Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL (pronounced car·bon) MSRP - $1,199.90
By Lawrence Garcia
For years Mavic has been the “go to” road wheel for many Pro Peloton teams and triathletes. However, when you want an aerodynamic, lightweight wheel that actually performs without costing you an arm (and sometimes also a leg), there are few options. The best is the Cosmic Carbone SL wheel set.
The Cosmic Carbone SL is a lightweight, aerodynamic wheel coming in at just under 1,750 grams with a Shimano freehub body. It’s constructed with an aluminum alloy rim and a 52 mm carbon fairing bonded to the rim to keep the cost down. Don’t think that just because it’s a fairing it won’t perform. The wind does not know the difference and the structural integrity is sound. With a 16 bladed spoke front and a 20 bladed spoke rear, this set will hold a corner in any triathlon you plan to compete in. The set is strong and stiff and rides amazingly smooth. While other wheels will feel a little mushy in a hard corner, especially with heavier and stronger riders, the Cosmic Carbones will not flex, will hold their line and will accelerate quickly. Mavic bends and then welds the rim at the seam for strength. After it’s cooled, the braking surface is milled to accurate specifications. This not only ensures a durable bomb-proof bond, it gives the rim an effective braking surface in any condition without chatter or vibrations under heavy load.
Another great aspect of most Mavic wheels is the micro adjustment of the double-sealed cartridge bearings. This allows the user to adjust the bearings on both wheels while the wheel is mounted on the bike, making certain the roll is as efficient as possible.
I have ridden many of the race wheels on the market. The Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL is one of the best, especially considering that it costs less than $1,200. On the road the wheels feel responsive and even though they weigh nearly 1,750 grams for the set, they accelerate rapidly. It doesn’t take much effort to keep them moving and as soon as I am tucked into my aero bars, I get a sense that I am already faster due to the smooth bearing and aero profile. I have confidence that these wheels will hold at any speed and in any corner due to their construction.
The 52 mm fairing added an advantage that was measurable on my bike. I was averaging 1-2.5 mph faster on the same course on two different days (one with the Mavic Cosmic Carbones and the other with my R500 training wheels). I kept my heart rate the same and I tried to follow the same routine on both days to get an accurate feeling for the wheels against my standard training wheels. My test was by no means scientific, but it did give me an idea of what these wheels can do. I undoubtedly felt more of the road with the Mavics and it was a smoother ride even though I was using the same tires and tubes. I did hit a few good crosswinds and I was impressed by the way the Cosmic Carbones handled them. I didn’t feel the front wheel veer at all. The Cosmic Carbones hold their true very well. After being ridden for many miles, countless potholes, and many bunny hops, I have yet to make them go out of true or roundness.
There have been a few tests done in the wind tunnel and some data published based on YAW and drag, but as a consumer, I feel there isn’t much education gained from those tests. I want to know the feeling on the road. And I want to use my knowledge of how I ride – not data I can barely make sense of – to inform my purchase. If you are a road rider or triathlete looking to upgrade your wheels for something faster and lighter for less than $1,200, the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL may be the right choice for you.
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Lawrence Garcia, an employee at Inside-Out Sports since 2005, currently oversees the Mail Order Department and all aspects of wheels for the shop and is the jack-of-all trades. He is a military veteran and grew up wrestling and competing in rodeo back home in New Mexico. He currently competes in the occasional triathlon or running race and you can visit with him on the Tuesday and Thursday night bicycle ride starting from Inside-Out Sports in Cary at 6 p.m.