"I feel the need: the need for speed."- Top Gun, 1986.
Ever since mankind managed to domesticate the horse, he has been obsessed with things that move fast. Homoerotic underpinnings aside, I don’t think any character in a Hollywood movie has ever uttered anything more true than Tom Cruise’s line in the 1986 movie, American romantic military action drama film ‘Top Gun’- "I feel the need: the need for speed." Much like LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) cyclists want to keep going faster. We feel the need. The need for speed.
The relationship that a cyclist shares with his wheels is quite an intimate one. Everything about the wheel becomes an integral part of your training rides and races. The cyclist will internalise that unmistakable sound of an exquisitely crafted hub; the cyclist will wonder in amazement at the feeling when he/she holds speeds with ease; the jaw-dropping aerodynamics; the subtle designs, the simplicity of it all and yet the intensive technology that goes into creating the perfect wheels- The cyclist falls in love with every bit of this and the wheels become a pivotal part of his/her cycling experience. One of the easiest ways to change your entire experience of your cycle (without changing your cycle) is to upgrade your wheels, or perhaps upgrade your components- but a disc wheel is a sure shot upgrade to boost the mean-aero-machine factor of your bike. There are four components to look at: hubs, spokes, nipples and rims. Depending on the terrain, a wheel is fast under any given circumstances in which it preforms the best. A wheel that is stiff is fast. A wheel that is smooth is fast. A wheel that accelerates right out of a corner is fast. A wheel that is lightweight, and feel like it defies gravity going uphill, is fast. Basically, a disc wheel on the back of your bike can transform your bike into a freight train that there’s no slowing down once you get over 45kmph.
Today, I can share with you all that I can now die in peace, having experienced the exuberant feeling of face-melting acceleration—on two wheels, at least. The rush of these wheels leaves your spine tingling while you accelerate. And then you are beset with an extraordinarily weird form of panic. It is a panic that can only come from feeling yourself go way, way faster than you thought you ever could- That panic is addictive.
I decided to associate myself with Mavic only after understanding the technology behind the wheels and the rich body of contribution made by Mavic to the world of cycling for over a hundred years. It is a privilege to be associated with the wheels which have won more international races than any wheel in history, wheels that were used by cycling legends like Greg Lemond, and are associated with legends-in-the-making like Mark Cavendish- probably the greatest sprinter of all time (ENVE is also owned by Mavic), the wheels that have won more than a staggering 80% of the medals on all the cycle-racing tracks of the world including a monumental 17 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, creating an image so powerful that rival teams called them “magic wheels” because Mavic were able to generate "negative drag" (explained below) helping Great Britain attain a stranglehold on the pursuit sport at the London Olympics in 2012. Even our own, Deborah Herold (World Rank 4) swears by them. The “magic” factor of Mavic is not new. For over 100 years now, Mavic is synonymous with creating radically new wheels that were be unheard of during their time. Mavic has always been so far ahead of the curb that many of their products were banned by the UCI when Mavic first released them. They were the first company to introduce the, now ubiquitous, aluminium rim in 1934 and the first company to introduce the disc wheel way back in 1974 and showed their flare for innovation when Mavic introduced electronic groupsets in the market way back in 1994, which were used extensively by the likes of Chris Boardman (broke the world-hour-record three times). By 2001, Mavic’s Ksyrium had made it’s mark, most notably after being used by Lance Armstrong to win the Tour De France and in 2011 Mavic launched the Cosmic Carbon Ultimate which was used by Philleppe Gilbert to rake up victories throughout the season. Mavic has been surprising the world of cycling for over 100 years now by their meticulous attention to detail in preparation and training, and technical know-how. Having been in the wheel building business since 1889, Mavic hit the apotheosis of wheel-craft a long time ago. The depth of their work and the enviable history of Mavic wheels can be condensed into one sentence- No wheel brand in the history of cycling has ever won as many Olympic gold medals as Mavic.
