|HED Ardennes for Gravel riding|
After mounting the HED wheels to my Black Mountain Cycles Cross rig, I was able to get in several late season rides. Some were with my usual group, some solo. All were done on a variety of roads ranging from broken pavement, seal coat, gravel of various states, dirt, and rough grass. Let's take a look at what my impressions were out of the box.....
|Center Lock Compatible|
I did notice the wider rim profile of 25mm outer/21mm inner width. This struck me as being rather more like a 29"er rim than something from a company with deep roots in road and triathlon. Andy from HED did say these rims were tubeless ready, and it was obvious that they might work well in that capacity. I set the rims up with two runs of Velocity Rim tape which fit perfectly. I first set my Clement MSO tires up with tubes for the initial testing though. These tires took on a nice, plump look with a straighter run to the bead than with a slightly narrower rim I had them on before.
|I used Velocity tubeless rim tape to go tubeless|
No issues arose during the set up with the exception of having to tweak my brakes to accommodate the wider rims. Once I got them mounted, the wheels spin up very smoothly, and as far as ride feel, they had a similar "from-the-saddle" impression as the box section, 32 spoke wheels I was using prior to these wheels. From that standpoint, the HED wheels were unremarkable. However; there were two distinct impressions that I got right away on the first ride, and which stuck with me the entire test period.
|Grease port under the center clip|
Secondly, and probably most surprisingly for me, was the aero benefits of this wheel set. While I can not offer any hard numbers, (and HED is only just getting results from the wind tunnel on these as well), I know I was coasting farther, feeling less energy expenditures, (especially in a quartering tail wind), and all without getting any negative "aero push" in a crosswind. It was a very easy to sense benefit.
Overall there were no issues with the wheelset's integrity, they stayed true and smooth throughout the test period.
Conclusions: While many gravel grinder folks may not think about the aero component of this type of riding, it has become clear to me that it can be a benefit to those riders that use an aero wheel set. HED is one of the leaders in the aero wheel set market, so to have this sort of product available to gravel riders is something that should be taken note of.
|The free hub body is definitely Aluminum!|
However; HED also was wise enough to offer a rim that will better support tires that gravel riders like to use, wider, more voluminous, and at lower pressures than road tires use. With that 21mm internal width, the sidewalls of most 35-45mm tires should line up well with the rim sides and enhance the aero effect. Not only that, but the tires will be better supported and be able to have a wider usable range of tire pressures- tubed or tubeless.
While supporting both disc and rim brake standards may seem anachronistic to disc brake devotees, this keeps the options open for riders who may currently have cantilevers and will upgrade/change to discs in the future. It does; however, leave that silver strip of color where the brake track is. Besides the aesthetic, it also adds weight to the wheel set that is unnecessary for disc brake set ups.
Then there is the overall wheel weight. In my opinion, it is acceptable from an aero wheel standpoint. Road riders wouldn't bat an eyelash at the weight of these, as it is very competitive with other aluminum rimmed aero wheels in this class. Then if you think about using less energy, which you would save over a longer course using these HED wheels, it becomes a non-issue, really.
Overall, HED has a really nice wheel set here that is versatile and has benefits that many gravel riders are missing out on.
NOTE: HED Wheels sent these Ardennes wheels over to Gravel Grinder News at no charge for test and review. I was not paid, nor bribed for this review and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.