efforts, and(!) accelerating from stop signs, traffic lights, etc.

    However, braking performance was very impressive…reliable and predictable. The sound was a plus as well. Since removing them from my bike I gave them to my brother (~10 pounds heavier and a less aggressive rider) who has enjoyed the wheels overall. Although I think that could be as much about the looks of the wheels as their performance, they do look great.

  11. The infamous plastic bushing is now outdated since a couple of years. Mavic has moved away from this design and got back to using bearings all around.
    The new freewhells on the MTB whells with faster engagement are in particular good.

  12. “Like any company, they’re record may not be perfect (…)” = “Like any company they are record may not be perfect (…)”??? What does that mean??

    As Brandon says: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between “there”, “they’re”, and “their”!

  13. I bought these wheels a month or so ago for a huge discount. Perf Bike had a big Mavic sale, then 15% off, so I paid only $1500. No way I would have paid $2500, I would have gone with a full carbon clincher for that price. Still, this is a really nice wheelset. The braking is phenomenal, but man was it tough to get through the break in period. I ride through DC and Georgetown to get to trails and I’d attract quite a bit of attention because of the insane brake squeal. I’m 190 lbs and these wheels don’t seem to flex at all under full power or hard hits from crappy roads. Definitely a good buy if you can find them cheap.

  14. Performance Bike has them for $1800. Sign up to be a member, which costs $30. You’ll get free 2 day shipping, plus 10% back in rewards, so you’ll have $180 in credit at PB. When I bought them, they had another 15% off sale going on so the final price was just over $1500. Bought a bunch of other stuff at PB the next week with all my rewards points. Their parts/clothes selection isn’t very good, but they have great deals on nutrition products.

  15. Ok, I’ve used these for about 3 months now and they are the ducks guts. Authors are spot on. The braking is simply awesome, they motor along really nicely at speed, and look the business. As mentioned the tyres are tops. I used evo corsa cx’s before the mavic ykison tyres and I’ve got to say the mavics are more puncture resistant and roll just as well. These are super stiff wheels which means you lose a little compliance, but just drop your tyre pressure a bit. Aero wise they probably aren’t a match for the latest generation of wide section rims but they are still plenty fast and make an awesome sound at speed. As noted, not as light as claimed (mine weighed about 120g more than claimed by mavic) which I wasn’t happy about, but it is a small price to pay for what is an exceptional wheelset. BTW no need to pay $2,500 – you can easily find these for at least $500 less.

  16. Even though I’ve only had them for a short time (500K) WOW!! is what I say about them. Their my first set of “aero” wheels but I sure love them. They feel so light,stiff and very responsive from a stop that I wished I got them or any other wheels a long time ago. I haven’t been gaining noticeably higher average speeds, but their sure are easier to go faster and maintain top speeds. You’ll feel a lot fresher after a typical ride. I also feel more stable with them, even in crosswinds I have all the confidence in the world. The tyres are amazing as well. With this combo, uneven pavement is soaked up for what I consider a smoother ride. Haven’t really tested the brakes just yet, just getting them broken in for the most part. Which for now would be my only downside. The brake pads do make a lot of noise and wear out faster, it’s getting better over time. They do have a lovely sound when at speed & when your stopping (Gets people looking). Overall the wheels are phenomenal, if you can get them at a good price I highly recommend them.

  17. Tour Qtrly test needs to be taken with a grain. They used conti 4000S 23mm tires that are really 24-25mm. Those tyres are what the other guys have designed the wheels to work with so of course they work well. This is why Mavic went to the WTS. Tour takes the tire off and puts a conti on. Granted the carbon spokes are not very aero. The CC SLE 2013 version is now very close to the same weight as CC SLR with better aero along with the ability to race them the next day after a spoke breakage, a big problem in a stage race.

    Is the photos on the Tour test they have a CC SL on the floor of the wind tunnel. They didn’t test this model the model that hundreds of races have been won on.

  18. I’ve had these wheels for two months and am parting with them in case anyone is interested. I’m 145lbs and they’re two deep for me. $1800 and they are yours.

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