A couple weekends ago, I traveled to Salt Lake City to exhibit a few of my wheels in the North American Handmade Bike Show. I was there with Stinner Frameworks, ostensibly to show the variety of wheels that could be ordered with Aaron Stinner’s fine machines. In addition to going as his wheel supplier, I was representing my own business; that of selling custom hand built wheels to enthusiasts and racers. I brought a bunch of wheels to the show; half were wheel sets with carbon fiber rims and the others were constructed with alloy rims from a variety of manufacturers. Without doubt, the most interesting wheelset featured the brand new Mavic Open Pro rims, which were air shipped from Paris to Santa Barbara and arrived four hours before we were due to pile into a minivan and go to NAHBS. I wasted no time in mounting these babies onto a pair of red White Industries T11 hubs using black spokes and red alloy nipples. They looked fantastic!
Against reason, I retain a soft spot in my heart for Mavic; since 1986, I’ve pretty much used most of their models. In 1990, Kurt Stockton rode to victory in the US Pro Road Championships on wheels I had constructed for him. The rims were Mavic Mach2 CD tubular models; in over thirty years, I have not seen a better rim for competition. Back then, I would tip my hat to this French company every time I used their rims.
Then, around 15–20 years ago, Mavic decided, as other component makers did, to offer prebuilt wheels to shops. The wheels featured dedicated spokes, hub and rim that were particular to that wheel set. Wheels became wheel “systems”. Companies make more money by selling whole wheels instead of simply a pair of rims, so it was inevitable, I suppose. Mavic continued to sell rims to wheel builders, but the rims were no longer on the cutting edge of design. Their creative juices were spent on their wheel systems rather than their rims.
Fast forward to 2017.
A few months ago, I had a transatlantic phone conversation with a Mavic engineer in Annecy, France. He was reaching out to living, breathing wheel builders to get their take on various tubeless-ready alloy rims already on the market. All this activity was spurred by the introduction of Mavic’s re-designed Open Pro tubeless ready rim. At the end of our chat, I asked Maxime for a pair of these rims as soon as they were available. I wanted to see if they had “The Mavic Feel”.
I will not go into the technical details to any extent; suffice to say that they are acceptably wide, though not as wide as some of the competitors. The rims have the super hard Exalith coating and the brake surfaces are grooved to enhance braking power. It’s still an eyeleted rim, but it weighs only 435 grams. It hits the numbers, in my opinion.
It’s the unseeable that I’m interested in; the feel and the character a rim exhibits as it becomes a wheel. Does it cooperate with the builder? Is it a reluctant partner? I’m happy to say, in this case, building this wheel felt like a homecoming. The rim neither surrendered to its fate, nor did it resist input from the spoke wrench. From the start to the finished product, it never lost its dignity.
Enough of my nonsense; I opine that wheel builders and riders will consider this new Open Pro a solid advancement of Mavic back to the top ranks.