Mavic World HQ Tour – Wheel R&D, Shoes, Soft Goods and More!

mavic world headquarters tour

Mavic’s Annecy, France, HQ houses clothing & footwear design and wheels prototyping and testing. It also holds their accounting, administration and other desk jobs, for all their brands. About 150 of the 1,000 people in the building work for Mavic.

Their rim factory has been running since 1962 in Saint Trivier, about 150km away in central France. It (UPDATE) and their Romanian factory still makes most of their rims today, and all of their high end rims that use any sort of proprietary technology or materials. A few of the basic rims are made in Asia to speed up delivery for entry level OEM customers, but they keep the good IP close to home.

They also house all of their shoes and clothing development in house, borrowing from (and giving to) their sister companies for tech, materials and more. Roll past the break to see how they put it all together…

CLOTHING & SHOES

This building is home to the main office for all the AmerSports brands (Salomon, Arcteryx, Suunto, Wilson, Atomic, etc.) so they could cross pollinate technology, fabrics and ideas across brands. It also consolidates materials sourcing efforts.

With the helmet project they started with what they knew from Salomon’s ski helmets. The bike helmets ended up needing very different technology and materials, but it gave them a good start.

The shoes and soft goods development center lets them create “Point Zero” prototypes to prove the concept.

When testing on athletes, it also lets them mock up several iterations or make quick adjustments.

mavic huez road bike shoe cutaway

Behind the sewing room is a cutting room with a water jet CNC machine to cut shoe parts like pads, heel cups and uppers to be pieced together. Before the automated cutting machine was added, it could take a full day to hand cut all the parts to assemble a single pair.

mavic huez road bike shoe cutaway

Used more for ski products, there’s also a paint/silk screen room where they can mock up new products and disguise prototypes to look like current models so athletes can test them inconspicuously.

Jean Noel Thevenoud, apparel and shoe prototype product manager, says the catalyst for a new product could be athlete needs, growth into new categories/markets or wanting to use a new technology to make an existing product better. Along the way, sales and marketing folks swing into the lab to weigh in on sellabilty, color trends, etc. Having all of this in house speeds up the process tremendously.

The shoes are outsourced to Asia because there are no high end cycling shoe manufacturers in Europe capable of handling their volume. That said, compared to running shoes, the production volume is very low, so they combine also need someone that has the technical expertise specific to cycling shoes that’s also willing to run “small” volumes. For now, that’s Asia.

Clothing is made in Asia, Thailand, Tunisia and, closer to home, Romania. They are looking to bring more of that closer to France as opportunities arise.

They don’t want to go to suppliers and simply ask “what’s available and how can we put our name on it?” They want to bring their own ideas and design and then work with them to get it into production. Their in-house equipment can fabricate all the way to a near production-level sample, which lets them take something very close to a finished product to their manufacturing partners. Having something that closely resembles a production item reduces room for error and removes any doubt as to what the final spec should be.

So what is new? All I can say is there were some very lightweight and sweet looking road shoes tucked away under a desk. I was told simply that they were “not a production item yet.”

WHEELS

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

If they were secretive about their clothing and shoe development, the wheels department took it to a whole ‘nother level. Anything to do with the rims and carbon fiber were kept well out of camera range, and mostly out of sight, too.

What we did get to see was the expansive machine room. Alloy machining not only does hub prototypes but also produces molds for ski boots, bindings and other parts.

Hub shells are machined in house to test a design’s ability to be mass produced. The pieces are pre-series units used for field testing, but they need a lot. There are 650 field testers throughout the world. Road wheels are tested 10,000 km, MTB for 5,000km, so they need to be able to make a lot of iterations sometimes a year or more before a final version will ever be OK’d for production. It also lets them get new products under team riders before full production starts.

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

Besides the exorbitant cost of making a full carbon hub and/or spokes, tne reason they stick with mostly alloy hubs is that many of the designs are so detailed that it’s easier to make them out of metal than carbon, and they can make them smaller where it counts.

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

Some of the tighter sections would take too many layers of carbon to be feasible to do with composites. Plus, they really couldn’t (or shouldn’t) make the threaded parts shown here.

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

Multiple CNC machines turn the blocks of alloy visible in some of the pics above into shiny hub parts.

mavic hub prototype testing and preproduction samples

This was a prototype hub shell for the Beijing Olympics that used the Tracomp carbon fiber spokes. They ended up finding other ways to match the performance while improving the ride characteristics. With the wide carbon spokes and oversized shell, the wheels were a bit too stiff vertically, transmitting a too much bump force to the rider to be comfortable.

