Last week near their global headquarters in Annecy, France, Mavic continued to display their growing presence in the aero engineering realm—and by default the triathlon space—with the debut of the CXR60, a mid-depth race wheel. The company furthered that debut by presenting both tubular and clincher offerings. And as we’ve come to expect as savvy consumers, Mavic has backed it with solid data.

I recall two years ago attending the start of the Tour de France, hosted at the Garmin-Barracuda team hotel by Cervelo, who was launching Cervelo S5 aero road bike. That bike was great, but something else caught my eye: a new wheel by Mavic. 80mm deep, with this… thing on the sidewall. This rubber gap-filler. I recall running my finger over a tire, then smoothly onto the rim of one of the team bikes sitting atop the team car, and thought to myself  “This has to be a huge aero advantage—I can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of this before.” What it did was fill the space that exists where the tire mounts to the rim, an area that, when the tire is the leading edge, creates eddies and vortices. However small, it’s drag—and the Blades clean it right up.

Of course, some gearheads had done this before, filling the gap between tire and rim with silicone. But that’s some ghetto garage hairsplitting. This new Mavic product however, was easy to install and remove. 

That wheel at the Tour was the CXR80, a dedicated 80mm-deep race tubular with what they said were posting some astounding aero numbers, thanks to its shape and those gap-filing Blades. Last year, Belgian Frederick Van Lierde proved them out in triathlon, as he took third at the Hawaii Ironman aboard these same wheels (finishing fourth off the bike). At the same time, Mavic found some new endorsers in American Ironman Tim O’Donnell and recently, reigning Hawaii Ironman World Champ Leanda Cave of Great Britain.

In the span of two years, Mavic—a company that began in 1889 as a nickel-plating company earning it status as one of the most respected brands in the history of cycling was becoming a player—in triathlon. With a product that they’ve proven to be fast.

And there’s the rub. In our space, we don’t care that Sean Kelly won Paris-Roubaix on ’em back in the mid-80s. Or that Greg Lemond debuted aerobars and beat Laurent Fignon to win the Tour de France by eight seconds… on Mavic wheels. Or even that Thomas Hellriegel took victory in 1997 in Kona on Mavic Cosmic wheels in 1997. That was then. This is now, and nowadays, you have to prove your product, or you’re not taken seriously.

Which worked out nicely for us scribes this week: Mavic invited several media players to its headquarters in Annecy France to show us their new wheel, the CXR60—in tubular and clincher versions.

Mavic then sequestered us for a day at a wind tunnel in nearby Geneva, Switzerland. Because it’s one thing to be handed a drag chart that shows your wheels as being the fastest. It’s entirely another to see it happening—live. And indeed, as they claim, they’re not only in among some heady company—they’re beating them.

RIM DEPTH AND SHAPE

As you can guess, the new CXR60 is a 60mm deep rim. That sends it into the ring to do battle against the Zipp 404, the Bontrager 5 and the Smart ENVE 6.7. And as Mavic illustrated to the media this week at a wind tunnel in Geneva, Switzerland, they’ve done just that: take on the big boys. And the results are surprising.

The way Mavic makes the CXR60s fast is by way of the same execution on the CXR80: with a good rim cross section, a tire that’s optimized for the rim, and a material that fills the gap that typically exists between the tire and the rim, where turbulent flow exists.  

In fact, the with the tire as the leading edge, the airfoil matches the NACA 0024 cross-section profile. Interestingly, with the rim as the leading edge (on the back half of a spinning wheel), it uses the NACA 0011 airfoil, an elongated aero section. It blunts slightly, but not as dramatically as seen on wheels like the Bontrager, Hed, Zipp and Enve wheels. With the tire abruptly ending, it somewhat resembles a Kamm trailing edge.

On its own, the NACA shape may or may not be better than some of the more blunted rim apex designs that Hed, Zipp and ENVE. But any shortcoming that may exist is made up for by the existence of a uniquely Mavic feature: the CX 01 Blades. These plastic strips are snapped onto the sidewall of the rim above the braking surface as the rim meets the tire. The install of this piece fills the small indentation that generally exists between the rim and either the bead of a clincher, or the edge of a tubular as it bonds to a rim. This area is a typically turbulent one, and the install of this plastic strip covers the gap, making for a much smoother transition of wind from the tire onto the rim. The piece works only with Mavic wheels when paired with dedicated Mavic tires, and it’s enough to account for a not insignificant amount bit of the wheel’s speed.

The result is a wheel/tire combo that is faster because it’s designed that way. There’s no guesswork as to what the best tire is the wheel: Mavic figured it out for you: their Yksion Griplink front tire with its dedicated steering tread pattern and grippy durometer (as well as a tread pattern created to help create laminar flow and keep air attached as it moves off the sidewall and onto the rim), and Powerlink rear tire, with a more durable rubber compound. 

In the interest of rim stiffness and ride quality, the aluminum hubs didn’t undergo any narrowing or other stages, with flange width existing within normal standards.

