What's Cool In Road Cycling

MAVIC Kysrium Pro Allroad Wheels Review

As part of Mavic’s 2016 global gear launch, I was invited for some serious riding in the Rockies to review the all new Ksyrium Pro Allroad Disc Wheels, Yksion Elite Allroad Tires, and kitted up in the Kysrium Pro Jersey & Bibshorts.  The longest gravel ride of my life and some extreme weather set the stage…

If you’re going to stake your claim as experts in the ‘all-road’ cycling world, what better way to do it than invite 30-40 of the world’s most influential cycling journalists (and PEZ) to 120km cross country ride through the wilderness in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains, kitted out in the the newest endurance (read: epic) riding clothing you’ve got, on board disc-braked road bikes built up with your newest all-road aluminum tubeless wheels and 28mm & 30mm wide all-road specific tubeless ready tires…?

That’s just what Mavic did as part of the global launch of their newest 2016 road gear line up.

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But as much fun as meeting and riding with my journalist colleagues from around the globe promised to be, it was straight to business as we drive directly from the airport in Jackson to our first product presentation held at the breath-taking Spring Creek Ranch on a ridge above the town of Jackson (and if I told you this was a bona-fide ‘cowboy’ town I’d not be lying.)

There was a lot of gear to show and tell us about, and since we’d be riding most of it the next day, there was no time like the present to get the lowdown on the long list. There was too much to cover in one article, so let’s first look at the:

• Ksyrium Pro Allroad Disc Wheels
• Yksion Elite Allroad Tires
• Kysrium Pro Jersey & Bibshorts

There was other gear to try as well (their new lightweight Kysrium climbing wheel,  Aksium Elite helmet and Kysrium pro shoes), but I’ll save that for later and focus on our Day #1 riding adventure – an epic off-road adventure, taking in some 90km of gravel roads through pristine wilderness in the shadow of the Grand Teton mountains (and bear country).

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Thar’s some quality ridin’ in them thar hills, and a little rain too. 

The Kysrium line was launched in 1999, and has become as much a part of the Mavic brand as the yellow neutral support cars at the Tour.   It’s one of cycling’s most enduring product names, and while the past 16 years have seen it revised and improved many times, this year surely marks some of the biggest advancements in their offerings.  Riding is no longer about just road or mountain, free-ride or gran fondo, or even choosing between them.  Mavic has recognized a growing consumer desire to ride our bikes anywhere we want, and developed gear inspiringly referred to as “Allroad” – to carry you on the best epic rides of your life.

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How’s this for an epic:  120km, including the first 90km on dirt and gravel roads, in the pristine wilderness of Idaho & Wyoming.

 

Adding some spice to this already savoury stew of riding was the presence of Mavic’s sponsored riders including Tim Johnson (former PEZ interviewee, current race commentator and general cycling bon-vivant), and Mike Cotty  (the man behind the most beautiful filmed climbs I’ve seen see thecolcollective.com) and a guy who love nothing more than settling in for a 7 – 8 hour ride over some of the biggest cols in the sport.

 

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You know it’s gonna be a good day when you see a row of Cannondale Synapse “crush meets plush” endurance bikes, and one of em has your name on it.

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Ksyrium Pro Allroad Disc Wheels + Yksion Elite Allroad Tires – US$1,249.90 for wheels & tires
Our first day of riding was on the all new Ksyrium Pro Allroad disc wheels, rubbered with Mavic’s just as new Yksion Elite Allroad tires.  This combo might be the most robust road wheel Mavic has ever made, intended to go where no road wheel hath gone before, or at least a lot of places you probably wanted to go. And you gotta admit, the idea of no longer being limited to paved surfaces is pretty appealing.

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The rims are wider – the internal width alone is 19mm – (I still have a set of wheels that are about this width on the OUTSIDE.) making enough room to run a 30mm wide tubeless ready tire, or tire and tube combo.  In case you haven’t seen, heard or read about the latest trend in wheel design… it’s wider rim widths.  The wider rim bed opens up the tire bead (instead of pinching it closed like narrow rim beds do) and allows better contact between the tire bead and rim hook (what you need for tubeless skins), and more air volume in the tire, and (wait for it…) even wider tires – like the 28mm and 30mm Yksions.   The larger air volume (which noticeably adds no noticeable weight) adds comfort, better cornering, control, and drive-end grip, and lower rolling resistance, and is less prone to pinch flats than narrower tires.

