If anyone ever says “I don’t want a Mavic wheel, I want a hand built wheel” you can tell them that more hands touch a Mavic wheel than any wheel built in a shop. The Mavic factory tour in Annecy was an eye opener.
My first thought upon entering the Mavic wheel factory was “Wow, there are a lot of happy middle-aged women in here wearing floral shirts.” My second thought was “Wow, there are a lot of custom machines in here that probably don’t exist anywhere else in the world.” My third thought was “Wow, I really need a large Dunkins Jamoca Almond Fudge with a turbo shot.”
I lost count of how many individual steps are involved in a single wheel build but it’s a lot. I can’t count that high but I promise you it’s at least six steps. Those little stickers inside a Mavic rim? Those are placed after a step is completed. I think the only step that doesn’t get a sticker is the tire mounting test. Yes, they physically mount and inflate a tire on every rim just to make sure it beads properly. If that were my job it would be called the “Pinching the tube and blowing the tire off the rim station” and everyone in the immediate area would be wearing ear muffs all day.
The lower photo above is of the quick release assembly station. Five people assemble one quick release. Workers in the factory are all trained to do every job in the place and they rotate every hour or two hours depending on what they’re doing. And they all take two weeks off in August to go wing-suiting at Chamonix and eat cheese. Sometimes simultaneously.
I wish I could have gotten some photos of the carbon spoke assemble process, that was wicked cool but it’s also wicked proprietary and secret. There’s one woman whose job it is to thread the kevlar through the spokes of the R-Sys wheels. Another woman and places the epoxy on the threaded spoke ends and another places the spokes on a rack and rolls them into an adorable pneumatic machine that goes “BRRF! BRRF! BRRF! and sets the epoxy…or something. There was a lot going on.
The Mavic factory was impressive. And that’s coming from someone who met Andre The Giant in person.