Same Reliability, Less Weight

Same Reliability, Less Weight

Buying wheels as a set has become a given. That’s a relatively recent phenomenon. And back when I built wheels from scratch, one of the best choices you could make was to use Mavic hubs and rims. They were one of the first manufacturers to use sealed bearings in wheels; they were certainly the first big manufacturer to do so. They were also the first manufacturer to machine the braking surface of the rim so you didn’t get that tick, tick, tick of the seam passing the brake shoes as you braked.

Mavic was early to the game with carbon fiber and wheels, but initially, their use of carbon was for fairings, not structural. But with the rise of Zipp and Enve as the power players in the category, Mavic has lagged a bit behind.

But Mavic has had an ace in its sleeve: reliability. Of the many wheels on the market, few have achieved the reputation for reliability that the Mavic Ksyrium has. I’ve had friends crash badly enough to total the bike but the wheels escaped free of scathing. I’ve known plenty of people who bought them just because they wanted a wheel reliable enough they could ride it all season and not worry about truing or other maintenance.

I spent some time on the Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL C during some of the rainiest weather we had. For every dry ride I did on these wheels, I endured two wet ones. If nothing else I learned how well they brake in the wet, which is better than average. All wheels seem to give up some braking performance when wet, whether they are made from aluminum or carbon. The difference is that some carbon wheels brake so poorly I have at times asked myself if the bike wasn’t accelerating. Don’t laugh! On a steep descent in the rain that is actually possible.

The Basics
The Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL C is a carbon clincher rim laced with Mavic bladed steel spokes. The nipples are aluminum, and while in the early days they had some corrosion issues in seaside communities due to the salt air, they’ve long since resolved that with better anodizing. The front wheel is laced with 18 spokes while the rear has 24 spokes. These are traditional quick-release wheels with a 100mm axle front and a 130mm axle rear. The rim’s internal with is 17mm, so not particularly wide for anyone wanting to make the best use of a wider tire. And at just 25mm deep, they aren’t deep enough to offer any aerodynamic advantage. So what’s the big benefit? They weigh in at just 1390g.

I’m noticing that it’s getting a bit harder to find wheels that offer the Campagnolo cassette body as an option, but Mavic continues to offer the Campy option as well as the Shimano/SRAM version, plus an option to convert to a driver body and XD-R.

The wheels come with Mavic’s Yksion Pro tires; the front tire is called the GripLink while the rear is the PowerLink. They are 25mm wide tires with a 127 tpi casing and a single compound tread. I’d have adored these tires if I were still in Southern California. I tend to want a bit more tire on my local roads. The GripLink is a higher grip tire for control in turns while the PowerLink features a higher durometer for lower rolling resistance.

Spinning around
For all the talk of aerodynamics and the wider footprint offered by wider rims, there’s still something to be said for the light wheel. And that something is acceleration. It’s easier to get a set of wheels like this up to speed, easier to attack and the accelerations more sudden. Launching from stop lights was different enough from other wheels I’ve been riding to be perceptible and this variety of perceptible falls under the heading of “fun.”

I still hear people talk about stiff wheels versus more comfortable ones, how box rims offer a more gentle ride. It’s a load of hooey. You can do more by letting 5 psi out of your tires than you can by switching rims. Where wheel stiffness does make a difference, though, is in side-to-side flex. What I notice is that with a stiffer wheel, a bike handles with greater precision on descents and I’m less likely to hear the rim rub a brake shoes during an out-of-the-saddle effort.

The other setting you notice a lighter wheel influence your ride experience is how the bike handles in turns. Whether we’re talking flat turns or those you dive into during a descent, a lighter front wheel will cause a bike to turn in more rapidly. Those first few miles can be unpleasantly surprising, like biting into a tomato that … well you get the picture. This is why I always enjoyed riding light wheels on group rides.

Final thought: There’s a reason why a new set of wheels can make your whole bike feel new.

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  1. Mel

    Firm believer in a light weight wheels

    Also dropping tire psi for a more comfortable ride

    Fellow riders don’t seem to get the concept

    Mavic wheelers have always been very dependable and relatively hassle free

  2. AG

    I still have my first “real” bike that came stock with Mavic Aksium wheels (OK, not carbon Ksyriums…but those are beautiful) and I have to say they have been unbelievably reliable. After 10 years I have yet to true them, and they still roll smooth after I don’t even know how many thousands of miles. My wife rides that bike now and the ‘ol Mavics are still rolling true. I honestly think they make some of the best wheels around and for the money it would be hard to find a better set.

  3. Dustin

    While I’m sure these are nice wheels, they also make a compelling point for handbuilt wheels. (Disclaimer – I’m a wheel builder). For a little less money I can build a set of wheels that are the same weight (maybe a touch lighter) using American made hubs and a name-brand carbon rim (not some mystery brand ebay junk) that’s 2mm wider internally, 3mm deeper, and tubeless ready. And no proprietary spokes or nipples!

    1. Winky

      J-bend spokes are the wheel-builders’ private joke. “I know, let’s anchor the spokes at the hub by simply bending them. We’ll create metallurgical embrittlement right at the point of maximum stress. We’ll clean up on repairs of wheels with broken spokes!”

      I have found “proprietary spokes” and factory wheels to be incredibly reliable compared to hand builts. But that’s just me.

  4. Omar

    Would you consider these wheels safe enough for descending the Malibu mountains? (not in the rain). How is the braking when conditions are dry?

    1. Author

      Yeah, I wouldn’t have any concerns about descending in Malibu, but I think it’s important to say I only think that holds true for reasonably adept descenders. For anyone who drags brakes the whole way down, I’d say no. The dry braking was good, but not the best of any carbon clincher I’ve reviewed.

  5. Jorgensen

    Martanos had machined sides way back, two types, flat and grooved (a ring of grooves).
    Problem was they used washers, always made building them more work but they did true up perfect.
    Tubulars only.

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