Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mavic Classics

By today's wheel standards, the Mavic Classics are yesterday's news. The Classics are 32-hole, standard rims much like the Reflex or Open Pro, steel eyelet reinforcements and a ceramic braking surface weighing in around 1,600 grams for the set.

The Classics have an interesting history and even more interesting future. In 1996, Mavic introduced the Helium, the famous bright red, annodized wheelset that kicked off the pre-built wheel boom and put many of the cycling industry's best wheel builders out to pasture. The Heliums were expensive then (~$800) and on the heels of the Helium's sucess, Mavic felt it was a good time to continue adding to the pre-built wheel line-up. Along came the Classic Pros, which were 32-hole wheels with a standard rim and unique Mavic hub. This wheelset was inexpensive and offered a reliable option for dealers. They required no additional labor to build and they rode beautifully out of the box.

Mavic later refined the wheelset to include a ceramic braking surface and they simplified the name to "Classics." The Classics became the choice for professional cyclists who earned their living on the slippery cobbles of the Spring Classics. The Classics came in two versions, a clincher version and a "very PRO" tubular version.

According to Mavic, the Classics were never popular among the recreational cyclist crowd and became a product that was mostly routed to the professional peloton. This is where the allure of the Classics begin. Years later, it is impossible to turn a spoke key in March or April without tensioning a Classic spoke. Many of the pro peloton's biggest names rely on the Classics to get them into the decisive moves. Often you can see the bright yellow decals forming a yellow streak across the top section of the all black wheelset. Mavic no longer produces this wheelset, and according to a few Mavic reps, the wheelset is one of Mavic's most desireable and difficult-to-find wheelsets.

I searched for two years to find a pair in decent shape, scouring eBay and Craigslist. While on a spring ride in 2004, I even offered some guy on a group ride my Ksyrium SLs for his Classics. The SLs were easily replaced.

Thanksgiving 2004 I found my Classics. They were sitting on an older Moots cross bike at a bike shop in Boston. The bike had been sent to the shop's bargain basement. When I asked an employee if I could buy "just the wheels," he asked, "why would you want those?" Clearly, he was unaware of the thousands of cobbled miles ridden by pros on those wheels, carrying them through the toughest of Spring conditions. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

My Classics are clinchers, they came with a Shimano freehub and zero miles. I paid $200 for the set, no tax and they remain one of my most prized cycling possesions. The Classics continue to become harder to locate and serve as a membership card for those who are knowledgeable about the details that make up a passion for all things PRO. Today, I have thousands of miles on my Classics and I have ridden everything from the Vittoria Pave Evo to Michelin cross tires on them. The ceramic continues to provide impressive grip in the coldest and wettest of conditions and they have never required service.


Anonymous said...


When the Classics Pro wheelset came out, they were expensive for heavy (not 1600g like the Heliums, but more like 1800+) standard 32-spoked wheels. There was absolutely nothing special about these $500 wheels. Open Pro rims on a Dura Ace hubset was lighter, cheaper and more durable. They didn't sell well because there was nothing special about them except for the high price.

Heavy + Non-aero + Expensive does not equal best seller.

The Mavic FTS hubs of the time were not known for their longevity. And, if my memory serves me right, the rims were just Open Pros, too. Plus, ceramic on road rims just means replacing more brake pads.

Radio Freddy said...

You are correct on all fronts. I remember thinking that the Classics had a long way to go, especially when compared to a hand built wheel. There are only 2 pawls inside the hub compared to the King hub with almost a direct drive. And you are right about the brake pads, you can almost feel them shredding away when using the brakes.

Anonymous said...

I have a set of Classics Pro's (but without the ceramic brake surface)that I'm going to put on ebay. Was wondering if i could post a link to this article on your site in my descrption. I just got a set of the 2nd gen (?) Carbones (big stickers; super-PRO IMO) and need to make room. Would that be alright?
p.s. not sure where you are, but if you're anywhere near the midwest in the spring next year, you need to check out Hillsboro-Roubaix (IL, near StL) next April. More Flanders than Roubaix, but definitely sweet.

Radio Freddy said...

Jack - Please feel free to link away. I hope you are able to find the wheels a good home. I have heard about the Hillsboro-Roubaix, and it is supposed to be a great race. Perfect for a light set of deep section wheels with EVO Pave tires. Green of course. Thanks for dropping by! - RF

Anonymous said...

Hey Freddy;
Used these (they were perfect!) with a set of the S-Works Roubaix tires with the 25mm casing and the 23mm tread. Big difference from straight 23s. Might have to do the green EVOs next year with the Carbones (the course is mostly flat with a few short "burgs".) Have been running Michelin Service Course lately. Love 'em. How do those rate on your PRO scale?

Radio Freddy said...

Jack - The Michelin Service Course is the PRO of the PRO. I know I have only spoken to my love for Vittoria, but Michelin does it right and makes a great riding, durable tire that does embody the PRO style. Especially in the soft blue color. Stay tuned, I am working on something for the Michelins.

Andy Askren said...

Question: I have a basically new set of Classics SSC wheels, and another set of not quite as new but still hardly ridden Classics Pro wheels. Which would you use for a cx bike in Oregon; or stated another way, is one set more durable or is one set more "valuable" and therefore one you might want to expose to less direct (and unavoidable) thrashing?

I could use one on a road bike for training, the other on my cross bike... hard to tell which one performs better in which conditions really. Just looking for some guidance from folks who seem to have much more experience with them than I.

Thanks for any help or info.

Anonymous said...

great blog! seeking an opinion: i'm in the market for new wheels on my custom ti road bike, what's a "pro" [clincher] wheel? and by "pro" i mean a good solid training/occasional racing (northeast US, potholed roads, hilly terrain, 165lb rider...). i'd like to stick with mavic. is there a successor to the open pro? again many thanks for the great reading! happy holidays!

Curt said...

Great article.
I have a set of helium tubulars. The back wheel has a crack in the rim. If anyone knows of any place that sells these rims, I would appreciate the help... My lbs is trying to get it from mavic, but it sounds like all they have left is clinchers.

Anonymous said...

Check it out.

Anonymous said...

I bought a set of these 4 or 5 years ago for the ceramic breaking surface to assist with my gravity- assisted high speed descending in the mountains of NC. I have never used them and now I probably never will. Just having them makes me feel as close to PRO as I will ever get. Great blog.