This is my first set of "after-market" wheels. I was looking at doing a custom build of HED Belgium's but I was able to work out a sweet deal with Competitive and I settled on the Ardennes.
I have been riding for 30 years and I have always used the wheels that came standard on my bikes. So, I would evaluate this review based on having only ridden stocked wheels. I am currently riding a Trek Domane Six series that came with Bontragger wheels.
First, from a cosmetic perspective, the wheels look great. The full black against a white frame is very cool.
Now the technical aspects, pros and cons:
Pros: the breaking is as advertised. These things stop quick. I haven't been in rain yet, so I cannot say how they'll perform while wet, but I'd expect them to be just as good. The front hub spins forever. Very little rolling resistance. The rear however is hard for me to compare. I don't know how long it spins compared to other higher end rear hubs, but I can say I have dropped 1 minute in riding time in 5 mile splits. Doesn't sound like a lot, but its early in my riding season and I am admittedly not in top form, but that tells me the riding resistance is a lot less.
Cons: Putting on tires is a PITA. (Pain in the a@#) I trashed 3 tubes in the process. There is no way to put the tires on by hand. I believe its a combination of the rough breaking surface and the added width of the rim. After shredding a tube, I'd try a different technique. I finally found that actually over inflating the tube (e.g. more than normal for my installation method) seem to work. At least that method worked on the forth tube.
Probably a minor thing, I notice what appears to be a small wobble or vibration transferred to the front wheel occasionally during a power stroke. Not sure if that is a feature of a radial spoked wheel or not, but it doesn't seem to impact performance or cause the rim to hit the break pads. Visually it is a little bothersome, but I am beginning just to ignore it. I cannot remember the stock from rim doing that...hopefully not a longer term issue.
Overall, I really do like the wheels. The four stars is based mainly on the difficult tire installation.