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The Ardennes is important, in my mind, because it was one of the first mass-market road wheels to champion wide rims. More specifically, it was one of the first “training” wheels to do so.
If you’re Steve Hed, what do you do? Make it wider.
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Enter the new 2013 Ardennes+ (say ‘Ardennes Plus’). Compared to the old Ardennes, it gained only 0.5mm in depth. Not much, eh? However, in width, it gained a hefty 2mm. In total, we have a 24.5mm deep x 25.0mm wide behemoth. Internal width is 20.6mm.
What is the story behind this new wider rim? Let’s go straight to Steve Hed himself for the explanation:
“When we went to 23mm rims in 2007, the change was huge. It wasn't long before we got curious about whether an even wider rim would be an improvement on our 23mm width. We figured some more gains could be made, but we had our hands full with 23mm rims. Early on, we pushed hard just to get people on the wheels and get the wide rim thing rolling. After it took off we had to scale up to build all the Ardennes and Jet wheels. At the same time, we started refining our aero shapes to work with the wider rims. By last spring, it was finally time to start looking at whether there were still more gains to be made [with even wider rims].
Well... there are. They're not on the same magnitude as going from 19 to 23mm (we are starting to see diminishing returns), but 25 is a marked improvement over 23. Tires shape better on a wider rim. The rim is stiffer. Rolling resistance should be better. With more air volume there is a wider range of safe air pressure, so people can tune the ride. And there are small things, like rim width matching better to a carbon tubular race wheel. It is less of a headache if you don't have to adjust your brakes when you change from training to race wheels.”
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Steve’s last point is compelling to me, as there are currently no training rim options beyond 23mm width, unless you venture out in to the super-heavy touring-intended rims. If you race on a set of Enve SES clinchers, their width is very close to the Ardennes+, at 26mm front and 24mm rear. Or perhaps you race on Shimano’s new C75 tubular (24mm wide), Zipp’s Firecrest 404 carbon clincher (24.7mm), or Hed’s own Stinger 3 (25.0mm). With any of these wheels, your brake adjustment hassle is minimized if you train on the Ardennes+.
The Ardennes+ rim – despite its girth – weighs only 465 grams (15 grams heavier than the 23mm wide rim).
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Hed recommends a minimum of 23mm wide tires. What about pressure? According to Hed’s Andy Tetmeyer,
“We've been riding and testing since last fall on tires 23mm and up. The sweet spot for tires appears to be a 23 or 24. With a labeled tire size narrower than the rim, the tire shaping is excellent both on the leading and trailing edges. 25mm labeled tires are also fast but they start to lose some shaping and therefore speed. 25mm only come over the rim edge about .5mm, so it is not the width that holds them back a little, but the rounder shape of the tread section.
28mm are a magic carpet ride, but at the expense of some aero advantage. With 23 and 24mm tires we're running high 70s psi for 165 lb riders, at 28mm we're running high 60s.”
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Interestingly, the rim is tubeless-compatible out of the box, and includes airtight adhesive rim tape.
The key question I had for Hed was simple – what is the purpose of the wheel? Is it really for triathletes? Is it for aerodynamics, rolling resistance, durability, or something else entirely? Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, their response was “Intent? Speed, of course!”
When pressed further, they said that going wider is a no brainer for gravel roads and cyclocross, but the aero improvements for road cycling are still noteworthy. The larger point that I hear coming up over and over is the idea of tuning ride quality, and a wider range of usable pressures. While we don’t yet have a set of these wheels to test, we are excited to see another step towards the wide world of wheels.
Hed will offer each existing version of the Ardennes in a ‘Plus’ version.
Hed Ardennes+ specifications:
-Ardennes+ SL 1512g/set, $1150. 18 radial spokes front, 24 spokes 2x2x rear
-Ardennes+ LT 1555g/set, $900. 18 radial spokes front, 24 spokes 2x2x rear
-Ardennes+ CL 1605g/set, $900. 24 spokes 2x front, 28 spokes 2x2x rear.
-Ardennes+ disc brake wheels, $1200
-Belgium Plus rims: 24/28. $150
-All wheels 11-speed compatible
-Available late May 2013
All images courtesy of Hed Cycling