Wheel, rim giant Mavic expands into tyre market

Mavic Ksyrium Yksium K10 wheels and tyres

Mavic has announced that it will soon expand its range of wheel-related products beyond just complete wheelsets and rims with an upcoming line of tyres – ultimately, the company intends to create purpose-designed wheel-and-tyre combinations.

Why bother? According to Mavic US marketing director Sean Sullivan, bringing tyres (and tubes) into the fold lends the company's engineers and designers more control over how the products are used together in order to further optimize performance attributes such as weight, durability, aerodynamics and rolling resistance.

Mavic is entering into these rough waters with a perhaps understandably conservative splash – at least for now. Come March in the US (and January in Europe and the UK), Mavic's first 'Wheel Tyre System' product will be a limited edition Ksyrium Yksion K10 aluminum clincher wheelset and matching tyres and tubes, the latter of which will be produced to Mavic specifications in Thailand.

Launched to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original Ksyrium road wheelset, the 1,470g K10 will be Mavic's highest-end and lightest 'multiperformance' model and is aimed at road racers, enthusiast and sportive riders. Similarities to the current Ksyrium SL run more than just skin-deep: the asymmetrical and variable-depth rims use identical extrusions but add Mavic's latest ISM 3D three-dimension surface milling to remove more weight; the hubs boast identical aluminum and carbon fiber shells, FTS-L drivers, alloy axles and adjustable cartridge bearings but additional machining and a double anodized finish for a more distinctive aesthetic; and the Isopulse lacing pattern uses identical Zicral bladed alloy spokes, which again thread directly into the rim.

Not surprisingly, the matching 23mm-wide K10 tyres sport similar –though not identical – characteristics to the Vittoria tyres that are also produced in the same factory. Thread count is a supple 290TPI, a dual compound slick tread promises a fast roll, good durability and secure cornering grip, and a polycotton/Kevlar breaker strip beneath the tread offers some puncture resistance. Claimed weight is 225g apiece and Mavic says they'll also be offered as standalone items for US$79.99 (£45).

Before you start lambasting the thought of yet another tyre/rim 'standard', don't fret just yet. The upcoming K10 combo will use completely typical interfaces and each component will be compatible with non-Mavic equipment so for now the K10 combination isn't so much an integrated system as it is a very nice clincher wheelset and tyres with matching graphics that are all packaged together. However, the French company has hinted that it may take the so-called integration even further and develop a proprietary system in the future if deemed necessary to meet performance goals.

In fact, Mavic is planning to produce dedicated tyres for all of its wheelsets, including its mountain bike hoops – although these may not hit the market for several years. Tubular tyres are also in the pipeline but at least for now, Mavic continues to shun the idea of tubeless road tyres, citing difficulties with roadside repair for general consumers.

Still, there are questions surrounding what many will perceive to be a marketing-driven move but Mavic insists that the consumer will ultimately benefit from the improved performance attributes once the program is fully under way.

"It has opened many doors for us in terms of improving the weight, performance and aerodynamics of our wheels," said product manager Anthony Diana. "What we have here is a tyre that matches the performance of the wheelset."

"This year is going to be the first step," added Mavic press officer Michel Lethenet. "We don't pretend to replace Michelin – those guys are tyre specialists and we are not, at the moment. We have been working on the idea for three years, with feedback from pro riders. [The K10] is our first one and for sure we will have a lot to improve."

According to Sullivan, those pro riders will already begin testing more advanced prototypes next season with consumer products to be released in due course.

Mavic will offer just 1000 of the Ksyrium Yksion K10 combinations worldwide at a cost of US$1,400 (£899), which will also include the tyres, tubes, steel skewers, and wheel bags. Integration aside, the limited numbers alone will likely make the K10 a desirable consumer item, especially for current Ksyrium fans.

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