If you are looking to invest in a noticeable upgrade for your bike, the wheels are a good place to start. With that said, I set out for a 2000 mile test on Mavic's best selling set, the Ksyrium Elite Wheelset.
With a proven track record of quality at both the top and bottom ends of the wheel market, Mavic are held in high regard when it comes to bicycle wheels and the Ksyrium Elite Wheelset is their best selling option, so just what are they getting right? Over the past four months, I have endeavoured to test these wheels to their limits to find out what makes these wheels so popular.
Whether that be an all-day slog in the gruelling 200+ kilometre Dragon Ride or tackling the legendary climbs and descents of the Pyrenees, these wheels have well a truly been put through their paces.
What will likely strike you first with these wheels is their bold colour scheme. I tested the option with red spoke nipples and red flanges but black, white and blue colour options are also available. Subtle but stylish Ksyrium logos adorn the rims, providing two benefits. One, they look great and two, they are easy to clean and do not lose their vibrancy over time with the wear of weather and brake pad dust.
"The Maxtal alloy rim and steel spoke combination keeps the wheels nice and stiff while climbing and descending..."
While looks are important, we all love showing up on a club run with sleek new kit; performance is where these wheels really separate themselves from the chasing pack. At 1,550 grams for the pair (680 grams for the front wheel and 870 grams for the rear), the Ksyrium Elite Wheelset is 155 grams heavier than its bigger Ksyrium Pro SL brother and 225 grams lighter than Mavic's Aksium Elite offering. The difference in weight from the Pro SL model is primarily accounted for by the different spoke material, however, what the Elite sacrifices in weight it certainly makes up for in stiffness and performance.
Mavic has expanded the internal rim width of the Elite wheels to 17mm. By widening the rim, the bead of the tyre is opened up and this allows a greater volume of air into the tyre. This has several benefits. First; more air in the tyre means a lower chance of pinch flats. Second; by increasing the volume of the tyre Mavic claim that the wider rim profile increases rolling efficiency by 13% over rival wheels. Third; increasing the volume of the tyre also acts to improve traction in corners and whilst braking as it widens the contact point between the tyre and the road.
Whilst these supposed benefits are difficult to test, I can safely say that I did not experience any pinch flats while using these wheels. They also roll fast and windy roads. Granted, tyre choice does play a large part in descending grip, but these wheels did not experience brake rub in tight corners and handled with great agility at both high and low speeds. As an added bonus, the benefits of a wider rim profile comes without a massive addition of weight.
Mavic's ISM 4D technology is one of the main ways that the French manufacturer is able to keep the wheelset's weight down without compromising strength or stiffness. ISM 4D stands for Inter Spoke Milling 4 Dimensions and this technique keeps the rim's weight down without sacrificing strength.
The benefits of this technology are certainly apparent when these wheels are pushed to their limit. The Maxtal alloy rim and steel spoke combination keeps the wheels nice and stiff while climbing and descending so you need not worry about any rhythm-interrupting brake rub while you are laying down the power up the climbs.
If you are looking for wheels that give you an aerodynamic advantage on fast and flat courses then the Ksyrium Elite wheelset will probably not suit your criteria. With a 24mm rim depth on the front and 26mm on the rear, these wheels are not really designed for aero performance but instead for all-round riding and climbing.
"The confidence that the UB Control braking track inspires allows you to really attack descents in both the wet and the dry."
That said, Mavic do claim the rim shape improves aerodynamics over previous models. Small gains in aerodynamics are always welcome, especially when, as in this case, they do not come at the expense of strength and stiffness.
Mavic's storied history of producing some of the best hubs in the industry is evident in these wheels as you will find the same QRM+ bearings as in the top-of-the-range Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels. Mavic's FTS-L freewheel also performs to a standard well above this price point with instant engagement. This is greatly appreciated on sharp climbs where every ounce of power is transferred through the freewheel and down into the road.
"The wider rim profile, superb build quality and confidence-inspiring brake track allow you to target a wide range of terrain and weather conditions with full trust in your equipment."
Braking is another decisive aspect that Mavic have paid particular attention to. The braking track features Mavic's UB control construction, which offers fantastic stopping power in both the wet and the dry. The confidence that the UB Control braking track inspires allows you to really attack descents in both the wet and the dry.
The Ksyrium Elite Wheelset comes complete with Mavic's Yksion Pro GripLink Clincher tyre on the front and PowerLink Clincher tyre on the rear. These tyres perform admirably across a range of conditions, however, if one negative can be taken from their performance, it is that they wear rather quickly and needed replacing after 600 miles. While they last, their grip, especially in the dry, is exemplary.
If you are looking for a new set of wheels around the £500 mark, the Mavic Ksyrium Elite Wheelset is extremely tough to beat. With multiple trickle-down technologies from Mavic's pro-level wheels and a proven longevity, the Ksyrium Elites are a great option for riders looking to upgrade the wheels their £1000 to £3000 bike came with.
The wider rim profile, superb build quality and confidence-inspiring brake track allow you to target a wide range of terrain and weather conditions with full trust in your equipment.