HED Cycling has a unique niche in the bicycle wheel market. Their claim to fame, if you will, is building wider rims – and the Ardennes line epitomizes this. At 23 mm the HED Ardennes SL is between 3-4 mm wider than standard rims. The result according to HED is less rolling resistance and a more comfortable ride. In the stallion build for people up to 225 lbs, they weigh in at 1742 grams. When compared to my Dura Ace C 24 composite wheels at 1428 grams, the big question was whether the lower rolling resistance would make up for the extra weight.
After 100 miles of riding in sun, rain, cold temps, on the flats, and on hills, I have a few observations. To begin with, these wheels are comfortable. An increase in width means that tire volume increases, and tire pressure decreases. My 25 mm Continental tires inflated to 85 psi measure a hair over 27 mm – and this translated into a slightly plusher ride. The difference is readily noticeable on broken pavement. They also manifest their smooth personality while descending. The handling is very stable and predictable at speeds above 35 mph, and when dropping the bike into a turn, they carve an elegant line.
My second impression is that the lower rolling resistance helps to cancel out the weight difference on the flats. However, they don’t spin up as quickly as my Dura Ace rims when climbing, and neither do they hold speed as well – particularly into a stiff headwind. In these applications I would characterize them as fairly sluggish.
My conclusion? The HED Ardennes SL wheels are durable and exceptionally comfortable. They’re a stable wheel that would be a nice upgrade from many factory wheels. The stouter build that I tried gives up too much in weight to be good training rims for someone who does a lot of climbing on pavement. However, the standard build at 1502 grams would be much better contender. High consideration should be given to these wheels for gravel riding as well.
Betrayed yet once again by my Clydesdale body…at least as far as wheels are concerned…after demoing the wheels I returned them for a refund, and will take a gander at the Dura Ace C35 medium profile wheelset that also weighs in at about 1500 grams.