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The wheels use aluminum rims, built with aluminum Zicral spokes which lace into the outer rim wall, leaving the inner rim wall untouched (and undrilled for spoke holes) which is a good thing when you want to seal a rim for tubeless tires.

Both front & rear wheels run 24 spokes to best handle the higher stresses expected from all-road riding and disc brakes, and the rear uses an offset pattern to allow the highest tension possible against the drive side for stiffness.  The set weighs in at 1620 grams – a respectable weight given the intended usage, and I’m much happier rolling around a few extra grams in favor of increased durability.

The hubs are Mavic’s through axle design, which makes perfect sense for the kind of riding you’ll be doing on these hoops, since the large axles offer a more secure anchoring that adds strength to disc brake set ups.  The front is both 12mm & 15mm compatible while the rear is ready for a  12mm through axel, or you can run quick releases as well.

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The hub bodies are machined aluminum & carbon for the front – full alu for the rear. Both run sealed adjustable cartridge bearings, with an Instant Drive 360 freehub that uses two steel inserts to brace the cassette body drive mechanism, so your large wattage driving forces won’t destroy the lightweight freehub.

Drive is via 40 tooth dual ratchet system with 9 degree engagement, making for efficient forward motion.  There’s a low friction radial seal to keep out water, and the end cap adapters will work with any type of retention system and driver body (QR, 12×142, HG, ED, …).

Spokes are straight pull (eliminates the J-bend where most spokes fail and allows more even tension around the wheel), bladed, and front double butted.

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Yksion Elite Allroad Tires
As part of the Allroad system Mavic launched two new tires specifically designed to work with the wider and more robust rims – the Yksion Pro GripLink front tire and PowerLink rear tire, both in 28mm & 30mm widths.  Intended to increase comfort, rolling efficiency and grip, these tires are designed for the varied terrain surfaces that you’re likely to encounter when venturing off the beaten path.  The center bead is smooth for faster rolling on pavement, while the sides feature deeper treads for better traction on surfaces like gravel and hard pack dirt, and also help to channel water away when it’s wet.

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Tires are front and rear specific with different tread patterns and compounds to best handle unique forces and requirements at each end of the bike.  They even have different names – the front is called the GripLink because it’s designed stick better in corners, and the rear is the PowerLink… for obvious reasons associated with being found at the ‘power’ end of your bike.

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Casing is 120 tpi, and the Yksion Elite 30mm are tubeless ready, but will also run with tubes, and both feature a bead to bead nylon internal layer that adds puncture resistance.

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Ride Them Wheels

Evaluating a wheel’s feel and performance on an off-road test track will always be a challenge – the varied road surfaces, forces, wheel slippage and other factors are so much a part of the experience that it’s almost impossible to distinguish wheel performance from road surface influence.   I’m certainly not able to tell you whether the road as slipping under my wheels or the wheel were slipping over the road, and I’d be suspect of anyone claiming they can tell the difference.

But over the course of a 7 hour ride on varied terrain like Mavic showed us in the Rocky Mountains, I got a good feel for the general level of performance.  Things I observed:

• These wheels for sure feel more like a sturdier road set up, but less like a light mtb setup (and as a point of reference I started my career as an adult cyclist back in the very early 1980’s as one of the first guys to own a mountain bike in Vancouver, and rode primarily mtbs for years.)

• Handling is more precise, but requires more finesse in turns and to navigate ruts, grooves, gravel, and mud  – finding a new reference point for grip is somewhere between your daily road wheels and tires, and the fat tires of an mtb.

• The ride really reminded me of my old time mtb epics – grinding our way across mountains and through forests – except this time it was faster, and on lighter bikes, and something I want to do more of.

Riding 90km of dirt road is never easy, the only coasting or rest you might get is going downhill – and even then it’s all hands on deck to pay more attention to picking a smooth line – there’s no forgetting that this is a ‘road’ bike after all – and not a ‘built for smashing’ mtb.

The All-Road wheels and Yksion tires on pavement run a lot faster that you might expect from a 28mm & 30mm wide set of rubber.  There’s the noticeable difference from a 25mm pure road setup, but given that these wheels & tires inspire so much more confidence to ride off the beaten path, or even just down a rougher path, the trade off is minimal for the huge increase in available fun.

We had a group of about 40 all riding this setup. While there was an alarming number of flats (I was one of the few lucky ones who didn’t flat), it was impossible to tell if it was due to the tubeless design, possible lack of enough sealant, or other factors.  My sense was that running tubes in this setup is a safer bet for now.

But with over 60 wheels covering the 120km ride, I saw no broken wheels, hubs or parts.

