Mavic is a lot of things. Trendsetter (or even trend chaser) is not one of them. The famed French wheel and apparel maker that’s been around for 127 years frequently takes its time adapting new technologies. Critics will claim they’re stubborn or even off the back. Mavic counters that they simply take a more measured approach, unwilling to rush product to market simply to keep up with the jones.
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We can’t claim to know which is true. But we can say that it seemed odd that as the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, Mavic still did not have a carbon mountain bike wheel in their catalog when so many other companies big and small did. “It may seem like we are late to carbon, but that was intentional,” claimed Maxime Brunand, Mavic product line and concept manager. “We needed to make sure we hit the mark.”
That proverbial bullet was finally discharged in early May, when Mavic launched its new XA Pro Carbon wheels during a press launch in Hondarribia, Spain, which is tucked between San Sebastian to the south and Biarritz, France, to the north. If nothing else, they’d certainly picked a nice spot to entertain the world’s cycling press. In one direction were the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay; in the other was our riding destination, the precipitously steep foothills of the Pyrenees. (If you’re interested in exploring the area, make sure to get in touch with the crew at Basque MTB, who did a superb job of showing us around.) But first we had to learn about these new wheels.
The nuts and bolts are fairly straight forward — and some will argue too narrow. Indeed, in this day when “wider is better” is all the rage, Mavic’s new composite MTB hoops have a relatively modest 26mm inner rim width. They come is 27.5 and 29, use steel straight pull, bladed, double butted spokes, 24 front/24 rear with 2-cross lacing, and are UST tubeless with a hookless profile for increased overall strength and less chance of burping.
An asymmetrical spoke design places spoke nipples 2mm off center, which is claimed to provide improved triangulation of the spokes. This in turn reduces drive side spoke tension, and balances tension with the opposing spokes. The straight pull spokes also mean they can be replaced without pulling off the cassette.
Claimed wheel weights are 1470 grams for the 27.5, and 1600 for the 29s. Price is $1850 including tires, which we’ll talk more about in a moment.
What About That Width Decision?
“Yes we agree that we weren’t wide enough before at 23mm, but we simply believe that most tires are not designed for such wide rims as you see in the market today,” explained Brunand. “We feel you get good ride quality at this 26mm width, whereas 30-35mm for a 2.5” tire doesn’t make sense. And yes we will start looking at plus soon, but that is a different conversation.”
The Mavic PR team was also quick to point out that though its parent company Amer Sports bought highly regarded carbon wheel maker ENVE in February, the Ogden, Utah-based company had no input or influence on the design of the XA Pro wheels. (For the record, a quick check of the ENVE website reveals no MTB wheels wider than 25mm internal, and none cost less than $2300.)
“We have no plans to make one company,” said Michel Lethenet, Mavic’s international press officer. “We will stay separate with separate DNA. Sure we will share some sales channels and things like that. But Mavic did not buy ENVE, our parent company did.”