For decades Mavic was the wheel maker. Newsworthy in every development, its ubiquitous yellow support vehicles were second only to its products in terms of keeping the peloton rolling. Founded in 1889 it remained a brand strongly associated with its native France, thanks to a headquarters near Annecy and production facilities in Saint-Triviers.
However, in recent years its near-monopoly on the wheel market has come undone. With slower production cycles, having pioneered tubeless systems, it seemed late to every development since.
Not that its wheels weren’t usually bombproof, just perhaps lacking that latest hook to enliven journalists or consumers. Behind the scenes, labyrinthine corporate buyouts also saw its ownership swapped between different groups, few of whom seemed interested or able to develop the brand.
After being placed into receivership last year, it looked as if Mavic might have sunk right up to the axles. Indeed, the question of who actually owned the brand at all became a pertinent one, and the staff representation body demanded the help of the courts to clear the muddy waters that surrounded its original sale from Amer Sports Group.
Now under new and more secure ownership, its 2021 range aims to simplify the brand’s offering and return Mavic to its preeminent spot in the peloton.
Key to this is a shift away from accessory ranges to again focus back on what the brand is known for. Having formerly been left somewhat adrift, its remaining workforce looks to have put everything they know about making wheels into its latest range.
Designed and prototyped in France before being manufactured in Europe, the well-known Cosmic and Ksyrium nomenclature remains, now denoting either carbon or aluminium rimmed wheels.
The letters S, SL, SLR, or the word Ultimate spell out the performance level, with the depth in millimetres composing the last part of the equation.
Carbon road wheels
A cursory look at the new range would suggest Mavic has finally got there when it comes to both features and price. At £1,650 per pair, its SLR wheels are branded as having racing performance, while the more modest SL line includes most of the same features yet comes in at just £1,050 a set.
The new Cosmic SLR range includes 65, 45, and 32mm deep disc brake wheelsets. Alongside these is a single 40mm deep Cosmic SLR 40 wheelset for calliper brake users.
All include Fore-technology carbon rims with a fully sealed inner rim bridge which does away with the need for tape and cuts rotating weight. At the same time, the load spreading design of the rim’s integrated spoke insert allows the spokes to be directly screwed into the rim, in a design Mavic claims is slightly lighter yet twice as strong. Decently wide, each rim is 19mm internally, except for the 32mm deep options which get a slightly increased width.
Linked to the hubs via elliptical stainless-steel spokes, Mavic’s new Instant Drive 360 Infinity hubs use a double ratchet freewheel and feature automatic bearing preload adjustment. Tweakers will also massively appreciate the removable sound damper which allows riders to dull the noise of the freewheel.
A tier down at SL level the range is repeated in terms of rim profiles. There are slightly cheaper 65, 45, and 32mm deep disc brake wheelsets along with a single 40mm deep rim brake version for rotor refusniks.
Despite paying significantly less, you still get the same Infinity hubs as found on the SLR wheels. While the rims remain similar in both their profile and tubeless-ready ability, the SL range spokes attach more conventionally. Somewhat increasing overall weight, the spokes themselves are also flat-bladed rather than the more aerodynamic elliptical ones found on the SLR models.
Probably not for the likes of you, the Ultimate T Disc is an all-carbon wheel that’ll require your mechanic to glue a tubular tyre to it before you take it out for a spin.
The first time the Ultimate range has featured a disc option, unusually, this latest model currently has no direct calliper equivalent. Aimed at dedicated racers and sponsored athletes, a more consumer-friendly tubeless-ready version is in the works. At 40mm in depth and sporting fixed elliptical carbon spokes, this current version clocks in at 1,225g for the complete wheelset and will cost you £2,730.
The Ksyrium name lives on with SL and S wheelsets available in both disc and rim-brake versions. Showing the brand is putting the same effort into its aluminium offering as its carbon wheels, both SL and S models include a version of Mavic’s Fore spoke technology, along with the latest Infinity hubs.
Further reducing weight the top-end SL models also feature Inter Spoke Milling which reduces excess material where it plays no structural role, plus elliptical spokes. Now all 19mm internally, the rims on the disc versions of both SL and S models sit a couple of millimetres taller than their calliper siblings at 23 and 25mm respectively. Prices are £590 for the SL and £360 for the S versions in either disc or calliper varieties.
Along with new models and technology Mavic now grants a lifetime warranty on its carbon wheels, with heavy discounts of up to 50% in the case of irreparable crash damage. With its house now seemingly back in order, it should prove a feature well worth having.
Elsewhere, despite simplification and excluding mountain bike wheels, Mavic’s range still sprawls to over 30 models. Perhaps befitting one of the most recognisable names in cycling, this includes options for everyone from track cyclists to gravel riders.
Still supporting racers via its fleet of neutral support vehicles, at the top-end of the market there are now more reasons to choose Mavic than simple neutral service expediency.
Having navigated more than a century of cycling history, if Mavic nearly became part of it, it was largely through machinations beyond the control of the brand itself. Well-established in that small huddle of companies riders tend to feel unprompted affection for, Mavic had earned the right to be considered part of cycling’s furniture.
Surviving with its expertise intact, after a difficult year it now seems to have produced a range that looks capable of cementing its position for a few more decades yet.