Mavic has offered complete wheels since 1994. They wanted to improve the system, and to do that they had to control how all of the parts interacted with each other rather than just pick the best available individual components. And in 2010 they developed tires, giving them a true complete system.

For example, when you put 80psi pressure in the tires, particularly a tubular, it’s putting about a ton per square centimeter of pressure on the rim. That can actually compress the rim’s diameter slightly, which can reduce spoke tension. Without taking that into consideration as part of a complete system, it’s impossible to know how a wheel will perform in the real world.

They have a sizable room dedicated to torturing wheels and tires. Across various machines, they’re tested for rolling resistance, grip, load, impact, lateral and vertical compliance, water intrusion, UV and vibration, among other things. They’ve spent more than a decade refining and testing their own tests to help them better find the right things to measure and how to measure them.

All of the carbon fiber production and development is kept behind closed doors. Why? Because if their competition saw photos of what they were doing, they could determine and reverse engineer some of Mavic’s technology. How do they know that? Because a while back another magazine featured photos of another brand’s production and development center and Mavic’s engineers could pick apart their processes just from the photos. And they keep it in house as much as possible because there’s little guarantee the tech and processes would remain a secret if production were sent to Asia.

PAST GLORY, PROTOTYPES & THINGS TO COME

new mavic wheels coming soon

These bikes are hiding the new wheels we’ll be seeing and riding over the next two days. (UPDATE: It’s the new CXR60′s!)

Olympics winning wheels from years past were painted gold and preserved. Absalon’s were from the rim brake era!

Prototype Service Course wheels (model M40) used in the 2011 Paris Roubaix.

prototype mavic R-SYS ultimate carbon clincher road bike wheels

These prototype full carbon R-SYS Ultimate road wheels were for climbing stages in 2009 TdF, Giro and others.

Total weight was under 1,000g per set. Unfortunately, they were pro only, not ever going into production. Ryder Hesjedal used them in the Giro last year. They’re not aero, but they’re light.

All carbon wheels are prototyped in Annecy. For now, the new CC40 clinchers and Cosmic Carbone Ultimate tubulars are actually being manufactured here, too. The CC40′s alloy rim beds are made at their Saint Trivier facility, then brought in and placed into the molds so the carbon rim can be built around it. Speaking of the Cosmic Carbone Ultimate, it’ll get the carbon braking surface they developed for the CC40 for 2014.

Boardman’s old bike still has Mavic’s Zap electronic shifting system.

Comments

Steve M - 05/13/13 - 5:20pm

That machined hub with the directional spoke sockets is an impressive piece.

BC - 05/13/13 - 6:07pm

Must be amazing working for them. Annecy could be one of the prettiest places out there! Father lives about 90min away in Geneva. Do they have a showroom open to the public?

BT - 05/13/13 - 10:04pm

Can Mavic please produce an 821 rim so I can at least consider Mavic for when I build up my next wheelset?

greg - 05/13/13 - 10:12pm

that Lotus Sport bike was ahead of its time, and waaay ahead of SLAMTHATSTEM covers!

Fredrick - 05/14/13 - 12:38am

Mavic no doubt makes great wheels, but their road line is filled with holes that they keep not filling with wheels that everyone else is making, and lots of “pro only” hand full of custom wheels that look to be awesome and never come to market.

They have great wheels right up to about 1200 in alu road wheels, they are missing carbon tubulars in the shallow and mid depth category that are not massive sums of money to buy. They have loads of these wheels.

The alu-carbon rimmed pro tubulars (still not on the market), R-sys full carbon (still not on the market) 60mm carbon tubular under the pros ( still not on the market), those wide carbon wheels for Paris-Roubaix under pros for three years (Still not on the market), Crossmax ultimate under pro mtb since Beijing ( Still not on the market), The custom wheels used by Cadel do win the world champ ….etc.

How in the hell are they allowed to do custom wheels like these year after year for the pros and never bring them to market, and with so many? I believe the rules say that this stuff needs to come to market after a certain period of time and use. These aren’t like custom hand built wheels with off sponsor rims and hubs that some big name pros use, these are ground up built wheels with special processes and R&D to make just two or three pairs.

So when can i place an order for some of these hoops Mavic, or should i just go buy some wheels that are actually on the market?

