The Mavic company was founded in the 19th century and has a long history of making iconic cycling products for the ride-inclined outdoors-person. Their Mektronic components appeared in 1999, a second effort at electronic shifting after their ill-fated Zap system went the way of all things a few years prior.
“That’s ok,” said no one at Mavic. “The first one’s the worst one, like pancakes and good night kisses.” I feel confident that they felt confident in Mektronic and believed sincerely that they were, finally, ushering in an age of high-performance electronic componentry that would remake the pro peloton and definitely not end up in the Sharper Image catalog next to a cat-shaped bubble gum machine (in full disclosure, I’m fairly sure (not entirely) that this never happened, but is only part of my own rich, fantasy life).
It’s worth digressing here briefly to remind (or inform) you that Mavic marketed a pair of ultralight airplanes in the ’80s. Most of you who were sentient in that period of high human achievement will remember all the cute, little yellow planes buzzing around insouciantly and rue the fact that you didn’t somehow manage to buy one of the ready-to-assemble kits this scion of cycling innovation made available for sale. Oh, wait. No you won’t, because that was another project Mavic scrapped tout suite.
<crying face><crying face><clown face><taco>
Mektronic turned out to be a chimeric and quixotic component offering, both hard to acquire and hard to make work properly. In fact, most of the reviews of this Trojan horse of an electronic shifting device use the word “unreliable,” which is an optimist’s word for “doesn’t f*&%ing work.” The world wanted this to happen, but France is not know for its development of cutting edge consumer electronics, and Mektronic didn’t flip that particular script.
Still, cycling being cycling, and cyclists being reliably (see how this word works) unhinged pursuers of the twee and arcane, the Mektronic stuff somehow became very desirable. I have met hoarders, owners and prizers of many units. I have met people who have paid, let’s say, over-the-odds to possess a gaudily branded device that does not shift very often or very accurately, and then installed it on a bicycle with other Mavic parts of questionable quality, the finished product being a sort of tribute to the brazen not-cleverness of whomever thought it was a good plan to expand the French company’s product line beyond round metal things.
One thing that didn’t happen next is Mavic selling the Mektronic name to Hasbro for an evil, bicycle-based Transformer character, like maybe a bicycle that transforms into an ironing board or a whimsical shoe rack, but the clothes always come out wrinkly or the shoes don’t really stay on the rack all the time. The most evil is sometimes the most mundane.
The sad truth is we don’t want Mavic components (except for all of us who do). We just want them to make wheels and to hand those wheels to bike racers, and we want them to drive around in their bright yellow cars and remind us of all that’s good and pure in bike racing. And here’s where things get extra sad, because Mavic isn’t Mavic anymore. The company was acquired by Amer Sports (Salomon, Suunto, Wilson) a few years back, but then possibly sold last year, but maybe not. The French company became a Finnish company that then became a Chinese company. It’s a long, convoluted tale, the facts of which are as reliable as a certain, snazzy, electronic shifter I can think of.