HED Ardennes Plus SL wheelset £899

More width and new tubeless compatibility yield awesome ride quality

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

After pioneering the "wider is better" approach to road rim design more than five years ago with the original Ardennes, HED is now pushing the concept even further with the new Ardennes Plus and its whopping 20mm internal width – 5mm wider than the norm and on par with many mountain bike wheels. While the idea may be radical to some, the positive effect it has on ride performance is undeniable – and big.

Increasing rim width does several things: it adds air volume for more comfort and traction, it boosts sidewall support for better casing stability under hard cornering loads, and it flattens out the profile of the tread cap to effectively put more rubber down on the road. This isn't just theoretical hypothesizing, either – all of these performance gains are easily felt when riding the Ardennes Plus, especially when switching from rims with more traditional dimensions.

We started our test period with familiar 23mm-wide Continental Grand Prix 4000 clinchers and ultralight butyl tubes at our usual 100-105psi inflation pressures. On a standard set of 15mm-wide rims, those tyres reliably measure 23.5mm. On our Ardennes Plus SL test set, however, they balloon out to a gargantuan 27mm – all without any additional weight.

A 23mm-wide Continental tyre actually measures closer to 27mm across on HED's new Ardennes Plus rim

As compared to those same tyres on standard rims, we noticed a much-improved ride over bumps and rough road texture, even at identical pressures. Likewise, the squatter cross-section lends fantastically confident traction through fast corners. Dropping the operating pressure down to about 90-95psi enhanced those advantages even further with no noticeable increase in rolling resistance.

In other words, you get more speed (or more specifically, less slowing down) with no downside.

  • Pros: Awesome ride quality and cornering traction, competitively lightweight, good stiffness, easy tubeless compatibility
  • Cons: External-cam skewers are prone to friction

Flaring out the base of the tyre on such a wide rim revealed one surprise bonus, too. As the tyre is now nearly the same width as the rim, it's easy to remove the wheel from the frame and fork without having to open up the brake quick-release. We're guessing such a smooth transition might pay dividends in terms of aerodynamics, too, but the Ardennes Plus rim is just 24.5mm deep, anyway, so it's not something we ever noticed during testing.

The HED Ardennes Plus rim is tubeless compatible but it requires airtight tape in order to create the seal

The Ardennes Plus SL isn't only about having an ultra-wide rim as we also found it to be an excellent set of road wheels overall. In addition to being wide, the new rim is also tubeless compatible (with tape) and supposedly just 15g heavier per hoop than the previous Ardennes thanks to more carefully controlled wall thicknesses, according to HED's Andy Tetmeyer.

Claimed rim weight is a reasonable 465g apiece and actual total weight for our test set is very competitive 1,536g (667g front, 869g rear, with tubeless tape installed).

We also found it easy to seat a variety of Road Tubeless models with a conventional floor pump, including Hutchinson's new Sector 28. The flat shelf by the bead hooks provides a stable lock for extra security and yet it isn’t a bear to remove the tyre by hand in the event of a puncture, either.

Hubs are essentially carried over from previous HED models (aside from new 11-speed compatibility) with sealed cartridge bearings plus handy grease ports in the rear hub for quick and easy overhauls. Our hubs started out feeling smooth and have stayed that way five months later (although we should qualify that by saying they haven't seen much water).

The rear hub features convenient grease ports for quick servicing

HED joins everything together with Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes in a radial front, 2-cross rear pattern. Wheel stiffness is very good but not exceptionally so. HED approves this setup for riders weighing less than 102kg (225lb) but we'd recommend that riders looking for something particularly sturdy opt for the stouter 'Stallion' build with its more generous 20-hole front and 28-hole rear drilling.

We have but one nit to pick here. The included quick-release skewers are lightweight at 104g a set but their external-cam design continues to generate a lot of friction instead of transferring most of your hand effort into clamp force. We'd certainly prefer that HED switch to a more mechanically efficient internal-cam design instead but aside from that, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend these for any rider seeking a high-performance set of do-it-all, everyday wheels that put a greater priority on ride quality and grip than all-out aerodynamic performance.

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