Mavic will use the 10th anniversary of its Ksyrium wheelset in 2010 to launch its latest approach to producing a complete wheel system, which now includes tires. The first Mavic product to take that approach will be a limited edition run of Ksyrium wheelsets and tires carrying the K10 label.
“We’re taking that system approach one step further and adding that last element to the wheel by adding the tire,” said Sean Sullivan, Mavic’s domestic marketing director. “We believe that to make the next big jump forward in the wheel system we need to include the design of the tire.”
In 1934, Mavic produced the Dura, the industry’s first aluminum rim. In 1994 it created its first complete wheel system, the Helium, a wheel that utilized a rim, spokes and hub specifically engineered to work together. Mavic introduced the Ksyrium six years later, further refining its approach to the wheel system. The Ksyrium offered several new features, including aero profiled Zircal (alloy) spokes and it’s a product that continues to be in demand after a decade of service.
The K10 wheelset is a limited edition product of which 1,000 will be imported to the U.S. in March. It also serves to introduce Mavic’s entry into the tire market. The K10 will take its place on the top rung of the Ksyrium line, replacing the now discontinued Ksyrium Premium. While K10 doesn’t feature the titanium freehub bolt and skewers of the Premium model, it does sport a carbon front hub. New to the design is 3D ISM machining on the rims, which knocks roughly 20-grams off the wheelset.
Mavic will produce different models of its tires by manipulating three manufacturing features to balance six performance attributes. The features include tread compound, which Mavic calls the GripLink; puncture protection (ProtekLink) and the casing density or TPI (PowerLink).
Changing the relationship of those three features affects rolling resistance, grip, weight, protection, comfort and durability.
“Some of these characteristics are mutually exclusive; they’re contradictory when designing a tire,” said Sullivan. “So we have to find the best balance of these characteristics when designing the wheel system and the specific tire system to go along with it.”
The K10 tire was designed with long course road racing and grand fondo riding in mind, thus the characteristics of the tire are arranged in following order: The premium is put on rolling resistance, grip and light weight, then comfort is considered. The attributes of protection and durability are considered last.
The tire uses a 290TPI open tubular style casing (PowerLink) with a Polycotton and Kevlar puncture protector (ProtekLink) and a dual compound tread (GripLink). The K10 tire is made by Lion Tire in Thailand, a company that manufactures for many of the industry’s most respected tire brands.
Mavic says the complete K10 system weighs 2,100-grams. A weight that includes wheels, tires, a proprietary butyl tube and steel skewers. Separately, the K10 wheelset is the lightest Ksyrium that Mavic has ever produced at a claimed weight of 1,470-grams. The tires measure 23mm and Mavic says they weigh in at 225-grams each. The tires are not front or rear specific. Replacement tires will be sold separately for $79 each and will be available when the wheelsets become available The K10 wheel and tire package, complete with wheel bags, costs $1,400.
Interestingly, at this point, there is no proprietary engineering employed between the rim and tire interface, nor could Sullivan definitively cite a specific performance improvement that comes from the K10 “system.”
At this point, the news is that Mavic will produce its own tires in 2010 and they will be considered and engineered as part of Mavic’s wheel systems to best serve the intended purpose of its wheels. Sullivan noted that an aerodynamic system would be a logical guess for a future project, as would a specific training system.
Although the Ksyrium seems to be a natural candidate for the approach, Mavic’s plans do not yet include a tubeless option. Sullivan said that the company isn’t happy with the field serviceability of the design when it’s flatted out on the road.