With about 1200 miles in on Mavic's superlight race wheelset, I don't want to take them off. Weighing in at around 1500 grams for the set, calling them feathery might imply that they are heavier then they actually are. Mavic has created a wheel where all the "excess" material has literally been shaved off, leaving behind only that which is absolutely essential. The end result is a minimalist sculpture that doubles as a wheelset. Using bare minimum aluminum alloy for the rim and pairing it with bladed zicral alloy spokes make the SSL's a weight weenies wet dream.
My set of Ksyriums has stood up to some of most abusive treatment you can possible heap onto them. (Poor things). They eat up roads that are pockmarked with gaping potholes and sharp edged, utlility cut-aways. They've blazed over the three inch high "burms" on the Williamsburg Bridge at 25mph. And to top it all off they withstood an instantaneous 30 mph-0 mph stop as a result of a fierce crash that left their owner in much worse shape. The SSL's are nothing short of tough.
Switching over from a 500 gram heavier wheelset made the SSL's seem almost twitchy before I got used to them. Once I got acclimated to the lightness of the wheelset, I realized that what I had initially observed as nervousness was really responsiveness. The SSL's could be turned on a dime, slammed into deep corners and easily pulled up hills.
The testing grounds for these wheels included some heavy duty hill work with a mix of sharp high speed turning. Both of which really brought out the best qualities of these sturdy silver hoops. I was able to easily dive into tight turns at around 40 mph with complete confidence and stability. If I needed a little more out of the turn, I could push/pull the wheel and it would respond no matter where I was in the turn.
If you didn't think that reducing the weight of your rotating parts could make a difference, then think again. Climbing with 500 grams less wheel is a pretty amazing experience. It just seemed like I always had a gear to spare where I didn't think I would. Additionally, the light weight makes these wheels easy to spin up to speed. You can really blast off out of the gates from a full stop.
The machined surface of the rim leads to smooth powerful stops without loss of control. Until disc brakes become more prevalent on road bikes, this is the way to go.
The Wrap Up
The Ksyrium SSL's are badass. Can one really define baddass? No, but one can experience it. 1500 grams of aluminum, bladed zicral alloy spokes, semi-aero profile, smooth running hubs, reliable and durable....badass. I would go as far as to say that Ksyrium SSL's are the Bruce Lee of race wheelsets. Bare bones, efficient, tough, and completely controlled. Will the SSL's make you fast? No, only your legs can do that but, with their fine tuned handling, balance, braking, acceleration and light weight, they'll top off a solid training program and take you over the top. At around $800, they're a tad pricey but, if you think you can handle it, dig deep into your pockets and Enter the Dragon.