Urban Velo

Mavic Open Pro/Shimano 105 Wheelset

Mavic Open Pro Rim

After a couple years of road riding and commuting, I needed new wheels. Ok, maybe “wanted” is a better word, since I could have just replaced my damaged rear wheel’s rim. In truth, I was eager to upgrade the LeMond’s stock wheelset.

Shimano QRI was more interested in dependability than light weight, but I didn’t want anything too much heavier than necessary. If time and money were no object I might have chosen a slightly different setup—or built them myself—as my initial notion was to get 32 spoke, three cross wheels with butted spokes and aluminum nipples. But the opportunity to get some sweet hoops on closeout from Iron City Bikes came up and I couldn’t refuse. I spent my money on 36-spoke Mavic Open Pro’s laced to a Shimano 105 wheelset with DT Swiss 14g spokes and brass nipples. Handbuilt deep in gator-country, these wheels are built to go fast and last a long time. Probably intended for touring or race-training, they’re also great for everyday commuting.

105 Front HubBoth of the most respected books on bicycle wheels, The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt and The Art of Wheelbuilding by Gerd Schraner, agree that a high spoke count and a three-cross lacing pattern are the way to go. The theory is that because the spokes share the workload, with more spokes each one has to do less work. Plus the rim flexes less and the whole wheel ends up being stronger.

Open Pro RimMavic’s Open Pro rims are made in France and feature welded joints, double eyelets and a machined braking surface. Some sources, including Jobst Brandt and Grant Peterson argue that welded joints aren’t significantly better than pinned joints, and that a milled braking surface makes for a weaker rim, however both remain industry standards for high end rims. Brandt further postulates that silver rims are stronger than anodized rims, which bodes well for my purchase, though I’ve never had a black rim fail in over seven years of serious cycling. Some online reviews claim that Open Pro’s are prone to making strange noises and outright failure, but I’ve experienced neither. And consider that I’ve got a penchant for dropping off curbs, bunny hopping potholes and taking 25mm tires where they really don’t belong.

105 Rear HubShimano hubs buck convention in favor of sound mechanical engineering. What’s that? Most modern hubs use “sealed cartridge bearings” which are disposable instead of serviceable, and built to withstand strong radial forces, but not much more. Cup and cone bearings, which are featured in all Shimano hubs, are easily serviceable and angular contact by design. Angular contact bearings can withstand strong radial forces, as well as lateral forces. In real world riding conditions, angular contact bearings are superior at cornering and stronger in rough riding conditions. The only real downside to cup and cone bearings is that they require proper adjustment, but home mechanics like myself tend to enjoy the seasonal repacking of our bearings.

Open Pro RimDT Swiss spokes and nipples are appropriately regarded as the best available. Though the present day company was formed in 1994, the “Drahtwerke Tréfileries” or “wireworks” originated in 1650. They’ve been making spokes and accessories since the 1940’s, which has given them plenty of time to perfect their unique manufacturing process. The Art of Wheelbuilding (which happens to be published by DT Swiss) describes the process in detail, but the important things are that their spokes are forged and cold-worked for greater strength, and the threads are rolled instead of cut, making them harder to strip.

LeMond RenoTheoretically, double-butted spokes flex easier and as a result perform better and last longer. In practice, they’re mostly just lighter and more expensive. I could certainly have made do with lighter spokes and aluminum nipples instead of brass, but cost was a concern and brass nipples are more durable in every way.

After several months of commuting, these wheels have stayed true and roll smooth and fast. If anything changes, I’ll update this post. And if you’ve ridden these, or similar wheels, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

Approximate weight and retail prices:

Shimano 105 FH5600 36-hole Rear Hub / $68 / 350g (+62g skewer)
Shimano 105 HB5600 36-hole Front Hub / $39 / 148g (+58g skewer)
DT Swiss Champion 14g Silver Spokes (36 per wheel) / $20 / 143g
DT Swiss Brass Nipples (36 per wheel) / $5 / 36g
Mavic Open Pro 36-hole Rim / $65 / 425g

Complete rear wheel / $158 / 1016g
Complete front wheel / $129 / 810g
Complete wheelset / $287 / 1826g

About Urban Jeff

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  1. SmudgemoFebruary 19, 2008 at 12:43 am

    You know, OpenPro rims seem pretty light for commuting, but they take a lot of abuse in racing, so perhaps they’ll work out just fine. I’m not so sold on 105 components after my last set of shift/brake levers barely lasted long enough to justify their purchase, but it’s hard to screw up a front hub and I imagine the rear will last plenty long enough. Straight-gauge spokes for commuting makes all the sense in the world, and I agree on brass nipples. I won’t buy alloy ones, not even on road race wheels. I just don’t trust them. I’ve done well commuting on 32 spokes (just what I had on hand), but I’d also get 36 if I was building a set of commute wheels.

