Wheel guru Steve Hed passes away

Minnesota man a pioneer in aerodynamic wheel design

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Steve Hed, founder of aero wheel company Hed Cycling Products, died this morning. He was 59.

Hed collapsed outside of one of his facilities on Thursday and was discovered by an employee. CPR was administered on the scene and by first responders, who rushed him to the hospital. He was taken off life support Tuesday night and passed Wednesday morning.

Hed was an early pioneer of both carbon fiber construction and aerodynamics in wheel design. His meticulous study of how wheels operate in the wind gained the attention and trust of many pro racers including Lance Armstrong, who relied on Hed’s expertise for many years. In addition to Hed’s product, Armstrong consulted regularly with Hed for equipment choice of all types. This partnership brought international attention to Hed’s relatively small company, which is still based in Shoreview, Minnesota. 

Hed was an early pioneer of carbon fiber disc wheels and carbon fiber tri-spoke wheels. After owning a bike shop called Grand Performance, he launched Hed in 1985. His wheels went on to be raced at the highest levels of the sport, and Hed patented the toroidal rim shape that is so popular among wheel makers today. More recently, Hed wheels advanced rim width. The company pushed to a 23mm width in 2007, and in 2013 the Plus rims went to 25mm.

“Calling Steve Hed an icon in cycling innovation would be an understatement,” said Chad Moore, Mavic’s director of marketing. “He consistently set benchmarks that drove all of us to build better products. We will miss his passion and his presence and send our best wishes and deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans.”

Numerous pros, like kim kirchen, consulted with steve hed over the years:

Numerous pros, like Kim Kirchen, consulted with Steve Hed over the years

After all of his years of work with carbon fiber, Hed remained unconvinced about the concept of carbon fiber clincher wheels because of heat build-up and the potential for failure (disc-brake models excluded). All Hed clincher wheels feature an alloy brake track. “Steve wanted to be able to sleep at night,” Hed’s Paul Ellis told BikeRadar a few weeks ago.

Hed and Zipp competed fiercely for years in the aero-wheel market, but Hed had the respect of many at the Indianapolis wheel company.

“Steve Hed was a friend to many at Zipp since the early days, and that friendship stood until the end,” said Michael Hall, Zipp director of advanced development. “He was a guy who you sought out at trade shows to say hello and catch up. On the business side, Steve challenged and pushed Zipp and vice versa. As a result the carbon wheel industry has benefited and taken massive leaps in technology over the past 20 years. We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and all of those at Hed Cycling. Steve was such a rival. It fueled the industry’s innovation for years and years. He was a pioneer in using measurement, data and technology to advance athletes, both in the pro peloton and in triathlon. He was definitely a big personality. It’s a sad time that we have now lost one of the true innovators and true characters in our industry.”

Hed’s interest extended well beyond wheels.

“Mr. Hed was an inveterate tinkerer, insatiably curious and creative, which led him to move into aerodynamic handlebars once he knew he would not be competing with longtime friend and Scott handlebar creator Boone Lennon,” Ellis wrote in a press release. “The HED one-piece aerobar, debuted in the early 2000s, was revolutionary.  Most recently his interest has been gravel racing, and he stepped in to help produce the now iconic Almanzo gravel race held in the Twin Cities area.”

Hed’s wife Anne, a former professional triathlete, has been involved with running the company for decades.  “The two have been in, for 30 years, the perfect communion of Steve’s out-of-the-box creativity and Annie’s feet-on-the-ground attachment to the realities of business,” Ellis wrote in a press release.

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Steve Hed was born July 11, 1955 and died the morning of November 26, 2014. He is survived by his wife of 24 years, Anne Hed, a son Andrew and a daughter Rebecca.