The tubular Cosmic CXR60 T (tubular) has a standard carbon braking surface and will weigh in at 1645 grams a pair without tires (730g front wheel, 915g rear wheel). The Cosmic CXR60 C (clincher) will be built with an Exalith-treated alloy braking surface. Weight for the pair (without tires) will be 1,825 grams (820g front wheel, 1005g rear wheel).

The visual point of differentiation can be found in the carbon sidewalls: While the tubular uses a unidirectional carbon, the clincher employs a woven design. 

THE TARGET CUSTOMER

Since it’s a mid-depth race wheel, this one’s gonna be popular given its versatility: it’s great on flat roads, but the shallower section makes it a bit lighter and climb a bit better. Sprint-distance races, Olympic or Ironman, it’ll find a fan. And because it’s offered in a clincher, those owners can use in day-to-day training action and employ it for racing as well, just as other clincher race wheel owners often do. 

GENEVA TUNNEL TESTING

Mavic supplied us with a form that those of us are familiar with by now: a range of drag numbers, plotted on a chart across a wide range of yaw angles. But the numbers for the CXR60 stood out as being superlative—particularly outside 15 degrees of yaw. We were shown results that had great gains over the other brands at between 16 and 18 degrees of yaw, either with their own brand’s recommended tire (for example, Zipp with Zipp tires or Bontrager with Bontrager tires) or a baseline Vittoria Open Corsa CX 

Personally, I was a bit dubious. But Mavic invited the media to a live test to show us as we stood in the control room the process, and the results, live. We were taken to the Groupe de Competences en Mecanique des Fluides et Procedes Energetiques (CMEFE) wind tunnel in Geneva, Switzerland. The tunnel is built within what was a decommissioned train tunnel. Where the tunnel is owned by the University of Geneva, it’s run by university professor Flavio Noca of the Haute Ecole du Paysage d’Ingenere et d’Architecture de Geneva (HEPIA). The tunnel hosts several sectors of aero testing, but Mavic is the only bike brand that executes testing there. Mavic engineers created the bike-specific test platform, and there’s just enough room in the test section to test an athlete on the bike, as Frederick Van Lierde has demonstrated in the past with his own testing there. But for the most part, Mavic tests wheels and bikes only, and prefers to test bikes instead of wheels only, to ensure the data is the result of a complete construct rather than as an isolated item.

For our exhibition, Mavic paired it’s new CXR60 clincher, with its Yksion front- and rear-specific tires and the CX 01 Blades, versus the Bontrager Aeolus 5, installed with its recommended setup: a pair of Bontrager R4 Aero 700×22 tires. Tire was pressured to 7 bar, and each was installed on a baseline Cervelo P5.

The result: it looks precisely as it did in the charts we were shown ahead of the test. The Bontrager was beaten, but truth be told, it was fairly close. Our inference is that the Bontrager’s shape kept things close, but that the hub was fairly bulky in comparison to the Mavic. In Mavic’s testing, it was the Bontrager wheels that fared best against the Mavic than others, including the Zipp 404 Carbon Clincher and Enve 6.7

THE CXR60 CLINCHER

We are quite excited about this addition to the Mavic line, because it gets a triathlete with minimal tech experience and greater familiarity with clinchers into the Mavic realm.

On its face, it looks remarkably like a carbon clincher…but it’s not. Rather, the rim braking surface is aluminum with Mavic’s proprietary Exalith coating. Not only does it improve the rim surface’s hardness and wear (and provide Mavic the opportunity to score the surface with tiny ribs to increase braking traction), it also colors the braking surface a beautiful black… which conveniently leaves the wheel looking like a tubular or carbon clincher. Your friends will be none the wiser.

Mavic says its testing proves the CXR 60 tubular aerodynamically outperforms its own clincher, due to the fact that the Exalith braking surface is a parallel one (instead of the slightly bowed, more aero tubular version). Both, however, get to take advantage of the CX01 Blade technology.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

Mavic product manager Zack Vestal said the CXR60 tubular will be available in July, with the clincher version coming to your local shop in September. Vestal said pricing has not been set, but to expect a range of $2,700 to $2800 per pair (including one pair of mated Yksion Powerlink and Griplink tires, two pairs of CX 01 Blades and one pair of skewers), and the pricing will vary within that range depending upon whether seeking a tubular or what is expected to be the less-expensive clincher. Vestal said pricing will firm by the end of the month.

OUR TEST? STAY TUNED

How did they ride? We are very excited to test ride the CXR 60 clincher, as we think this wheel will become popular due not only to its aerodynamics but also its expected price point. But test versions weren’t ready for the press event this week.

However, the tubulars were ready to go. We took in the scenery of Lake Le Bourget, passed over the Rhone River and rode within a breath of the Tour de France-famed Grand Colombier on the new CXR 60 tubular for 80 kilometers, knocking out some lazy flat miles along the lake, along with some spirited efforts up the punchy rises that dot the ride. Check in later this week as we provide our thoughts on why this wheel will wake up the triathlon realm and become a true option more so than even last year’s debut of the 80mm version did.

For more on the wheels, visit mavic.com