Adjustable float and release angle reduces knee strain
Compact platform and protruding bails create foot pressure
Collides with some trail features due to rounder and thicker design
Light and trim, the carbon Crossmax SL excels on long-mileage cross-country rides and wet-weather races. The prominent bail locks quickly and securely into the cleat, even when the shoe is caked with mud and debris. Both the float and release angle are adjustable, which reduces strain on the knees and helps riders achieve good biomechanics. The SL proved better for endurance racing than technical riding: the round, ball-like shape doesn’t match the clearance of flatter pedals and has a greater tendency to bang into trail obstacles. It should also be paired with the stiffest available race shoe, otherwise the bail creates pressure points and numbness underfoot.
The Mavic Crossmax SL is actually a rebranded version of the Time ATAC: Mavic and Time recently agreed to share technologies, which is why “ATAC” is stamped onto the pedal right next to the Mavic logo. The carbon construction and hollow axle make this a particularly light pedal suitable for long-mileage rides and races. It also stands up to abuse better than some weight-shaving designs: after months of testing and repeated collisions with canyon sandstone, the platform and bails are undented. That’s fortunate, because the Crossmax SL offers less trail clearance than some models.
The Crossmax SL is more adjustable than most, and allows for a wide range of rider preferences. It allows for 10° of angular float (5° in each direction), but you can further adjust the feel from fully locked to super-free. In the freest setting, the contact with the cleat did feel ridiculously loose—almost sloppy—but it also eliminated the knee strain I occasionally feel after long climbs up dirt roads. That float adjustment is separate from the release mechanism, which is also customizable (offering a choice between 13° and 17° release angles).
The Crossmax is fabulously light and stiff, so it wastes little of your pedaling energy. It also does a fantastic job of shedding mud and goop. This feature is valuable for racers, who compete in all conditions, as well as recreational mountain bikers, who are absolutely unwavering in their dedication to riding only dry trails; eventually we all get caught in unexpected showers. When that happens, the Crossmax continues to offer a fast and secure connection with the cleat. On one rain-soaked ride in the mountains north of Steamboat Springs, the pedal’s prominent bail punched through mud and locked immediately into my shoe, even after I’d tromped through slop and filled the mechanism with sticks and clay.
Here’s where the Crossmax SL is less impressive. Whereas some pedals are more like flattened wafers, the Crossmax is shaped like a little round ball that drills into your foot unless you’re wearing uber-rigid bike shoes. The shoes I wore throughout the test were the Shimano WM80, which contain a full-length carbon midsole that makes them relatively stiff and generally shields against pedal pressure. But with the Crossmax SL, I felt pressure points even on short-mileage rides; after half-day epics, my feet felt far more fatigued than with previously used SPD models.
The Crossmax SL is spendier than most clipless, cross-country mountain bike pedals. Recreational riders may not notice or appreciate the weight savings, but racers who demand maximum pedaling efficiency may feel it’s a worthy investment.