Rapid acceleration, lower tyre pressures, a light weight and reliability – the HED Ardennes FR wheelset really can do it all. From daily training on the roughest roads to an outing on a buttery smooth criterium track, the hoops will deliver, and at a reasonable cost.
While aerodynamic advantages are difficult to assess, the improvement in ride quality from the ability to run lower tyre pressure is undeniable. Minor changes to rim width mean the tyre delivers greater stability and less roll or flex when running significantly less pressure than normal.
The increase in width also reduces the chance of a pinch flat, as less of the tyre sits outside the rim’s outer edge. This is a big plus for those preferring a slightly lower pressure, especially in adverse weather conditions.
Improved traction and better road handling
The ‘correct’ pressure for tyres has long been a topic for debate, often leading to the average cyclist inflating their tyres by too much or too little. The right value relies upon a number of factors, including rider weight. However, with the additional rim width of the Ardennes you’ll need to drop your usual pressure to get optimal performance.
Flamme rouge sonic front hubs feature a central carbon sleeve for weight reduction: Alex Malone/Future Publishing
The Sonic front hub has a central, lightweight carbon sleeve
HED’s wider Ardennes FR rim profile allows – or, more accurately, demands – that tyre pressure be reduced from the standard 110psi that most assume to be the norm. HED recommend 85 to 105psi, but much of this will depend on rider weight, the frame characteristics of your bike, and tyre width. For most of our test period the tyres were pumped to a little under 100psi, with Continental GP4000s on a Giant TCR Advanced SL 1.
Those who prefer a firmer ride will still be impressed by the ride quality at lower pressures. The tyres never felt ‘squirmish’ or underinflated, but more stable, with a perceived improvement in grip and confidence in handling difficult corners.
Construction and build
The HED Ardennes is the kind of wheel that questions the need for a ‘real’ race hoop. While it’s not going to be as fast or aerodynamic as a taller profile carbon rim, its wider profile and bladed Sapim spokes are tougher than you’d expect for a wheelset of this weight.
HED claim the wider profile makes the wheelset more aerodynamic. The 23mm width increases the relative size of the tyre by allowing it to ‘fill’ more than a standard rim. A smoother passing of wind from tyre to rim reduces the turbulent air from this area, yielding a faster combination of tyre and wheel than would be found if the rim was narrower.
The alloy brake surface is perfectly machined with discrete wear indicators on the rim’s surface, to let you know when it’s time for a replacement. Both test wheels were, as you would expect, true and dished to extremely tight tolerances. You will have to adjust your pad position and brake cable tension to accommodate the rim profile, which means devoting a little more time when swapping between different wheels.
One of the tidy additions to the Ardennes FR wheelset is the rear hub grease port, covered by an easily removable alloy cap. This allows the keen home mechanic to keep the wheels in top condition. The small set-screw located on the hub can also be used to top up the bearings with fresh grease.
Flamme rouge c2 rims have discrete wear indicators located on both sides of the rim: Alex Malone/Future Publishing
There are discrete wear indicators on both sides of the rims
HED remove the inner seals from the bearings inside the hubs, as do Campagnolo on their Ultra Torque cranksets, to minimise bearing friction. The wheels already roll extremely well and will need little attention. “Every nine to 12 months is usually fine for most riders,” says Australian HED distributor Brent Dawson. Of course, a lot of this will depend of the conditions in which the wheels are ridden, but it’s an infrequent requirement.
Claimed total weight without quick releases is 1.45kg (3.2lb). Including the supplied rim tape, ours weighed in at a respectable 1.47kg (3.2lb) – 626g on the front and 845g on the rear.
They’re light enough to meet consumer expectations within the latest wave of alloy clinchers, and with a maximum rider limit of 86kg (190lb) for the standard 18/24H spoke combination aren’t overly exclusive to lighter riders. There’s also a Stallion build, using a 20H spoke front and 28H rear that increases the weight limit to 102kg (225lb).
The titanium skewers aren’t featherweights but they do the job, at 41g and 44g for front and rear respectively. The cam action for securing the wheel inside the dropouts requires little, if any, maintenance and has enough length in the skewer’s axle to easily accommodate thick fork tabs.
Overall, the HED Ardennes FR wheelset offers the freedom to ride top-end hoops on a daily basis, without the gamble of using tubular or carbon wheels on city streets that are often full of potholes or littered with broken glass. You also get a stiff and stable package that doesn’t mean being weighed down by a bulky build.