Overall I really liked the setup and the open door to more adventure style riding on a road bike, but where I really see this wheel setup appealing is to anyone looking for a fast commuter style bike – something to get around on quickly and with higher level of confidence and comfort that the wider, larger volume tires and more robust wheels offer.  I ride my daily bike with 25mm tires and standard road wheels on gravel and dirt roads and paths that connect me to different neighbourhoods and bypass car traffic, and I can easily see how the Mavic Allroad system would encourage me to find even more cool terrain to explore and add to my local training routes.  Mavic has really raised the bar of fun riding with these.

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Kysrium Pro Jersey ($119.95) & Bibshorts  ($189.95)
This new jersey & bibshort is another part of Mavic’s extended commitment to champion endurance riding, and with long hours in the saddle in mind, this kit has been developed with some special features to suit.

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The jersey itself is pretty light – my size small tester weighed in at 143 grams. The material is what they call Ride Wick ST, a lightweight, feels-like-it’s transparent mesh designed to draw moisture away from the body and encourage faster evaporation for quicker drying and a more comfortable overall feel. It’s ergonomically cut to what Mavic calls a “regular fit” (their version is snug, and shorter in front like a lot of ‘racer’ fits are these days), but still has a small amount of multi-directional stretch in it that, combined with the multi-panel tailoring, fit me really well.  There’s only a small bit of gel grip in the rear waist line to hold the jersey down (and less is more when it comes to gel grippers), which for me means less sweat-points and better overall feel. There are actually four pockets in back (including a zippered extra over the center pocket), that held all my day ride gear adequately, even if the two outer pockets could be an inch or so deeper.

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We rode this on a very hot day with temps hovering around 30C degrees, and you bet I felt hot, but the jersey remained comfortable for the 8 hours – even when I was anything but as we got caught in a deluge of biblical proportions in the final 20km.

The jersey clearly has some thought put into its design, and so do the bibshorts.  The fabric offers a nice amount of compression without being thick or heavy, and the legbands are tall enough to hold the legs in place with just a small number of gel dots, so annoying hotspots around the legs are eliminated.  Like the jersey, the bibs are a multi-panel design that use flatlock stitching to comfortably hold the body-contoured panels together, and these fit me well too.

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Mavic has developed a chamois padding using Ortholite as the vibration filter (other brands use various types of gels and foams for this), that reportedly absorbs bumps 20% better than other types of chamois inserts. But since each rider feels and interprets road vibrations differently, the real test is under your own butt.

The chamois comes in a different densities for small/medium and large /xlarge bib sizes, and are also specific widths for men’s & women’s lines – which also makes good sense since we’re not built the same.   They’ve reversed the chamois so that your skin contacts the flat part of the multi density foam inserts, effectively spreading the rider’s mass over a larger surface area to increase overall comfort.

I can tell you that we rode the kit in the toughest, most vibrating conditions I’ve experience since my pre-suspension mtb days (which I’d hoped were behind me). Over 90km of dirt and gravel roads, on non-suspended road frames equipped with Mavic carbon All-road wheels and 28mm tires, the special Ortholite chamois was all we had between us and what most roadies would consider a day of torture.  After 7 hours, my butt was sore.  My whole body was sore.

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But I can say the I never felt discomfort from the bibs or chamois – and we rode em though very hot conditions, and then into an explosive hail-filled rain storm that soaked us all to the bone in a couple of minutes.   I actually had no chafing or irritation to speak of… and that was impressive.

The chamois is thick enough that I found lowering my seat was required to maintain my optimal saddle height, and it isn’t exactly stealth when not on the bike, but it is very well padded, without feeling like a diaper.  In fact the padding is so comfy that sitting on the ground to fasten shoes or rest was a nice relief.  Mavic has done some solid homework here

 

Overall this was a pretty cool launch – and an intense introduction to Mavic’s newest gear for 2016, but thankfully there was enough gear and tech to ride that we were kept on on toes for 2 full days.  Although I can’t comment of the long term usage for the wheels, the jersey and bibshorts have held up well over a couple months of added riding (and that includes a full laundry after each use.)  Hopefully I’ll have a longer term wheel test for you in the coming months.

• See more info at MAVIC.com

I’ll sign off with a cool photo we took on day two – this is our group – chances are you’ve read words from several of these guys who edit or contribute to the world’s best cycling publications.  It’s not often we’re all in the same place at the same time, and even less likely we’ll pause long enough for a pic, but I though this one was worth asking for.

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