Product Test: HED Vanquish 4

Playing the long game

For the last few years most of the action in the wheel market has been based around the proliferation of carbon clinchers. While, thankfully, all the bandwagon brands who jumped on the carbon clincher train have dwindled, the cycling world is left with a shorter list of brands that have a legacy of wheel design to their credit, which is what adds to their longevity in the sport.    

Hed Cycling has been pushing boundaries in the wheel industry for over three decades. However, when the carbon clincher market exploded, Hed chose to hold back, offering instead their Jet wheel, which used an aluminum rim with a carbon fairing added. 

Why the delay? Simple: company founder Steve Hed never felt comfortable with the safety and performance of carbon rim walls under braking.  

However, that all changed with the introduction of the Vanquish series of carbon clinchers, which solved the problem by being disc brake-specific. The 60mm-deep Vanquish 6 was unveiled in 2017, followed by 80mm versions released last year. With little need for an 80mm-deep wheel, we were all over giving the all-around-friendly 4s a run for their depth.

THE TECH

The carbon hoops are made at the Hed factory in Minnesota. The carbon rims wrap around Hed’s own 545 disc brake hub using 24 bladed steel spokes with external nipples (for easy adjustment) that create adequate durability and stiffness for the hoops. The blunt-nosed rims boast a 30mm external and a 21mm internal width. This is to be expected from Hed, who led the wide-rim trend with the release of the 19mm (internally) wide Ardennes hoop over a decade ago. 

Centerlock rotors complete the HEDs.

But what makes these so special is the disc brake. The Vanquish series is Hed’s first complete carbon fiber clincher rim. Steve Hed never felt comfortable with a carbon rim brake track due to the intense heat and subsequent wear. However, Hed Cycling is able to take advantage of the materials benefits; they focused on improving the older Sonic hubs, known for their even bearing loads. Hed developed the 545 hubs to cope with the added forces applied from disc brakes while maintaining the bearing’s quality. The center-lock hubs are compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campy hub bodies. 

At 677 grams for the front and 786 grams for the rear, the Vanquish 4s aren’t light, but weight wasn’t a priority for the wheelset. The best evidence for this is their being friendly for a super-wide range of tires (23mm and 42mm), which makes them a truly capable multi-purpose wheelset. 

The rims are tubeless compatible, and tubeless rim strips are included in the package. While Hed is currently working on their own valve, they recommend threaded valves from either Orange Seal or DT Swiss.

The Vanquish wheels will accommodate either 12mm or 15mm front thru-axles and 12mm rear, and there is also a conversion kit for cyclists still using standard QR skewers.

THE RIDE

We ran the Hed wheels with a tubeless setup. After sourcing valves and sealant, a pair of 25mm Grand Prix 5000 TL tires sealed on the first try, in part thanks to the wide rims. We ran the tires at 65 psi, which was the recommended pressure for the tire size and rider weight. In addition to a handy chart on their website that lists their recommended rider weight/air pressure combinations, the rims have a small graphic guide that lists both tire size/air pressure. 

Out on the road, the medium-depth rims helped push us along at speeds over 21 mph. They rolled smoothly, and the road vibrations were noticeably reduced. Another benefit of the wide rims is the wider tire contact patch they create, and with that comes added traction that adds extra confidence over rougher roads and while cornering.       

THE VERDICT

Hed’s Vanquish series is a high-quality, mid-depth carbon wheelset that will enhance the ride quality for those upgrading from a shallower rim. We like the 21mm internal width, and the helpful tire-pressure chart on the rim. The Vanquish 4s are versatile, American-made wheels that are ideal for a wide variety of tire sizes, road conditions and riders looking for a do-it-all wheelset.

PUNCH LINES

• Legacy wheel brand

• Wide rims for dual-purpose riding

• Disc brake-specific

STATS

Price: $2500

Weight: 1463 grams

www.hedcycling.com

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