First a bit of wheel history
Mavic made the first dural aluminium rim in 1934 – Antonin Magne won that year’s TdF on them. They also pioneered other wheel technologies such as; machined rim walls for better braking, welded joints and ceramic surfaces. But for riders who have been riding for more than 20 years the big attraction to these wheels will be the ‘SSC’ marque. Mavic used the SSC (which stands for Special Services Course) as indication of their top quality rims and latterly their gears and brakes. The SSC rims were lighter and tougher than anything else on the market and won the Paris-Roubaix on several occasions. Many pros still ask for them, that’s how good they were.
In 1974 Mavic also began their yellow car race support at the Tour, so wheels have always been the main area of expertise.
Mavic were the first ‘big’ company to seriously enter the homogonous wheelset market. Their Cosmic wheel was first seen at the 1994 Tour de France. It was lightweight and responsive. Best of all they looked the biz. The main thrust of Mavic’s new approach was to widen the hubs, introduce straight pull spokes with no elbows and significantly lighten up the package with a stronger rim and less spokes. They added to this with the Helium a lighter road wheel which became a favourite among the sub 60kg climber category, although it had some reliability issues for riders of a heavy build.
I liked the original Helium’s ride characteristics, but they just didn’t wear well. Mavic then went in a different direction and developed aluminium spokes, deeper section rims and stronger hubs, the result being the superb CrossMax mountain bike wheel and the Ksyrium we all know and love. Where the Helium was a landmark product, the Ksyrium has been the benchmark in wheelsets for the past few years. So ten years on, Mavic have gone back to red as an anniversary edition Helium/Ksyrium is launched.
We had the chance to ride the latest Ksyrium ES model at the Etape. Ride-wise they feel very much the same as the older SL model. If anything they are a little less flighty when sprinting but the same compliant ride has not been compromised by the lighter build, nor has the lateral rigidity. It’s hard to say if the weight makes a difference to the climbing (especially when you’re completely knackered) but the flat speed and descending power of the Ksyrium ES is certainly improved, they’ve beefed up the rear wheel which helps them track. Leaning into corners is easy as tyre adhesion is secured, something that many light wheels struggle to retain.
The improvements are cosmetic too, the red anodising is deeper than on the Heliums and the black rims are a complete contrast to the silver SLs. The front hub has a carbon centre sleeve and uses pretty much the same flange design as before. To combine lightweight efficiency whilst retaining aerodynamic advantages the minimal number of flat ‘isopulse’ spokes are used – 18 front and 20 rear. The ‘Fore’ spoke holes are threaded with the same nipples used in the previous wheelsets.
On the new Ksyrium’s the big difference is in the rims. The cut edges have all been smoothed away and there’s a more organic shape to the underside of the rim, they have even CNC-machined the internal rim surfaces to give lighter weight, with the ED10 version saving a further 10g. The rims can cope with 140PSI (20mm tyre) and the braking surfaces are totally flat and machined for positive control.
Obviously we cannot comment on the long term wear of these wheels, but previous Ksyriums have been hard wearing with only the odd cassette body issue or hub bearing replacement to cause concern. Mavic’s skewers are heavier than most, but very easy to use the ES wheels are supplied with new upgraded titanium shafts to reduce the weight.
The M10 sprockets are much cheaper than Campagnolo but not quite as smooth. The 13-27 ratio is fine on the way up the cassette but changing down isn’t as smooth as Campagnolo 10 speed cassettes. A Campagnolo cassette body and sprockets would be better. Also you can still use 9 speed Shimano on them.
Sure there are lighter wheels available, but very few offer the same ride quality and user friendliness of the Ksyrium. But with weights of 625g for the front and 785g for the rear they will set the weight watchers hearts pounding.
On the downside is the price. A good set of handbuilt wheels would cost a fraction of the price and would probably last you a lot longer, but that isn’t really the point of the complete wheelset philosophy, they go for high performance first and foremost. They look trick too. And for that alone the Ksyrium ES is certainly a winner. A big crash and a heavy weathered winter may not be too kind to such a light weight wheel, but for racing and Etape riding they will be perfect.
Suggested retail price is currently a staggering £800 and some on-line retailers have them listed already.
• Technical specificationshere
• More details from Mavic
• Avaiable in the UK through Chicken and Sons
• Telephone: 01582 872202
SSC’s powerful history
Mavic’s 10 speeds
red spoke wheels