On first look, the comete disc appears unassuming with a clean black surface, minimalist design and a super-grippy braking surface. But as soon as you rotate the crank, the hub roars, with the music of champions, from behind your head to remind you that, with the right set of legs, it can catapult you to ludicrous speeds by creating a "negative-drag". Yes, "negative". It means that at after hitting critical speed at the right yaw-angle, the Mavic comete disc is thrusting force and actually "pulling" the cyclist forward, even if pedaling is stopped. Of course, in the real world, this doesn't mean that you'll keep moving forward if you stop pedaling because the axis of evil forces like gravity and road friction will eventually slow you down. But when you asses the relative data- most carbon disc wheels have an aero drag of 90-130 grams and a standard 18 spoke wheel has an aero drag of 150+ grams, the “negative drag” of the Mavic Comete stands out in a league of it’s own. Mavic's journey to the point where their wheels can create 'negative drag' is a fascinating one that every fan of cycling should know-
Every single wheel company in the world talks about lightweight wheels and aerodynamics today. Mavic pioneered these goals, despite the fact that so many of Mavic's products were banned by the UCI earlier but are now legal. Mavic’s determination to push the limits of what is thought to be possible, irrespective of what the UCI says has made Mavic a pioneer in cutting-edge products that are so safe, advanced and desirable that the UCI has time and again amended rules after testing the products. In the 1934 Tour de France, Antonin Magne tested Mavic’s Dura rims in the utmost secrecy–they were banned by the rules at the time. Antonin Magne soon won the yellow jersey. You'll be surprised to know that in 1934, Mavic’s Dura rims weighed 750 g compared with 1.5 - 2 kg for steel rims which were the norm. The Mavic Dura was a phenomenal leap in cycling performance and became the choice of the peloton leaders even if their team was not sponsored by Mavic. In 1973, Mavic examined a glass-fiber lenticular wheel. This too was against the rules and was never allowed to be used in a race but it marked the beginning of Mavic's pursuit for a world-class disc wheel. In hindsight today, we can see that Mavic’s approach was visionary and despite not being allowed to use their products in racing, Mavic continued its research into making wheels lighter, stiffer and ever more aerodynamic. At the same time, in 1973 Mavic started an assistance service for racing cyclists. At every race, Mavic started making available, to all competitors, a ‘neutral and free’ assistance in case of any mechanical issues. Today, 44 years later, this service has continued in every marquee event of professional cycling, till date, and in a deeply endearing display of sportsmanship, Mavic Neutral Assistance has saved the day on countless occasions for riders of all teams, irrespective of who their wheels sponsors are. Mavic gives immediate breakdown assistance to the leaders in all the grad tours. Just two months ago, on July 10, 2017 Cannondale-Drapac leader Rigoberto Uran won the queen’s stage at the Tour de France on the Mavic Cosmic Ultimate after receiving crucial support from the Mavic Neutral Support team. He went on to beat his breakaway companions in dramatic fashion despite racing in a single gear on the wheels provided by Mavic's Neutral Support, after his Canonndale bike developed a technical snag in the final few km of the stage.
On the track- circuit, Mavic's dominance is stark- just tune in to ANY international track race in the world. 7 out of 10 riders will be racing on Mavic disc wheels even in cases where Mavic doesn't sponsor their team!
Take a look at this video from the Track Cycling World Cup and count the number of cyclists using Mavic wheels. The reason for this is that the mavic disc is one of the stiffest in the world, leaving no room for power loss in transmission. Add to this the negative drag and you have an absolute winner.
Having acquainted myself with all the information, I decided to invest in the company that has been pushing our sport forward for the last century! Our legends, our greats, our heroes- all have used and been benefited in one way or another by Mavic wheels and equipment. I just hope that I will be able to do justice to them.
I am in Bangalore this weekend for a mass start race. I can’t wait to get back to Mumbai to ride my new wheels. Anyone interested in joining me for a ride on Tuesday on EEH, please drop a message.
Thanks for tuning in,
Mirza Saaib Beg.
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