Q: What's better than a tough, "ride everyday" wheel? A: A tough, "ride everyday" wheel with a no-questions-asked replacement policy. That's what. Last year, I bought a set of Cosmic Carbone PROs from my local bike shop. Per their advice, I spent the additional dough for the Mavic Protection Program (MP3). Essentially, the MP3 offers you a complete replacement of your wheelset regardless of cause or fault (even if the damage occurred during racing!) Last year, the Cosmic Carbones were touted as their deep section, tubular-only carbon wheelset designed to be so durable they are ideal as everyday wheels.
With the tires glued and pumped I am out the door for my 40-minute cruise to the start of the weekend ride. As I wind up the wheels for some warm-up efforts, the wheels feel fast, light, and fairly stiff...certainly as stiff as the Reynolds Stratus DVs from last season and noticeably stiffer than the Zipp 303s from the season before. The ride comes together with no less than 60 riders on this warm, dry July day. As we roll out of town and through the neighborhoods where the pavement is notoriously rough, I slide in mid-pack in front of the owner of the shop where I purchased my Carbones the day before. As he asks for my initial thoughts on the wheels, I slam a pot hole with the rear wheel and the loud cracking sound I heard was enough to make my wallet shiver. I applied my rear brake lightly to gauge the extent of the damage and there is a noticeable ticking of the brakes on the newly-formed deformation of the braking surface. I had just broken my new wheels before I had even taken my first sip from my water bottle. The ding was noticeable but minor enough to continue with the ride. By the end of the day's ride, the wheels seemed to have repaired themselves, losing the intitial damage from the pot hole. Now, when I applied the brakes, the ticking that was evident two water bottles ago is absent.
When I got home, I was able to get my first glance at the rim and, after a fair amount of looking, I located the spot on the rim and the ding. The pothole had deformed the braking surface on both sides of the rim and created a bubble of displaced carbon fiber. I applied pressure to the deformed section of the rim with my thumbs and with a light crackling sound the rim flattened out. I took the wheel back to the shop where the mechanic and I voted to continue riding the wheels with the intention of sending them back to Mavic at the end of the season. For the remainder of the season, I rode the Carbone PROs without incident, quickly falling in love with the wheel's speed, stiffness, and appearance. In September, I pulled the Vittoria CXs off and glued on some cross tires for the Jonathon Page look during the cross season. Even the rigors of a cross season were no match for the Carbone PROs and, again, they proved their suitability as a daily wheel.
In January, I prepared to return the wheels to Mavic and noticed that, in addition to the original crack in the rear wheel, I had a small hole in the carbon fairing of the front wheel, caused by an errant scrap of metal on a group ride back in August. I remember the ride and the impact, but had no idea that the metal had actually punctured the carbon. The hole never creaked or made itself known.
I pulled off my cross tires, removed the QR skewers and cassette and dropped the wheels off at my local shop. One week later, I received a brand new set of Cosmic Carbone PROs for the low, low price of $30 to cover shipping to and from Mavic. Now that's insane! What other company in the bike industry allows you to beat the crap out of your equipment and then replace it for no charge?
In April, I glued a new set of Vittoria CXs to my new Cosmic Carbones and began the second and final season of my MP3 program. Just like Year 1, I started the season with an abrupt pothole encounter, creating yet another crack on the braking surface. This time, however, I nailed both the front and rear wheels. When the season comes to a close, I will send my Carbones back to Mavic for replacement and I plan to sell the replacements to help fund the purchase of some Carbone Ultimates and, of course, the MP3 program.
For the last eleven years, I have been dreaming about a set of Lightweights, ever since I first saw Riis cheating his way to a Tour win in '96. But how can I risk the $3,500 for a pair of Lightweights when I am sure to experience the same damage I saw with my Carbones? The risk is simply too great and I could not afford to repair the LWs if anything goes wrong, let alone buy a front or rear because I had smacked another pothole. The MP3 program is the perfect safety net if you are thinking about buying an expensive set of wheels.
The purchase price of the MP3 program is well worth the insurance and Mavic's response time and attitude toward the MP3 program is just as advertised. Well done Mavic.