125 Years of Mavic: An Interview With the Source
As an American, I can attest to a feeling of longing for heritage brands. After all, most American companies that are older than a century are usually limited to jeans, beers, and whiskeys. And while I’m known to imbibe, I can’t help but feel that shallowness overcomes my romanticism when I wander the plastic halls of a store. However, there are brands like Mavic that still fill my heart with the good stuff.
This year, Mavic is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and for us to celebrate this celebration, I sat down with Mavic’s Road Product Line Manager, Maxime Brunand, to dig into the history, challenges, and future of Mavic. Enjoy.
JS: Over the past 125 years, Mavic has acted as the stewards of technology and technique in cycling. What do you feel are Mavic’s biggest contributions to cycling over this time?
MB: It’s hard to name only one! Aluminum rims in 1934 cut weight in half, electronic drivetrains (1992 & 1999) set up the standard for today’s electronic shifting from Shimano, Campagnolo, and soon, SRAM, and Fore Technology not only allowed tubeless and sealed rims, but it also pushed the boundaries even further in terms of the reliability of lightweight wheels. Closer to today, I would name Exalith, CX01, and TGMax as our biggest accomplishment to make the wheel safer, faster, and more reliable.
JS: You guys have been supporters of cycling’s biggest names, from Sean Kelly to Greg LeMond to Fabien Barel. Explain the importance of these relationships for the development and advancement of product.
MB: Pros are pushing us to excellence. They are the most demanding customers, craving to make those marginal gains that’ll make the difference between winning and losing.
JS: Who’s been your favorite athlete to work with?
MB: I have no doubt that Hinault, Indurain, and Jalabert were all great guys to work with, but I’m too young to testify. So, in the recent years, the athlete who’s been providing the best support is probably David Millar. He is really open to new ideas, and he’s not afraid of breaking the “commonly accepted rules.” He also has a great feeling on the bike, and he’s very good at putting words to his sensation, in both French and English. Also, very often, the relationship is not only about one man, but also about a full team. This is why, when choosing a team, the potential result is as important as the ability that we’ll have to work with the athletes, the team management, and the mechanics. Knowing that we all speak this common language of marginal gains, and that they’re willing to help us to help them, is the key for us.
JS: This is going to come off pretty nerdy, but I’m sure that I’m not alone with this, but why did Mavic discontinue off the 631 (Starfish) Crankset?
MB: It’s part of a company’s history, where sometimes, external and internal factors are forcing some decisions to be made. At that time, it was about strategic choices for the company’s development and industry evolution.
JS: To say that Mavic has been at the forefront of experimenting with new technology would be an understatement. However, you have succeeded where others have failed. Say, with the 1000 Special Service Race groupset or the ZMS shift system, you deviated away from being just a “wheel maker” and encountered Grand Tour success with your components. Is there any hope of seeing Mavic get back into component design?
MB: Never say never, but in today’s competitive economic environment, fighting against industry giants is becoming more and more challenging. We’ve now oriented our product strategy to a different direction, but we cannot predict the future!
JS: I would say that your Mektronic wireless shift technology was extremely intriguing. Why did Mavic stop pursuing this so early in the game?
MB: We stopped the “experience” after almost six years of selling. We came to a point where there wasn’t much that we could improve any more without massive investment, but still, pros for instance, we’re not satisfied. At the same, competition was stronger and stronger on our core business, and we needed to refocus our resources on those products.
JS: In your opinion, what technology will surpass electronic shifting?
MB: Talking about shifting only, I’d say that keeping with idea of adding one more cog on the rear wheel is reaching the limit. More widely, we’re pretty confident that we can reach the next step of whole-bike-performance by focusing on our core product.
JS: It goes without saying that both the Ksyrium and Cosmic line of wheels have been dominant in their categories. Take me through the importance of their legacies and the reasoning of how they came to be.
MB: Cosmic was the 1st aerodynamic carbon wheel that was ready for mass market. We expanded that range, bringing down the prices of some technologies — the Cosmic Carbone SL is now $1,200, where it was 40% more expensive a few years earlier. Meanwhile, we’ve added more tech on the top — for example, the Cosmic Carbone Ultimate, carbon spokes, Exalith, TgMax, and CX01. Today, we’re the only ones offering such a broad range of carbon wheels, from the Cosmic Carbone SLS to the CCU to the CXR line, and we’re not yet at the end of the road.
The Ksyrium line has, again, set up the benchmark for lightweight and reliability. This is our best selling line, because it’s perfect for long hours of riding. This was the philosophy for those wheels at the beginning, and it will continue to be, even though they’re not the one catching the most attention. Take the Ksyrium SLR for instance — it’s lighter and more affordable than most carbon clincher wheels out there, not to mention the more reliable and confident braking.
JS: For over a decade, it seems that Mavic has placed a heightened importance on aerodynamics, which is evident when you look at the historical dominance of wheels like the Comete Disc, 3G, or the CXR 80. What balance do you strike between ride quality, durability, and aerodynamics when designing a carbon road wheel?
MB: Our motto is “Performance & Quality,” which can sound a bit cheesy, but weighed correctly, each of those two words make sense. And whether it’s the CXR, Cosmic, or Ksyrium, this is what we’re always aiming for. We’ll never sacrifice durability, because we’re certain that this is the best way to satisfy a cyclist. However, we also want to deliver the fastest products to the pros and everyone else in between.
JS: One of my favorite aspects of Mavic is the Neutral Support provided at races. Where did this concept come from, and how important is it to Mavic today?
MB: The concept started by chance in the ’70s when our Director and Owner, Bruno Gormand, offered to lend his own car to a directeur sportif who had crashed his. A few years later, it eventually became what it is today — making it official and very professional, giving not only cars, but also highly qualified drivers and mechanics. Now, it not only provides assistance to pros, but also to amateurs in all disciplines, whether it’s road, triathlon, or mountain biking.
JS: Explain the significance of the Mavic 125 Collection.
MB: The 125 collection represents the heritage of Mavic (color), but also what Mavic stands for: Performance and Quality. The models we chose to celebrate the event (Ksyrium wheel and HC rider equipment) was not done by chance, but instead, because they represent the performance and quality that our customers are asking for.
JS: What does the future of Mavic look like?
MB: In today’s very competitive environment, we’re looking at a bright future, thanks to all the great people who are making Mavic today. We will continue to push the boundaries with innovations that will be the benchmark for product development and evolution. We are very excited for what is to come and are certain that the excitement will be shared!
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