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by James Huang
September 7, 2020
Photography by Mavic
Iconic French wheel brand Mavic is hoping to turn the page after the tumult of the past few months, now that it’s finally found stability in a new owner. It’s doing so in the best way possible: with a new product that not only looks to be quite good, but is also indicative of the company’s more progressive approach moving forward.
As reported earlier, Mavic is planning to return to its roots, moving away from the helmets, shoes, clothing, and other bits of gear that always felt a bit like odd offshoots primarily intended to pad the bottom line. From now on, there will be a sharper focus on its core competencies, and what put Mavic on the map in the first place: wheels and rims.
According to director of product management Maxime Brunand, all of Mavic’s wheel-related products from here on out will focus on a handful of key attributes: a simplified range with less overlap that’s easier for consumers to understand; an emphasis on easy service and maintenance; a big push for even-better reliability; “tuned ride quality” for the intended discipline; and features that provide “tangible and visible consumer benefits.”
Showcasing those goals and headlining Mavic’s rise from the ashes on the drop-bar front is the new Cosmic 45 SLR carbon fiber aero road wheelset. With a 45 mm rim depth, 1,470-gram claimed weight for the set, 19 mm inner width, 28 mm outer width, bladed stainless steel spokes, and easy tubeless compatibility, it admittedly doesn’t sound all that special at first glance. Even the US$2,000 / £1,650 / €1,850 asking price (Australian pricing is still to be confirmed) is decidedly average for the segment.
But as is often the case with Mavic’s wheels, it’s only when you look a little more closely that you start to appreciate the finer details.
Mavic’s wheels have always appealed more to customers who appreciate more of the finer details than straight line-item specs, and the new Cosmic SLR 45 Disc will be no different.
Perhaps most intriguingly, Mavic has adapted the Fore technology from its aluminum wheels to carbon fiber — not by forming threads directly into the rim wall with a super-hot tap, mind you, but rather with aluminum inserts that are co-molded into the rim at each attachment point. As with Mavic’s aluminum Fore-equipped wheelsets (such as the Ksyrium range), the Fore Carbon nipples are permanently connected to each spoke, and thread directly into those aluminum inserts.
Those spokes and nipples are once again fully proprietary, but Mavic is adamant that it’s a worthy tradeoff. According to Mavic, Fore Carbon saves 40 g per rim since the rim walls can be made thinner than they otherwise could be with conventional spoke holes. Claimed rim weight is an impressive 360 g, and the company also claims the connection between the Fore Carbon spoke and nipple is twice as strong as conventional ones.
Mavic’s Fore Carbon system for anchoring the nipples in the carbon rim may be proprietary, but it also sounds like a genuine functional improvement over traditional nipples.
There’s a big improvement to the tubeless interface, too. While most tubeless road wheelsets require tape to seal up the spoke holes in the rim, Mavic’s setup is more like Campagnolo and Fulcrum in that the Cosmic 45 SLR Disc’s outer rim wall is totally solid and requires no tape that can migrate, tear, or leak over time.
Speaking of tubeless, the Cosmic SLR 45 Disc is fully compliant with the upcoming ETRTO and ISO industry guidelines for tubeless road wheels. The tire bed shape is similar to Mavic’s existing Road UST design (which isn’t terribly surprising given that it was arguably the best system on the market for user-friendliness). However, the beadlock hump has been removed for easier seating, and the central channel is now a little wider for easier mounting.
And if you prefer regular inner tubes, you are, of course, still free to go that route as well.
Mavic has revised its Road UST rim profile from the original version, now making it compliant with upcoming ETRTO guidelines for tubeless road rims.
In a nod toward the company’s renewed focus on user serviceability, all the spokes are the same length throughout, so while it still may not be as easy to source a replacement when needed (and Mavic sadly doesn’t include any spares with the wheels), at least there’s a little less confusion when you finally get your hands on one. And since the nipples thread directly into the rim — combined with the convenient flange design on the new hubs — there’s no disassembly required at all to install it, either. In fact, Mavic says you can even replace spokes without removing the wheel from the bike at all.
Anchoring the Cosmic SLR 45 Disc is Mavic’s new Infinity hubset.
