Hed revises iconic H3

It’s the wheel that wouldn’t die. It’s the wheel that wouldn’t change (much). It’s also the wheel that can’t seem to stop racking up race wins, despite evolution in other wheels from competing manufacturers, and also within Hed’s own product line. You may call it a ‘Trispoke’, a ‘3-spoke’, or simply the 'Hed 3'.

Design for the original wheel began in the 1980’s, and save a major overhaul to the hub design in 2007, it has remained largely unchanged. A special ‘deep’ version also came out at the 2005 Tour de France, under the likes of one Juan Pelota, however the basic wheel structure was the same (it had a deeper rim ‘skin’ laid over it).

Today, all of that is officially changing. It’s time to say hello to the GT3:

What does ‘GT3’ mean? Quite simple – Grand Tour 3. While the ‘3’ has been used for many triathlon race wins over the years, it has remained most popular among Grand Tour bike racers. The original 3 performed very well at high speeds (e.g. low yaw angles), and also stayed very consistent over a range of yaw. According to Steve Hed himself,

“They like it because it’s always fast. If the wind conditions are changing throughout the day and they’re not sure what to ride, they always pick [the Hed 3].”

Hed representatives also tell me that the wheel almost became its own legend. They were not instructing any riders to use it, but rather the wheel was being chosen by the riders. It felt fast, it looked fast, and an aura of mystique was born.

If the old wheel was so successful, why change it? According to Hed, it is simply because of tire size, and how they have evolved over the years. The original Hed 3 is 19mm wide, requiring the use of 19mm tires for optimal performance. Today, most riders prefer tires in the range of 21 – 25mm, which need a rim size of relatively similar width to retain aero performance.

The new rim is a fat 26.5mm wide – a substantial change.

It is worth mentioning that as of today, the new GT3 is only available as a front tubular 700c wheel. No clinchers, 650’s, or rear wheels just yet. Hed tells me that any and all of these are future possibilities, they just haven’t had the resources to get everything ready yet. It does seem as though those Minnesota folks have been busy; in the last year, they’ve debuted new Jet 650c wheels, a 650c Ardennes, a full line of wide Ardennes Plus and Jet Plus products, the Big Deal carbon fat bike rim, and they just announced the Triple Crown gravel bike frame. Hed opted to make the tubular GT3 first because of a high number of requests from professional road teams, many of which still ride tubular tires.

This image shows a comparison of the old H3 with a 19mm tire (left) to a GT3 with a 21mm tire (right). According to Hed, the new wheel performs best with 21 and 23mm tires.

Not only did the width of the rim change, but also its depth. Due to the improved aero performance with the wider rim, they were able to make it slightly shallower for a reduction in side force. The new rim sits at 46.5mm deep, while the old was 54mm deep.

What about the shape of the three blades? According to Hed representatives, they tried everything under the sun – new shapes, new widths, adding more spokes – but nothing improved upon the original design. The transition between blade and rim had to change slightly to accommodate the new wider rim profile, but the ‘meat’ of the blade did not.

The GT3 features a new manufacturing process for the braking surface, which is claimed to improve braking feel and stopping distances. Hed says that any carbon-specific pad will work, and they do not have a restriction to one or two pads (three cheers for compatibility and options!).

A final technical note – gone are the days of using a disc wheel valve adapter tool to inflate your Hed tri spoke wheel. Hed moved the valve location from the side of the rim to a more standard location:

How does all of this technology stack up in the real world? Where are the charts and graphs?!

The following graph shows the H3 (with 19mm tire) to the GT3 (with 21mm tire). Hed says that they wanted to optimize the wheel for the low-to-mid yaw ranges that are common among professional racers that choose this wheel.

The GT3 is officially on sale now. Due to the low volumes available, Hed is only selling the wheel factory-direct for the time being, but it will be available from all Hed dealers as production ramps up. While I wish I had a timeline to give you for a clincher or 650c version, for now we must all collectively stay tuned.

2014 Hed GT3 specifications:

Rim width: 26.5mm
Rim depth: 46.5mm
Weight: 672 grams
Options: Front tubular 700c only
Optimum tire size: 21 – 23mm
Price: $1,500