Mavic first showed us the limited edition Ksyrium K10 wheelset back in early December last year. At the time it was touted as Mavic’s first wheel and tire system, as the wheels arrive to dealers pre-fitted with Mavic branded tires and tubes. Mavic pointed out that a pair of wheels is only as good as the tires touching the road, and designed the K10 tires to match the characteristics of the Ksyrium wheels they’re meant for.
I distinctly remember my first ride on the K10 wheels on December 1, 2009. For one thing, my first impression was undoubtedly positive. Mavic’s Ksyrium wheels have long set a high standard for aluminum-rimmed clincher road wheels, and these felt as good or better than any I’d previously pedaled. They were stiff, light, and snappy, tracking accurately through corners and charging up climbs.
The other thing I remember is the weather deteriorating throughout the day, becoming gradually colder, windy, and eventually giving way to a snowstorm that marked the end of my 2009 road riding season. I don’t think I pedaled on pavement for five or six weeks after that.
Now that the roads are drying and the sun is shining, I’ve put some time on the Ksyrium K10 wheels. My first impression hasn’t changed — they’re sweet wheels fitted with nice tires. If you’re looking for new wheels to spice up your rig, and you like an aspect of exclusivity offered by limited edition materials, check out the K10s. Only about 1,000 pairs will land on U.S. soil, and they’re available now at Mavic dealers.
Limited edition K10 Ksyrium wheels differ little from the standard Ksyriums we’ve come to know and love in the 10 years since they were first introduced. Over the last decade they’ve evolved but still bear hallmark structural elements. In fact, the K10 set looks much like a pair of 2010 Ksyrium SLs in the available black color scheme. The hubs are the same, with adjustable cartridge bearings and a carbon fiber front hub shell. The spokes are also the same — they’re bladed straight-pull Zicral alloy, laced to the rims by way of Mavic’s alloy nipples and FORE rim drilling.
The major structural difference in the K10s is ISM3D machine work on the rim sidewalls. Mavic’s ISM (Inter-Spoke Milling) refers to machining material from the rim’s outer wall between spoke holes to reduce weight. With ISM3D, the machine work extends to the rim sidewall in addition to the rim crown. Mavic says the added milling is good for a bonus weight “shavings” of about 20 grams per wheel. I weighed the wheels individually, without tires, tubes or skewers. The front comes in at 630 grams and the rear at 815 grams. That adds up to 1445 grams, compared with Mavic’s claimed 1485 grams for a 2010 Ksyrium SL pair, and lighter than Mavic’s claimed 1470 grams for the K10s.
Of course the most obvious difference between this pair of Ksyriums and any other is the inclusion of tires developed specifically to go with them. Mavic began its “system” approach in 1994 with its pre-built Cosmic wheels, and now it is taking the approach a step further. Marketing manager Sean Sullivan calls the K10 tire “a perfectly matched tire for a Ksyrium.” He notes that the wheels are considered best for “multi-performance and racing,” ideal for gran fondos and similar long rides demanding a blend of high performance, light weight, and durability.
As such, the tires are made to match. They’re constructed in the same facility as Vittoria tires, and incorporate the performance features you’d expect. The casing is a 290 TPI polycotton/Kevlar blend, with a dual tread compound optimized for both grip and long life. My tires weighed 240 grams each (compared to Mavic’s original target of 225 grams per tire) and the tubes are 97 grams each. Sullivan said the tubes have been slightly revised since I received the original test set.
Mavic claims a total weight of 2100 grams for the wheels, tires, and tubes. My set adds up to 2119 grams, without the skewers (125 grams for the pair). I’m no good with math, but I think that’s less than a 1-percent variance, which isn’t shabby.
Sullivan said that Mavic plans to extend the “wheel-tire system” to additional wheelsets in the future, which will help ensure that cyclists ride with tires matched to the anticipated usage of their wheels. For example, heavier duty wheels might show up with longer-wearing, more puncture resistant tires.
Even so, there’s nothing proprietary about the Mavic K10 tire/tube interface. Riders can choose to use whatever tires and tubes they like, either straight from the get-go or after the original K10 tires wear out. Replacement K10 tires will cost $79 and tubes are $9, and are now available through Mavic dealers.
Right from the box, the Mavic K10s are true and round, and the tires are mounted without any imperfections. The hubs are adjusted precisely, and all that’s left before the first ride is cogset installation.
Inclement spring weather has limited my riding to about half of what I would normally shoot for in a wheel review. But in that time, I’ve had zero problems with these wheels and tires. I like them a lot.
I give a lot of credit to Mavic for zeroing in on rotational weight and trying to reduce it. Everything about the Ksyrium wheels has been engineered for a responsive feeling, and the K10s bear the fruits of Mavic’s effort. They feel as stiff and reactive as any wheels I’ve been privileged to try. I love the snappy acceleration and immediate feeling of power on climbs. I’m no sprinter, but they feel super solid underfoot.
An often forgotten aspect of low-inertia wheels is that in addition to accelerating quickly, they should also be easier to slow. Considering the K10s are meant for long, mountainous rides, braking is critical. Happily, the K10s can be stopped on a dime with normal brake pads — a big plus in the age of carbon clinchers, which require special pads.
As promised, the K10 tires enhance the overall Ksyrium experience. They’re supple, they have very sure-footed grip, and they feel fast. They’re on par with other high performance tires, like Michelin’s Pro3 Race and Vittoria’s Open Corsa Evo CX. But if they’re special beyond the pale of these and other competing tires, I couldn’t perceive the difference.
I flatted one tire, so they’re obviously not puncture proof. I replaced the Mavic tube with a Bontrager replacement, and couldn’t tell the difference. Other than the one puncture, the K10 tires show a few nicks and minor cuts in the tread from road debris, but nothing that’s damaged the casing.
The K10 hubs have stayed in adjustment and the rims are still round and true. One of our ad sales crew has a pair of Ksyriums that is three years old. Aside from some contamination and drag in the freehub body (which he cured with cleaning and lubrication) he’s had no problems. Mavic’s decade-old Ksyrium wheel family has earned a well-deserved reputation for bombproof durability, and in my experience K10s are no different.
Would I pay the $1400 asking price for the K10s? Yes and no. When Mavic introduced the “wheel-tire system” in the K10, I was excited for an evolution of the clincher tire and rim interface. After being one of the first to develop an airtight tire bed in the original Ksyrium wheels ten years ago, Mavic backed away from further developing road tubeless. I had hoped to see road tubeless appear with the K10s, because I typically recommend tubeless compatibility for those shopping for new road clincher wheels.
But if you’re looking for high performance aluminum clinchers and you’re disinclined to pursue road tubeless, the K10s should be on your list. Carbon clinchers are all the rage right now, but there’s a lot to be said for the durability and braking performance of good old aluminum. Considering that a Ksyrium SL wheelset retails for about $1000, and the average price of a nice tire and tube is $60 and $5 respectively, the K10s total price is high, but not far off the mark when rubber is factored in to the bottom line. Plus, they’re in limited supply, so you can enjoy a dose of exclusivity along with a very nice pair of wheels.
On the other hand, there are plenty of wheels at half the price and nearly as light. For example, Rolf Prima says its Aspin SL wheelset weighs 1510 grams, and costs $750. Do they have the same blend of surefooted power transmission and snappy reactivity? We’ll let you know when we get them in and get some time on them.
What you get with Mavic is a known quantity in terms of performance, responsiveness, and durability. The price you’re willing to pay is up to you and your budget.