The Ardennes name is derived from a region of south-east Belgium known for punchy climbs, picturesque forests and roads with less-than-forgiving surfaces.
The line consists of two rim-brake and two disc-brake models, the RA Pro being the higher-spec disc brake model, reigning over the RA Performance primarily due to a higher-spec hub.
HED Ardennes RA Pro wheels details and specifications
Those hubs are HED’s own Sonic 510 (front) and Sonic 545 (rear), offering simple, relatively easy servicing.
Push-in end caps on the front hub allow 12 or 15mm axle compatibility and easy access to the bearings.
A threaded rear axle slides cleanly out of the hub once the non-driveside nut has been removed using a 17mm cone spanner on either end of it.
Those are the only tools needed to perform a clean and regrease, while regular bearing removal and press tools will allow replacement of the cartridge bearings in each hub shell and the freehub body.
The freehub is a five-pawl leaf-sprung unit with 8 degrees of engagement or 45 engagement points.
Sapim’s workhorse CX-Sprint spokes link the hubs to the rims, 24 per wheel in a two-cross pattern. They are wider, stiffer and heavier than the CX-Rays preferred in many aero wheels.
The 25mm-deep alloy rims sit 25.2mm wide externally with an internal width of 21.8mm.
HED was one of the first companies to consider wider rim profiles and the burgeoning popularity of that concept shows the benefits – not just in aerodynamic terms, but also increasing tyre volumes causing upticks in both comfort and traction.
The internal depth of the rim is 7.4mm, shallower than usual, but the overall diameter of the wheel is 631mm – also about 2.1mm smaller than average.
While the smaller space within the rim to drop the tyre bead into while fitting or removing makes the process a little harder, the smaller overall diameter compensates, and fitting tyres to these wheels isn’t particularly problematic.
The bead-seat diameter measures 621.7mm – 0.3mm under the ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) standard. This simply means tyres will seat somewhat more easily than they might on other rims.
While being positioned as part of HED’s ‘all-road’ range rather than its nominal ‘gravel’ line-up, I fully expect these wheels to appeal to cyclocross riders and those who have abundant fireroad-type terrain to hand.
They tick a lot of boxes for riders looking for a higher-performance wheelset for a daily driver or winter training bike, and with the lack of weight limit they may even suit a traditional touring bike with all the extra luggage that would mean.
HED Ardennes RA Pro wheels performance
It would be reasonable to expect these wheels not to feel quite so stiff as a deep-section carbon alternative and you’d be right – but a combination of a semi-deep rim and some stiffer-than-average spokes goes some way to giving the Ardennes RA Pros a sharper feeling than most alloy wheels I’ve ridden recently.
Combined with extremely positive engagement from HED’s own-brand hubs, these wheels accelerate almost intuitively, barely seeming to flex under the most savage attacks.
Considering neither axle is one-piece, it’s impressive there’s no brake drag when out of the saddle, be that sprinting for signs or hauling up knee-popping gradients.
They’re similarly confident when the gradient tips back the other way, and this is where the fact they’re not quite as stiff as some carbon wheels starts to pay dividends.
High-speed, bumpy corners can be taken with noticeably more confidence than on stiffer wheels because the Ardennes RA Pros can flex subtly more readily and maintain more consistent traction. Flowy descents with rapid direction changes feel smooth and composed.
The situations in which the predictable handling nature became an issue were few and far between, and almost all involved swerving to avoid holes a rider in front hadn’t pointed out.
That seemed to unsettle the wheels more than anything else, but they’d recover instantly.
I tested the Ardennes RA Pros across a selection of the most questionably surfaced roads and came away scratching my head. Despite a handful of wince-inducing impacts, which should have meant an instant puncture, no such poor luck occurred.
It’s usual for new wheels to de-tension a little during the first couple hundred kilometres of use and we sometimes note those wheels that de-tension unevenly or spectacularly fast.
The Ardennes RA Pro is one of the only wheelsets I’ve seen that hasn’t perceptibly de-tensioned at all.
The front wheel came out of the box 0.3mm out of true and 0.4mm off round, with the rear 0.3mm in each of those metrics.
By the end of the test, those numbers hadn’t changed. For reference, British Standard BS6102 requires wheels to be within +/- 2mm in either measurement.
HED Ardennes RA Pro wheels bottom line
Overall, the Ardennes RA Pro wheels represent a good-value, durable upgrade option if you’re a gravel rider or an adventurous roadie who likes turning down lanes that may not be the smoothest.
How we tested
We’ve assessed seven pairs of road bike wheels around the £1,000 price point over months of gruelling testing.
From varied endurance rides to high-intensity short but hilly blasts, we’ve put these wheelsets through their paces.
Each set of wheels had a list of parameters measured – including trueness, roundness and spoke-tension variance – out of the box, with measurements taken again at 500km.
Wheels on test
- VeloElite Carbon Wide 350-50
- Fulcrum Racing Zero DB
- HED Ardennes RA Pro
- Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50
- Scribe Aero Wide 42 D+
- Vision SC55 DB TLR
- Zipp 303S
|Price||AUD $1239.00EUR €792.00GBP £666.00USD $900.00|
|Weight||1,530g (700c) – including tubeless compatible rim tape|
|Freehub||Shimano/SRAM 11speed, SRAM XDR|
|Rim internal width||21.2mm|
|Spoke count||24 front, 24 rear|
|Spokes||Sapim Sprint, J-bend|
|Tubeless compatibility||Tubeless ready|