Mavic: The Rims of Champions

MavicIt is for wheels that Mavic is, and was from the start, best known. Mavic is one example of the 29 handmade bicycle manufacturers featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle. 

1889 marked the centennial of the French Revolution. Three legendary things were born in France that year. The Eiffel Tower (as part of the World’s Fair a.k.a. Exposition Universelle), the Moulin Rouge (the famous cabaret), and Mavic (the French bicycle parts manufacturer).

Mavic started with two friends, Charles Idoux and Lucien Chanel, who began a different kind of revolution that year. First, two brothers, Léon and Laurent Vielle, set up a nickel-plating business in Lyon, France with Henry Gormand as president. Shortly afterwards, Idoux and Chanel, also sponsored by Gormand, launched another enterprise for “the fabrication and sake of spare parts for bicycles.” They called their business Manufacture d’Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux et Chanel. Thus, Mavic was born.

Around the time of World War I, a huge cycling craze swept over France. To accommodate the ill-surfaced roads of the early years, the basic components of any bicycle, wheels and frame, needed to be robust and, to a degree, flexible, sturdy enough to endure the shocking onslaught of man and bike imposed by (for example) the Tour de France, but resilient, too, to absorb the rough nature of the roads.


Bearing this in mind, the Vielle and Mavic operations combined under the Mavic name, and, in 1925, they relocated to Lyon, adding mudguards and steel rims to their manufacturing line. (Today, Mavic, is located in Annecy, France).

With Mavic’s innovation and top-quality materials, their link to professional riders and champions nearly began from the start. For example, Antonin Magne, winner of the 1931 Tour de France, secretly used Dura rims from Mavic in the 1934 Tour, which were painted to look like wood (rules stipulated the use of wooden rims). And with them, Magne rode to a second victory. The connection with top cyclists continued years later with Eddy Merckx, arguably the greatest cyclist of all time; he insisted on using Mavic rims. The list goes on and on.

MavicMavic has also become famous for their bright yellow neutral assistance cars that have supported most professional races. Not just anyone can be a support car mechanic. From the time a mechanic jumps out of the car to the launching of the cyclists back on the road, it takes an astonishing 30 seconds. That’s the kind of efficiency and perfection that goes on at Mavic because their ethos is forever rooted in their love of cycling. It’s no wonder that “a better bike begins here.”

This brief portrait of Mavic was adapted from its full chapter in the book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle TEB_96dpi_400pw_strThe Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

In chapters featuring some of cycling’s greatest craftspeople, The Elite Bicycle offers up a conversation with the men and women who make the most coveted bicycles. Lavish, oversize photographs and personal interviews invite readers into their workshops to show the melding of old-world craftsmanship with space-age materials in fascinating studios and factories that fabricate superb machines.

The Elite Bicycle is both an homage to the bicycle maker and a collector’s piece in its own right, celebrating the stories behind the greatest bicycles and components in the world.

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