If you're a 10-speed die-hard, but looking for a wheelset upgrade, the HED Ardennes FR Clincher Wheelset is one of the best-performing wheelsets you’ve likely never heard of or thought about. The FR in the name should tell you something; the initials are short for Flamme Rouge, HED's top-shelf designation. It's a lightweight, aluminum-rimmed wheelset that's also fast, strong, and makes any tire grip the road better.
Part of the reason you probably haven't heard of these wheels is that the ProTour teams HED sponsors are typically quiet about their association with HED. The other part is that ProTour riders don't race aluminum clinchers. If they had to pony up their own cash, the story would be different. You'd see these with frequency.
From afar, the Ardennes look like a standard, low spoke count, shallow-depth aluminum clincher. There are 18 spokes in front and 24 in the back. The rim depth is 25mm, a depth that should never be affected by crosswinds. It's the rim where the big differences are. HED debuted a new rim concept in 2007, dubbed C2: lower coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr) and better aerodynamics (Cda). The difference is that the rim is 23mm wide.
The 23mm width, at a time when most rims are around 19mm, is a big difference. The reason for the width is because of 23mm tires, the minimum tire width you almost always should be using on the road (there are 22mm clinchers; these will work, too). A 23mm rim paired with a 23mm tire changes the tire's footprint dramatically. It grips better in a straight line, but it grips better in turns because the tire deforms differently and more evenly. A 23mm tire on a 23mm rim also has lower rolling resistance. HED sent the wheels to Continental Tires for testing. Conti's engineers shrugged their shoulders, figured there was no difference, but put them in the jig and ran the tests anyways. It turns out this width has 18% less rolling resistance than a standard 19mm rim. And, because of the smoother shape, the transition air makes from the edge of the tread to the sidewall to the rim wall to the end of the rim is smoother and causes less disturbance, resulting in a more laminar air flow and less aerodynamic drag. It might have seemed crazy at first blush, but the industry is following. Obviously, it's a good idea to run 23mm or wider tires on any of HED's Ardennes wheels.
They didn't rest when they finished the rim. They've reworked the entire wheel. The spokes are Sapim's popular and aerodynamic CX-Ray spokes with self-securing aluminum nipples. The straight-pull spokes are laced radially in front to aluminum end caps bonded to a carbon fiber shaft. The rear is laced two-cross for greater stiffness. The spokes are polished and silver in color.
The hubs are also HED's design. Known as Sonic, they run ABEC5 bearings on oversized axles, 12mm in front and 15mm in the rear. HED spaced the flanges as widely as possible to create a stronger bracing angle, resulting in better lateral stiffness. The front hub has a carbon-fiber tube with aluminum end caps. The rear is aluminum with flanges.
As this wheel has the Flamme Rouge designation, you know everything has been pared down to reduce weight. The rim is Scandium rather than aluminum. The ratchet ring in the rear hub is titanium as well. Even the rear hub has been stepped up, with a grease port and carbon-fiber port cap; with this, you can power-wash your bike and re-lube without taking your wheel apart.
HED's Ardennes Flamme Rouge are available in 10-speed-compatible Shimano/SRAM. The wheels come with HED's steel-shafted skewers and rim strips. HED does not recommend this wheelset for people weighing over 190lbs.
Front Hub Type:
Rear Hub Type:
Spoke Nipple Material:
Front Spoke Count:
18 Sapim CX-Ray
Rear Spoke Count:
24 Sapim CX-Ray
Complete Set Weight:
2 year limited
Gray, 700c/Shimano: 1,500g
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I?ve been riding these wheels for 2 years and have enjoyed every mile. They are ultra-light, ultra-smooth, and provide ultra-grip. Feels very much like a sew-up. Excellent all around every day wheel, especially great for crits due to the larger contact patch and quick acceleration.