Mavic has been quietly developing a new downhill wheelset, and it has been under at least two World Cup racers throughout most of the 2018 season. Canyon's DH team has been doing most of the testing and both Troy Brosnan and Mark Wallace have been key players in their development. SRAM has also been involved in the project, which may make it to market as early as spring 2019. Mavic's "Deemax SSC" prototypes have been hiding in plain sight, camouflaged only by their decidedly normal construction.
If you did notice something out of the ordinary, the tip-off would have been the hubs, with their symmetric spoke angles and a return to J-bend spokes and conventional lacing patterns. Mavic MTB Concept manager Scott Sharples, an accomplished DH racer in his own right, played a leading role in the project and gave us the inside story on the new hoops.
Mavic's Dee Max DH wheels have been popular at the World Cups. What was the inspiration for Mavic's to take on an new downhill wheel design?
Sharples: Given the speeds that these guys ride, and the fact that they all use 7-speed, and finally, 20mm Boost front wheels, I saw an opportunity to build the ultimate wheel. Traditionally, with all MTB wheels, there has always been a ‘soft’ side to a wheel. Because of the need to ‘dish’ a wheel for disc brakes or cassette. My goal was to get the spoke angle equal on both sides, so there was no ‘soft’ side.
Sharples: What I mean by a ‘soft’ side, is that the spoke angle affects the way spoke can manage load on the rim. As a rider, when I was at full speed on the big hits and big jumps, the bike would always want to change directions. Whether you notice it or not, it is there. So, now the feeling from left to right is equal, and we could also tune the compliance without any compromise
So, the new wheel looks pretty normal. What has Mavic done differently?
Sharples: It looks simple enough, but it’s the ‘incremental’ improvements that make all the difference. The rim has some very important, but hidden structural elements. With a reinforced sidewall to withstand big impacts, and also protect the tire. Additionally, we reinforced the rim in a way to protect the UST surface - to keep your tubeless system sealed.
The wheel design was a collaboration between the team mechanics, the Mavic engineers, SRAM and myself. We used Mark Wallace and Troy Brosnan to test the wheels. We tested different rim widths, different spoke thickness, tensions, crossing and lacing, and we came up with this ultimate wheel that lets you (the rider) get on with riding.
Aside of the front and rear hub flange spacing balance, all the spokes are the same length on both wheels. Other things you may notice are the J-bend spokes. I know that when you invest in a bike trip to some remote location - a Heli ride, a trek down thru Tibet, a Downieville expedition, or at a bike park in the Alps - you need to be able to easily and quickly replace your spokes if you crash into a herd of goats.
...Or race World Cup DH. Is that why Mavic stuck with an aluminum rim?
Sharples: Oh yes. Alloy. We haven’t taken the plunge to carbon yet. The racers on other teams that use them are not happy with the reliability of carbon - yet. We have some [carbon rims] in testing and they are 100-percent good. But I’m not yet convinced it is the best material for downhill racing.
This wheel is incredibly easy to service and repair, knowing full well that gravity riders do smash equipment. But, having said that, this the most dependable wheel and rim combo out there. It's like the old and legendary Mavic 321 - that was the wheel of choice for all gravity riders. We are back at that place now.
What about ride quality?
Sharples: If you ask Troy Brosnan or any of his team mechanics (that I must say, are incredibly ‘dialed’ mechanics), they will all tell you how well this wheel system works, and how reliable it is. The team has been on this wheel all year and it rides like no other wheel.
What was SRAM's contribution?
Sharples: We worked with SRAM to develop a very compact 10 by 24 tooth, seven-speed cassette, and a custom stubby XD driver. It's really a technical marvel when you look at it.
So, what are the hard specifications, and when can we expect the Deemax SSC wheels in bike shops?
Sharples: The plan is to have the wheels in production early next year, in 27.5 and 29 inch.The Special Edition SSC will have shortened drivers that will fit SRAM and Shimano cassettes. Presently, here are no plans for Shimano's new Micro-Spline cassette system. Hub spacing is 157mm rear and 20x110mm Boost front. Our SSC rims have a 28mm inner width and the wheels are laced 28 spokes in a 3-cross pattern, with 1.6mm butted stainless steel spokes. The weight is at 1,950-grams, and as of now, the price is not set, but it will be close to $700 USD.