Hacking Mavic Hubs

I’ve always liked Mavic hubs, but since the mid-1990s the French company has been a trend setter in marketing complete wheel systems as opposed to hubs a la carte. Yet, supposed proprietary designs haven’t stopped me from hacking together some sweet wheels with a tasty, smooth Mavic center. My favourite rim to build on is the Hed Belgium rim (same rim as used on their low profile Ardennes and Bastogne wheelsets). It’s a little pricey compared to Velocity or Mavic, but the Belgium is a quality piece. It is also VERY consistant and builds up nice.

Early generation Mavic Ksyrium Elites are the easiest to build on, though I have also used Mavic Classics Pro hubs (f&r) and Cosmic Carbone hubs (r only, no 16h rim available from Hed). This set is my latest Ksyrium Elite hack, along with a 3-4yr old Hed Ardennes front that I rebuilt with a fresh Bastogne rim after the sidewalls had gotten thin from winter training. Mavic Hed .jpg


For some context here, dirt and water kill your drivetrain and wheels. What Mark has done is clever way to make wheels that you can rebuild repeatedly. Yes, yes, disc brakes, but see all of my comments on disc brakes to date. Mavic hubs, best in the business, infinitely rebuildable with high quality rims.

Infinitely rebuildable…heh, you got that right.  You’ll be rebuilding them infinitely.

The stupid FTS-L freehub on my Crossmax SLs was the worst freehub imaginable.  Finicky, required overhaul every dozen rides.  2 tiny pawls ready to shatter on you in the backcountry (mine never did, thank heavens), fast wearing plastic freehub seal which wasn’t replaceable, requiring you to purchase a new shell for $60 instead of a $2 plastic gasket.  Unbelievably chintzy on an $800 wheelset.

Switched to DT240s…haven’t done a lick of maintenance in THREE YEARS of intensive use.

Do those look like the Crossmax SLs?

have no personal experience riding crossmax sl’s, though i have once heard the same regarding crossmax sl.  however, newer crossmax use a different pawl design, FTS-X.

the FTS-L freehub is the same one used in untold numbers of mavic road wheel systems in the past ten years.  i own 6 sets. in the last 3 years as head mechanic at my shop, i’ve replaced just 2 cassette bodies (pawls at same time) for wear as well 2-3 sets of pawls. 

in my experience, mavic hub reliability spanks all contenders in over all reliability and ease of maintenance including DT, Campagnolo, Shimano, Easton/Velomax, Zipp(again and again)...I don’t have enough experience with Chris King to make a solid claim on them, but I know from experience they do fail on occasion. I’ve sold a lot of Phil Wood cassette hubs and I have seen only one fail…but they are neither cheap nor light…especially not light.

Back when Crossmax SL’s were the trendy wheel, you’d see endless threads on MTBR.com from people wondering why they had lateral play in the cassette, which was invariably due to the worn bushing, or sticky freewheels, due to dirt intrusion from poor seals.

My main point, however, is simply that to say I don’t agree that Mavic hubs are the best in the business.

Right. The hack isn’t about the best hub. The Eccentric Eno hub I’d argue is the best, but expensive, heavy and made for a different purpose. Best extends to generator hubs too.this is about rain wheels.

besides that, it could hardly be called a hack if you used a standard hub.  anyone could do that (maybe not do it well, of course), but part of the fun is the challenge of taking supposedly proprietary wheel components and using them in a way that was never imagined..or possibly guarded against.  symmetry in the face of adversity. 36H hubs onto 24H rims, Ksyrium Elite hubs into non-Mavic rims…working on a sweet Campagnolo Neutron rear hub into a Hed Jet rim next.  damn Campy and their ridiculous 22H radial front hubs…it is the wheel building equivalent to a prime number.

This seems like a roundabout way to go when there are complete HED wheels. Is this just about the novelty of the hack, or should we infer that carbon shells are not the kind of upgrade you want out of their hubs?

hmm, not so much as i had a theme going with Mavic until i decided that Hed was onto the right track with a wider performance rim.  some of my wheels do have Hed hubs…but i had a lot of Mavic wheels already and i’ve just refitted them to Hed rims.  do i like Mavic hubs better? sure, but partially because i’m so familiar with them and their bearing adjustment. like i how i prefer the truing stand at work compared to the one i have at home.

the wheels in the picture are Byrons.  between him and his wife over several winters the sidewalls had worn through on the Ksyriums and a set of Hed Ardennes; i’ve been rebuilding them with Hed rims so that they won’t have to reset the brakes when swapping with race-specific wheels. blogging about rebuilding on the Hed hubs is just boring compared to the Mavic hubs.

Wider rims and Ultremo DDs provide reliable performance. For more perspective on these wheels, these are used on rain bikes for team rides. That’s training and pretty much racing your bros on the weekend. So again, not the perfect wheel, but ideal for what we do.

Mavic components are something I could take or leave… usually the latter… but if they’re around, surely that will work. I certainly understand the wisdom of lacing the hubs up to Belgians (or their lesser C2 rim) for whatever training/abuse you have in mind, if you’re already rocking Jets.

As for Byron’s lament about inconveniently timed pad wear with discs, this takes just a few moments to check pre-ride, and it’s nothing compared to the time it takes to top off the tires.

Got a disc-brake bike that I ride almost daily and I love to hear it grind them pads. Wouldn’t have it any other way for that application. Fast road bike? Touring bike? Sure.

here’s a little secret: on eBay, conventional hubs fetch almost as much or more than they would if they were laced to rims, even if the rims are in good shape.  however, unlaced hubs from wheel SYSTEMS are usually dirt cheap. i got a set of Classics Pro hubs for $30 once and a spotless Cosmic Carbone Pro rear hub (the one with the ultra-rare ti cassette body) for $38….of course, the last Classics Pro hubset on eBay went for $103, so maybe those days are over. point is, if you got skills and knowledge (and working at a shop doesn’t hurt), you’re at an advantage.

Hi Mark
Just found your post and this website.
I have a client who is in the same position as you and wants me to rebuild his Mavic Ksyrium Elites (as he has split the rear rim) but I can’t find any suppliers that will sell me the rims including Mavic! Could you let me know where you got the rims from please.

Many thanks David - The Bike Fixer.com

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