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2006 Sneak Peek: Mavic, Shimano

Looking forward to the 2006 cycling year, the worst kept secret on the horizon has been 2nd edition Helium wheelset coming from Mavic. We’ve heard rumors over the last month or so, but we finally have some information we can sink our teeth into. Many of you likely recall the Helium — first seen in 1996, it spawned the pre-built wheelset revolution. Folks quit hand-building wheels component-by-component, and instead embraced the fact that companies like Mavic could supply them with rock solid ready-made wheelsets. The Helium was a brilliant design: It was fairly lightweight by the standards of the day (standards that included steel forks and quill stems, of course), and it was an eye-popping anodized red (rims and hubs) that made it stand out like nothing else. Mavic marketed it like mad as a ‘climbing’ wheelset — despite the fact that its stainless spokes and brass nipples made them weigh about as much as a set of Ksyrium Elites! The pros of the era rode them in all conditions, especially the long passes, and you still see them upon occasion on a local level today. It’s earned its place as a breakthrough product that brought on a whole new era in the cycling industry.

For 2006, Mavic is revisiting history with the introduction of the Ksyrium ES. ‘ES’ stands for ‘Edition Speciale’, which refers to the fact that this wheel commemorates the ‘Dixieme Anniversaire Helium’ — the 10th Anniversary of the Helium. In fact, it bears virtually almost no resemblance at all to the original Helium except for its strategic use of the color red — one red spoke per wheel, some strategic use of red decals on the rim, plus red hub flanges on the front wheel and a whole red hub shell on the rear wheel. Rather, think of it more as a climbing-minded version of the Ksyrium SL. As you’d expect, the ES features all of the technical advantages of the SL: The ES is built with bladed Zircal spokes for an unbeatable combination of aerodynamics, durability, and lightness. You get Mavic’s UB Control and SUP rim treatments, which means you’ll get consistent, reliable day in and day out performance thanks to their perfectly machined braking surface and welded/machined rims. Also similar to the SL is its ISM milling of the rim between spokes to minimize rim weight.

The ES asserts itself as more of a climbing wheelset than the SL in two key ways: First is the lower-profile depth of the front rim. Rather than the semi-aero 25mm depth of the SL, the front rim on the ES is only 22mm deep, essentially the same depth as an Open Pro rim. This makes it a lighter wheel than the front SL, and it has the incidental advantage of making it a more stable wheel in cross winds and at high speeds on descents (after all, if you’re using these in the mountains, you have to go down, too!) The rear wheel on the ES is still 25mm. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the rear wheel added rigidity and resistance to flex, which according to Mavic gives it superior power transfer. The second way in which the ES is designed with climbing in mind is its generous use of titanium: The skewers are made from Ti, the rear axle is a Ti/aluminum mix, and the freehub body is supremely lightweight — the Shimano freehub body is made from Ti, while the Campy one has to be made from aluminum alloy since its Campy-specific splines are so deep. Note, too, the newly designed oversized carbon fiber front hub. The SL has a carbon front hub, but the oversized shape of the ES is designed to shave a few extra grams from the total weight of the wheels.

Like the SL, the ES has 18 spokes front and 20 spokes rear with radial lacing on the front and an Mavic’s Isopulse spoking pattern on the rear. They include a Zircal spoke-specific wheel magnet, a truing wrench and bearing adjustment tool. And a nice bonus is that the ES wheelset comes with wheel bags. The ES weighs in at an average of 1485g. They have a retail price of $1099, and we expect to see them in stock no later than mid-July.

The other sneak peek to 2006 we can offer is in regards to Shimano. They apparently have a brand new wheel design themselves — the Dura-Ace WH-7801. We think we’ve seen glimpses of it in the peloton, and most interesting is the fact that Shimano has a release date on the tubeless version of the wheel: September 2005. The 7801 will also be available in a standard alloy rim, and a standard carbon rim. But the tubeless version is the one that interests us most. Hedge funds — load up long on your Stan’s Tubeless sealant stock! As many of you know, both Mavic’s Ksyrium SL wheelset and Fulcrum’s Racing 1 wheelset are engineered to accommodate tubeless tire technology. We wonder if Shimano’s announcement is an indicator that Michelin and Hutchinson will be ready by September to loose to the roadie world a refined tubeless tire.

Shimano has also formally announced the impending production of a 50/34 compact crankset. Interestingly, it won’t be branded ‘Dura-Ace’ or ‘Ultegra’, rather, there will be one version of this crankset only, and it will simply be known as ‘FC-R700’. It will have the Hollowtech II integrated BB spindle technology of today’s Dura Ace and Ultegra cranksets. And Shimano states that since the rings will use their current SG-X shifting technology, there will be no need to use a compact-specific front derailleur. Rather, any existing double Shimano front derailleur will lead to crisp shifting between chainrings. We don’t have a price on this yet, but the estimated delivery date is January 2006.