HOW ARE YOUR WHEELS CREATED?
HOW ARE YOUR WHEELS CREATED?
The different stages of wheel design: a process firmly rooted in French savoir-faire
It is common to hear people say of someone else that “they didn’t reinvent the wheel”. Neither did we, but we've come pretty close!
Behind this saying lies a reality that we, at Mavic, are proud of: we have been doing everything we can to reinvent the wheel for almost 130 years.
Creating a wheel is a complex process that takes at least 18 months and that our expert builders in Annecy, France, have perfected. Keep reading as we explain all the details behind the main stages of wheel design.
UNDERSTANDING AND ANTICIPATING CYCLIST'S EXPECTATIONS
Each new wheel that leaves our workshops must answer a specific need.
In 99% of cases, this purpose is identified through one of two sources: the professional riders we work with and/or the cycling trends and evolution amongst the wider population.
Professional rider feedback: a goldmine of information
In many industries, technological developments are driven by the ever-increasing demands of competitors, and cycling is no exception to the rule.
It all started back in 1934, when we launched the first Duralumin wheels (the ancestor of aluminium) to replace... wooden wheels!
The result? Antonin Magne pedalled to victory at the Tour de France with a 450g-advantage over his competitor’s rims.
It is for this very reason that Mavic has striven for decades to nurture close relationships with the world's greatest cyclists. Over the years, their needs have driven us to constantly innovate in order to improve the performance of our products. This is also why we often invite them to our headquarters in Annecy, the very heart of the brand, to discuss, share, test and develop.
We might talk about mountain biking with athletes like Sam Hill or more recently Victor Koretzky, about road cycling with the many teams we have been and still are partners with or about the
velodrome with numerous international track cycling federations, but in each case the innovations the athletes have helped us develop have pushed our products higher! In fact it was thanks to the
pros, following wind tunnel testing, that we developed the first deep section rims to improve aerodynamics for example.
FIELD AS AN INFINITE SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Keeping track of cycling trends
Fortunately, professional riders aren’t the only ones who have a say in the development of our products. Bicycles are becoming increasingly-widespread in our daily lives, whether that be for sport,
mobility or simply as an integral part of our lifestyle.
An excellent example of this is the recent explosion in popularity of e-bikes, which has pushed us to look for answers to new challenges: bikes are heavier and therefore require stronger wheels. Our eDeemax wheels are approved to withstand 180kg (396lbs, far more than the generally-accepted 150kg / 330lbs). The same applies to urban use, which often involves more bumps and impacts. On the performance side, we are also witnessing the emergence of new activities such as gravel riding. This discipline is still growing and has led us to design products that meet its unique requirements, such as our range of Allroad wheels!
A further example is the recent removal of the adjustability option on the bearings of Infinity hubs, which simplifies their use and guarantees a longer lifespan.
In summary, we use all available sources of information to improve our products. These also include the many races and events we attend – in particular through our Service Course – which provide incredibly valuable feedback for our engineers.
The R&D phase: when science enters the picture
Once our product experts in Annecy have clearly identified the requirements of a project, it is handed over to the R&D department, where the design team is tasked with finding mechanical and
physical answers to the specified challenges: "the wheel must be able to withstand jumps", "it must not distort in a sprint" or "it must be lighter to be competitive".
Last but not least, all these criteria must be met without increasing the price of the wheel. The design process implies finding a distinctive balance of weight, resistance, reactivity, aerodynamics, serviceability, comfort and / or stiffness (...) depending on the model, and finally bringing in a distinguishable aesthetic that serves the function. The aim of our products is to provide enjoyment through performance, thanks to an innovative approach and our pure love of all things cycling.
This is how the "system approach" was born, back in 1994. In practical terms, this means designing a wheel as a comprehensive whole by controlling all the components (rims, spokes, hubs, etc.) rather than picking and choosing elements from different manufacturers. This led to the development of the first Cosmic Alu, which was a resounding success!
Our engineers base their calculations on a detailed list of specifications. Using their knowledge as a base, they add in the properties of new materials or technological progress, as discussed in this
INNOVATE & EVOLVE
Innovative concepts became references
At this stage, we have two options for producing prototypes in our workshops:
- Use an existing system as a base and evolve it. This was for example the method chosen for our Infinity hubs, for which we redesigned one of our previous hubs and machined it in such
a way that the same spokes could be used regardless of the wheel (front or rear / right or left side).
The result? A single spoke type, particularly convenient when it comes to replacing just one spoke!
- Start from scratch and innovate entirely with new parts or concepts. This is what we did when we created Fore Carbon, a technique that avoids drilling the rim to make it stiffer,
stronger, lighter, tubeless-ready, etc.
The result? : A wheel that is 40% stronger, with 20% more lateral stiffness.
The same method was applied to the R2R spoke pattern of the Cosmic Ultimate, which can withstand 600kg (1300lbs) of traction!
TEST, CHECK, DISSECT
Testing prototypes and early models
Once our prototypes have been approved and built, it is time for the testing phase. We have all the resources in-house in France to manufacture aluminium or carbon rims, as well as all the parts that make up our wheels, before production. This allows us to individually manufacture each prototype by hand before a pre-production run of at least 15 pairs is sent out for testing.
First of all, the wheels go through a number of tests on what one might call our "torture rigs". Strength tests, shock tests, endurance tests... The list is extensive.
Everything is examined, dissected and subjected to tests that systematically exceed UCI recommendations. It is during this period that any defects or anomalies can be identified and corrected by our teams.
Once safety is confirmed, the fun begins. The wheels are put through the wringer in real-life conditions in the diverse natural playground around our headquarters: the Bauges and Aravis
mountain ranges, the undulating valleys of the Albanais area or the shores of Lake Annecy...
Before being produced, the wheels are tested in all conditions and on all kinds of terrain!
GIVING BIRTH TO THE PROJECT
EUROPE: LAND OF CYCLING AND EXCELLENCE
The production phase
Once each parameter has been precisely defined and the wheels have been approved, we move on to the production phase.
This is obviously a crucial stage, which is why we implement strict quality control at every step.
All our wheels are manufactured in Europe and we strive to ensure that as many processes as possible are carried out in France. Specifically, all our wheels are designed, developed and
prototyped in France. Our aluminium rims are produced in St-Trivier in the Ain region, a historical location for the brand.
Our carbon rims are produced in Europe and all building processes are carried out in Europe as well.
In total, 97% of the components of a Mavic wheel are of European origin. Last but not least, our flagship wheel, the Cosmic Ultimate, comes straight from the hands of our carbon
experts in Annecy.
Another key concern for us is the origin of the materials we work with : most of them come from a 400km-radius around our offices. Finally, our machines are also specifically developed and assembled in the French departments bordering the Haute-Savoie region and in nearby Italy.
All aluminium waste is sent for recycling, bearing in mind that 90% of the material we use is already recycled.
As you might have guessed, our aim is to fully control every single step of the production process.
This is an aspect we will strive to increase in the coming years in order to continue to design, produce and offer you exceptional wheels that bring together a clever blend of advanced technology and pure cycling passion.