  2. GreggFebruary 19, 2008 at 1:09 am

    I have a set of older Ultegra 9speed in OpenPro 32s double butted that are doing great, except for the rear I tacoed ditching my bike into a curb performing evasive maneuver from a full size van that I apparently upset.

  3. JasonFebruary 19, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    My Open Pro/Ultegra build were my first set of wheels made to my order. My local wrench did a fantastic job and the wheels are just as fast and smoother than the set of Rolfs they replaced. My only wish would be Mavic offered a narrower profile. But they still get the job done and get it done very well.

  4. DannyFebruary 19, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I have a similar set up — the only difference is that I have Mavic Open Sport rims, with 28c Gatorskins. These wheels have totally held up, even though they’ve been subjected to SF potholes and general gnarliness.

  5. WesFebruary 19, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Nice build! I really like the open pro’s, they’re fairly light, durable, easy to get, look good enough and are pretty affordable. I built up my cx wheels based on a set of openpro ceramics last year and they’ve been total champs. The ceramic braking surface is pretty awesome. The rest of the build is a little more high end though, DT 240s hubs, DT supercomp spokes and alloy nipples. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything but positive things about Shimano’s hubs though, even from people who tend to slag modern Shimano parts.

  6. qbertFebruary 19, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I’m a Clydesdale and have used openpros on a commute bike for a few years now and I can’t complain. This is an odd question but did they automatically include wheel liners in the build?

  7. sumadisFebruary 19, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    open pro’s – the sensible alternative to deep v’s. mad street cred in my book. there’s a reason the smart guys in paris roubaix don’t roll deep wall rims no mater what the sponsors demand, and that reason plays out in the mean streets too.

  8. Urban JeffFebruary 19, 2008 at 9:18 pmAuthor

    No, qbert, I had to buy my own rim tape.

  9. RonstaFebruary 19, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    First set of wheels I built, 3 years ago or so. Open Pros to Surly hubs with Wheelsmith SS14g spokes and brass nipples. Used them for everything from cross to commuting and haven’t trued them once yet. They’re still one of the roundest and smoothest sets I have. Just straight forward no-frills durability.

  10. JeremyMarch 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    First off if you are looking at open pros you can not go wrong. Over the years I have gone through about 5 to 6 different wheelsets built with open pros everything from 105 hubs I use on the trainer and commuter to race wheels laced to Chris King hubs. I rarely have to true my open pros, on the trainer about double the time inbetween service as other rims if not three or more times. A testament to strength I often have to ride at night due to work conflicts one night ride I accidently hit a pot hole so hard it threw me off the bike. I finished the ride roughly 15 miles and took the true wheel into the shop because I couldn’t believe it wasn’t broken. Turns out it had a hairline crack though remained surprising true and got me back to the barn.

  11. ThomasMarch 23, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Who taught you how to use a quick release? The clamping arm goes toward your fork bud.

  12. ManiacMay 7, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I used to ride Opens on my commuter. They started out fine for about 6 months until I just started shredding spokes. Last summer I burned through 6 spokes, and all from different spots on the wheel (i.e. replaced each spoke with a new one and then few days later another one blow out). The front wheel is actually as true as the day I bought the wheels. I spent some extra cash 9 months ago for Mavic Ksyrium Equipes and have had to touch them with a spoke wrench. I think Mavic is spending more money, resources, and time on the Kysrium line and have let go of the other stuff and I understand why.

    By the way Thomas, clamping against the fork is pointless, good luck getting the quick release clamped real tight (to remove all play from the hub) and still be able to pull it back open. When you clamp offset from the fork (front and rear) you close down the quick release a few extra mm and also have something to put leverage on to break it free with out being an Arnold.

  13. ThomasMay 18, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Response to Maniac:

    I understand that it’s tougher to get that QR lever next to the frame. I’m not saying it should hit the fork and chain stay, but that it should be parallel and next to it. As a mechanic I want to eliminate any chance of anything knocking the lever out place or the possibility that the lever is snagged on objects (a pant cuff, a falling pannier, A QUICK RELEASE OF A CLOSELY PASSING CYCLIST. It is more of an issue when you are riding in packs and the field is really tight. One swerve from the cyclist ahead of you and his QR could hook yours or her tire could easily knock yours out of place.

