There are few surer signs of winter than a sudden proliferation of Mavic’s venerable Aksium wheel in the steeds of riding buddies.
This no-frills, factory built aluminium clincher has gained an impressive reputation for durability and we’re hoping that the set arrived for test at RCUK Towers, and now resident in our test rig, will live up to the billing.
Winter is far from over, and a durable wheelset will be a welcome one. The Aksium comes supplied with a pair of the French brand’s own Aksion tyres, whose performance we’ll be assessing too. Let’s take a closer look.
The rim gives every indication of a simple, but well-machined aluminium clincher (one for use with inner tubes and a bead hook to attach the tyre). It has a narrow, low-ish profile, rising to just 24mm, that sits well with its established reputation as a reliable all-rounder. While Mavic has its fair share of cutting edge offerings nestled among its Cosmic range, the Aksium is a simpler beast, intended for long miles, rather than out-and-out performance.
The CNC-machined brake track gives the wheel an immediate appearance of quality and Mavic claim its Usiné Brut Control surface (‘raw machined’) offers better purchase for the pads and eliminates brake judder, and on our hoops has removed any trace of the arc welded joint. It’s a feature of several rims in the French brand’s portfolio, including the none-more-trusted winter offering, the Open Pro: a staple for riders pursuing the option of handbuilt winter wheels.
Around the spoke nipples, the aluminium appears to have been moulded into low eyelets: evidence of Mavic’s ‘hammer hardening’ process, where the rim is strengthened in areas subject to the greatest stress.
The Aksium is equipped with 20 steel, aerobladed spokes, front and rear. Up front, they’re laced in an attractive radial pattern on either side, a feature that appears on the non-driveside of the rear, opposite a two-cross pattern on the driveside.
The spokes are straight-pull offerings, eliminating at a stroke the potential for failure suffered by some j-bend spars where the hook used to secure spoke to hub flange can be a point of weakness. The direct route from hub to rim taken by a straight-pull spoke is intended to offer greater stiffness too, and we’ll report on Mavi success or otherwise in this regard in our subsequent review.
Each spoke terminates at a brass nipple at the rim: a sensible choice given its position in the firing line for road spray. The use of brass should reduce the potential for corrosion, and is a further indication perhaps of why this budget hoop is such a popular choice for winter.
The hubs have a simple appearance: a conventional, barrel design for the aluminium body, both front and rear. The shape of the two units differs only on the driveside flange of the rear, which is machined in a cog-shaped profile present in several Mavic hoops; one that leaves the spoke heads reassuringly visible and presumably simple to replace in the event of a breakage.
Staying with the rear hub, we find an aluminium-bodied freehub revolving on Mavic’s patented two-pawl Force Transfer Light system, one for which the French wheelsmiths claim sufficient strengthening from stainless steel inserts to support the use of a weight-saving aluminium freehub body – another technology present on its more expensive hoops.
The hubs revolve on a sealed cartridge bearing system, offering a fit-and-forget approach to maintenance that reduces the servicing regime to no more than casting the worn cartridge to the fiery wastes once its life has expired; compare and contrast with the cup and cone system, which requires careful adjustment to apply the correct amount of tension to eliminate play without inducing friction, and in which the loose bearings can damage the internals of the hub shell if allowed to rest in moisture for any prolonged period.
Mavic supplies its hoops with tyres, which means we’re reviewing not only a wheel, but a “wheel system”. We haven’t had any great success with the French brand’s covers to date and the prospects for an entirely slick, 23mm tyre on UK roads in January are bleak. Still, we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve tried them. The single compound rubber may offer something in the way of robustness; likewise the 60 threads-per-inch casing. What we’re not expecting, however, is a soft, supple ride. At this time of year, however, we’ll happily trade performance for reliability.
We’ve had excellent service from the Aksium’s predecessor in our test rig – the excellent, mid-range all-rounder, the Ksyrium Elite S. Its replacement, the 1735g Aksium, will add a not insignificant 215g of revolving weight, but in January, speed does not top our agenda. A wheel that provides trouble-free running before spring encourages the installation of lighter, faster hoops will suit us well. Check back soon for a full review.