The HED’s new Ardennes wheelset is named after the region in Europe that encompasses Belgium, Luxembourg, and northern France, which plays host to many one-day Classics. The Scandium alloy C2 aluminum rim is unique in that it is slightly wider in order to create a rounder profile for standard clincher tires-and thus give a tubular-type ride. Ardennes rims are 23 millimeters wide, compared to the 20-millimeter industry norm. This gives the contact patch of an off-the-shelf tire a wider footprint. HED says that the altered tread profile allows less tread squirm while climbing and provides more security when cornering on the descents. HED claims that tubular-riding diehards will find the Ardenne’s ride so similar that they will toss their glue pots into the garbage.
HED’s designers utilized scandium alloy (a rare earth element that gives aluminum great stiffness) for the extruded-and-welded V-profile rims. Machined braking surfaces deliver stopping consistency and increased braking force. The Ardennes front wheel is radial-laced with 18 bladed-stainless-steel spokes, while the 24-spoke rear wheel is laced two-cross on the drive side and radial on the left. HED chose Sapim’s 2.0-millimeter aero spokes, which have become an industry favorite. Ardennes wheels can be ordered with ceramic bearing for an upcharge, and are sold with aluminum freehub bodies to fit Campagnolo, SRAM, or Shimano cogsets.
Ardenne wheels are hand-built using HED’s Sonic hubs, and they catch the eye for what they lack; the front hub is flangeless. The spokes radiate from within its tubular body, which gives the wheel an ultra clean appearance. The rear hub uses a flange on the drive side, but the outboard side is flangeless like the front hub. Ardenne hubs use aluminum axles to further minimize weight. HED pins the weight of the front hub at only 72 grams-and the rear, with its aluminum freehub shell, easing in at 210 grams (those figures are quoted with the optional ceramic bearings). The weight of the front wheel installed is 606 grams. Our Shimano-compatible rear wheel comes in at 770 grams. Adding HED’s 100-gram steel-shaft quick releases puts the total Ardenne package at 1476 grams.
Clincher users who wish to experience the energetic feel and smooth rolling performance that tubular tires deliver should consider a set of Ardenne wheels. Who would guess that a little more air volume and a more rounded tread profile would squeeze a significantly better ride from an old-standby tire? Our test wheels were set up with Schwalbe Ultremo tires and run at 110 psi. The look of the tires mounted to 23-millimeter rims was noticeably different to the educated road rider, and so was the ride. The wider rims’ profile and wide hub spoking seemed to give an extra measure of lateral stiffness to the wheels. Road shock and ‘noise’ were reduced and accelerating them felt like there was a direct connection to the pedals. Real or imagined, every test rider descended with conviction when using the Ardennes/Schwalbe combination. HED advertises that it uses superior bearings in its Sonic hubs and each time that we picked up the test bike, the wheels would gently pendulum until they settled at the valve stem or computer magnet location. This indicates precise bearing alignment and minimal seal friction.
WEIGHT: (standard bearings, Shimano-type freehub) F-606 grams, R-770 grams; Set (with quick releases) 1476 grams.