Several of the key internal details are carried over from before, such as Mavic’s ID360 40-tooth ratchet mechanism — basically its interpretation of the DT Swiss Star Ratchet design — and self-adjusting QRM Auto cartridge bearings. But again, it’s the details that are more interesting than what you see on the surface.
For example, Mavic uses an oversized aluminum axle on the rear hub with a 17 mm outer diameter and generous 2.5 mm wall thickness, which is supposedly a full millimeter thicker than what’s more commonly used. As a result, Mavic claims a 35% increase in bending stiffness relative to those svelter axles, with improved bearing life to go along with it. Further aiding in that department is a new heavier-duty freehub seal to help prevent contaminants from infiltrating the driver mechanism.
If and when it does, however, the convertible end caps are now tool-free, so in keeping with Mavic’s newly stated goals, cleaning and re-lubricating the ratchet should be a simple affair.
Mavic’s ID360 driver system is a huge improvement over the old FTS-L freehub design in terms of function and durability, and it’s now been proven for the past few years, too. The removable sound damper is a nice touch as well.
Riders who haven’t yet experienced Mavic’s ID360 ratchet mechanism may be wondering how loud it is. Whether you prefer louder or softer hubs, though, Mavic accommodates both with the new Infinity rear hub. Just as in recent years, there’s a “sound damper” — basically a soft rubber ring — tucked behind one of the ratchet rings that deadens the sound if you relish a quieter ride, or you can remove it if you’d rather go loud and proud. It’s a minor detail, but likely something more than a few people will appreciate.
Interestingly for an aero road wheel, Mavic doesn’t make a big deal about the Cosmic SLR 45 Disc’s drag performance in a wind tunnel, aside from the general mention that the rim profile features a NACA airfoil profile and is the “ideal balance of aero and low weight.” According to Mavic, though, the best aerodynamic performance will come with 25 mm-wide tires mounted, although the rims are approved for tires all the way up to 52 mm if, for some reason, you want to run them on more of an adventure-type rig.
Nevertheless — and in typical fashion — Mavic has still taken the time to sweat some smaller details.
As some of you may have already noticed, those Fore Carbon nipples aren’t exactly tiny. They’re smaller and more bullet-shaped than the existing Fore nipples that Mavic uses on the Ksyrium range, but still about twice the diameter of conventional nipples, and even Mavic readily admits that they come at a cost of about 2 W when moving at 40 km/h. And as compared to internal nipples? You’re looking at 4 W.
Mavic is quite open about the fact that the Fore Carbon nipples aren’t exactly the most aerodynamic things around. But Mavic has at least invested some effort to make them smaller and sleeker than the ones used on Mavic’s Fore-equipped aluminum wheels.
That’s supposedly offset by the new elliptical stainless steel spokes, however, which Mavic says save 4 W relative to conventional flat bladed spokes.
Nevertheless, Mavic doesn’t seem to be going after customers seeking the absolutely latest-and-greatest in terms of aero technology. Instead, the target buyer is “the allround rider and racer looking for one wheelset to do it all.”
Whether all of this is enough to bring consumers back into the Mavic fold is obviously a question that remains to be answered, but the Cosmic SLR 45 Disc is at least a positive-looking sign of what’s to come.
Based on Mavic’s new naming structure, lower-priced S and SL versions are on the way, as well as an ultra-premium Ultimate model somewhere down the road. Shallower and deeper versions appear to be on the cards as well, and it’ll be especially interesting to see whether Mavic can be sufficiently forward-looking with the mainstream Ksyrium line to really bring the brand back into relevance.
If nothing else, we’re at least looking forward to seeing if these are a legitimate good omen for Mavic’s future. Time will tell.
The solid outer rim bed is inherently airtight.
Mavic’s estimates for tubeless rim tape weights are admittedly on the higher end of the scale. Lighter-weight options for tubeless tape do exist, but these figures are still pretty realistic for most users.
Mavic has shaped the hub flanges so that the spokes can be replaced without having to remove the axle. In fact, spoke replacements can be done without even removing the wheel from the bike.
Center Lock has essentially become the standard rotor interface for road wheelsets.
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