Alain - 05/14/13 - 3:50am

“All of the carbon fiber production and development is kept behind closed doors.” Maybe because the carbon fibre production takes place in Romania by their supplier Duqueine: http://www.duqueine.fr/secteurs-activites-sports-loisirs-roues-velo.php

max - 05/14/13 - 6:09am

http://pdl.vimeocdn.com/45041/088/153856209.mp4?aktimeoffset=0&aksessionid=f1a6d90f56fd15f4e7b2ed958cc58cb6&token=1368533088_f97b6af8020403fefd88eb09d81ff536

Mavic shows parts of the Carbon manufacturing in their own Videos…
Nice details:
Poor precompacting of the layup
They touch the Fibers with bare hands (oil on fibres -> binding failure between fiber and epoxy for shure)

Real bicycle HighTech :D

plum - 05/14/13 - 11:13am

Where is the room where they keep the apparel models with really short arms, short torsos, and narrow feet. I know it’s there.

patrik - 05/14/13 - 11:59am

Wow, that HQ building is friggin’ fantastic! Looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright…’s blind intern.

prodigy - 05/14/13 - 1:16pm

” Their rim factory has been running since 1962 in Saint Trivier, about 150km away in central France. It still makes most of their rims today, and all of their high end rims that use any sort of proprietary technology or materials.”

Yeah right, this is why their entire MTB and some of the road range is coming equipped with “Made in Romania” sticker. Not that there’s something wrong with producing wheels in Romania but they shouldn’t advertise it as being made in France. Anyway, when they will change their hub design maybe I will think of buying their hubs with “proprietary” mumbojumbo. MTB rims are ok if you aren’t bothered with the fack that they are too narrow.

JD - 05/14/13 - 1:27pm

Tell them they need to finally make a wider rim, their rim widths are in the 60s.

Mindless - 05/14/13 - 4:51pm

I do not care about their hubs and spokes, thus would only buy from them if they had a wide, light, UST rim. Since they do not, WTB Frequency will do nicely.

That’s a shame, as 819 was great. Ten years ago or so.

Nathan - 05/14/13 - 5:23pm

@Plum
I hear ya!

Iso - 05/15/13 - 6:20am

Would be sickening to know what percentage of their sales,
are of products made in France.
They should stop parading flimsy heritage,
who owns them anyway nowadays?

All my bikes had Mavics when I was a kid.
I bought DT’s, until they started moving factories as well.
I’ve heard of a company who moved from Australia to the US employing locally, that’s my next supplier.

Jim - 05/15/13 - 1:16pm

Iso, the Australian rim company that moved production to the U.S. is Velocity: http://www.velocityusa.com

Mavic Zack - 05/17/13 - 2:06pm

Hi Everyone,
just to be clear, 80-90% of Mavic rims are made in Ste Trivier, France. Hubs and spokes and final assembly are done in Romania, in facilities owned by Mavic and done by employees of Mavic.

Carbon production is done partly in France and partly in Asia. I think pretty soon it’s all coming to France because otherwise it’s just too easy to have processes and designs copied.

Finally, I wouldn’t be too quick to judge carbon production by what’s shown in a marketing video… if I were doing a process that I wanted to keep secret, I probably wouldn’t do it in the marketing video just exactly as I actually do it for final production! :-)

anyway thanks for reading Tyler’s stories and for your discussion. -z

Rick - 05/23/13 - 1:52pm

Mavic Zack. Not to be a ‘negative nelly’ but I have broken every Mavic wheel I have ever owned. Coupled with the poor repair jobs I received from Mavic, I wont buy or ride them anymore. There are too many good other wheel manufacturers out there that make bullet-proof wheels. I wont go into any other details here.

salvatore - 12/16/13 - 11:49am

le ruote per MTB mavic SLR 2012, sono troppo delicate secondo me non adatte per montain bike, perchè basta una pietrolina o qualche ramo, e i cerchi si bozzano o ammaccano, le mie si sono tutte bozzate o ammaccate , troppo delicate, mentre le altre che ho posseduto, fulccrum e dt swiss , si sono solo graffiate , forse avete scelto un materiale dei cerchi troppo morbido, se volete vi invio le fotografie, anche altre stesse ruote di amici che le posseggono stanno facendo la stessa fine, sono deluso di queste ruote, la prima serie di ruote slr, le nere, che avevo dopo anni di utilizzo, sono solo graffiate, erano più resistenti, non sarebbe il caso di indacare sul perche si riducono in questo modo? d’altronde sono ruote che voi costruite per gare cross country,
Saluti Sig. Salvatore Galluccio

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