    Watch some road races. You’ll see them installed CORRECTLY.

  14. MarkMay 29, 2008 at 8:01 am

    I have *exactly* the same setup as you describe. After being frustrated with broken spokes and continual out-of-true problems with the low spoke count wheels that came with my road bike, I went the the LBS and had them build me a set of new wheels last season. Shimano 105 hubs (much cheaper than Ultegra), 36 hole front and back, with the Mavic Open Pros. I was looking for high strength wheels that would stay in true without a bunch of fussing around with them. I’ll take reliability over light any day of the week when it comes to wheels. I’m not a racer, though I do enjoy trying to keep up with the faster riders in our club on our fast rides. Mostly, I just like to go out and ride for two to four hours at a time.

    No problems with the wheels last year, but I only put about 1500 miles on them after they were built. The rear was slightly out of true after a few hundred miles, but that was fixed up no problem by the LBS.

    I have about 1000 miles this year so far on them. I had a slight out of true on the rear a week ago, and had them true it up again. Yesterday, I took the bike in for a new chain, and they noticed the rear wheel was out of true again, even worse than it was when the wheel was trued the week before.

    I had the owner check it out (he built the wheel) and he put it on the stand, tightened a couple spokes slightly and then bang, the flange on the hub (on the drive side) snapped. A section of the flange on the drive side about three holes in size ripped away from the rest of the hub nearly completely, obviously destroying the hub.

    I believe the wheel builder is very qualified to build wheels, and that he had the spokes properly tensioned so that it was not a mistake he made that caused this problem. Presumably, the flange had cracked on my last ride, causing the wheel to go out of true, and tightening the spokes some more was enough to cause it to snap.

    He is going to fix it for me, replacing the hub etc under warranty, but I am not going to be able to ride the road bike until it gets rebuilt, and this time of year is real busy for shops around here, so it may take a while. Looks like I am on the mtn bike for a while in the meantime.

    I am a larger than average rider, but not a huge guy. I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, and not real skinny, so I no doubt put a bigger load than average on a wheel, especially the rear wheel. However, I tend to spin at a high cadence rather than push hard in big gears so I would think that would lessen the stress a certain amount and offset the size issue some.

    It seems to me this wheel setup should be good enough to use on a tandem bike, which would put at least as much stress on the rear wheel as I do as a large single rider. I would assume that 105 level components would be stronger than the higher priced, lighter upper level stuff like Dura Ace. I am wondering if this is this a valid assumption?

    Should I be looking at some other level (like Ultegra) for additional strength, or some other brand of hub? Or, is this likely an isolated failure that hopefully will not repeat itself?

    I paid a fair amount for hand-built wheels with a desire for high strength and reliability. I am just wondering if there are some changes I should make in the components used to accomplish this, or if I was a little bit unlucky this time around?

  15. DarrenFebruary 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm


    You might try going to a 14g double butted spoke, which will flex more, but will probably last longer like grass in a strong wind versus a thin rigid tree. Also if you are over 185 pounds, you may want to go to a Mavic CXP 33 or Velocity Fusion, which are slightly heavier, but more durable.If you want the Fusion in silver, it may be hard to get, though it is available. Also brass nipples should be used. The wheelbuilder should use Spoke Prep from Wheelsmith, Nipple Cream Rock and Roll Lube or DT’s nipple cream during the build.

  16. DeronApril 15, 2010 at 2:49 am

    I love nipple cream. And Open Pro’s? :p

  17. kurkaMay 15, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Got silver open pro 32holes on the front wheel ,and classic hard anodized open pro 36 holes on the rear(both laced 3x) -in my commuter(bad asfalt ,woods ,even mountains). Both used before me .My weight -average 90 kg.
    After 3 years of everyday use -i’ve broke my steel frame ,the wheels are still in perfect shape :)

  18. John KnottNovember 16, 2012 at 6:43 am

    I built open pro’s onto 105 hubs for my Raleigh Time Trial Special several years ago and have done around 15000 miles on them with no problems.
    I have just replaced the rear hub as the bearings were starting to feel a little rough. No complaints with either hus or rims.
    Out of interest I weigh 82kg and the roads I use are frequently rough and pot-holed.

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