The leadout trains are in full effect, the fastest of the fast are champing at the bit, riding mere millimeters from the wheel in front of them, nervously glancing over shoulders to see their competition. And then they see it, the Flamme Rouge — the red flag that hangs over the course to designate the final kilometer of the race. Things just got real. Who has enough train left and enough horsepower to take the sprint? If you are riding HED's top tier wheels, which have been given the FR (Flamme Rouge) designation, the odds are on you. The HED Ardennes FR Clincher Wheelset is a lightweight, aluminum-rimmed wheelset that grips the road and gets to you the finish, fast.
The HED Ardennes clincher wheels lurk in the shadows. Not because they aren't some of the fastest wheels in the industry, but because ProTour teams HED sponsors are typically quiet about their association with HED. They prefer to let results speak for themselves. Also, ProTour riders don't race aluminum clinchers, rather tubular carbon wheels. But, if riders had to dig into their own pockets to buy wheels, we're sure you'd see a plethora of the HED Ardennes FR Clinchers in the peloton.
At first glance, the Ardennes look like a standard, low spoke count, shallow-depth aluminum clincher. There are 18 spokes in front and 24 in the back. The rim depth is 25mm, a depth that is rarely affected by crosswinds. It's the rim where the big differences are. HED debuted a new rim concept in 2007, dubbed C2: lower coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr) and better aerodynamics (Cda). The difference is that the rim is 25mm wide.
The 25mm width, at a time when most rims are around 19mm, is a big difference. The reason for the width is because of 23mm tires, the minimum tire width you almost always should be using on the road A 25mm rim paired with a 23mm tire changes the tire's footprint dramatically. It grips better in a straight line, but it also grips better in turns because the tire deforms differently and more evenly. A 23mm tire on a 25mm rim also has lower rolling resistance. HED sent the wheels to Continental Tires for testing. Conti's engineers shrugged their shoulders, figured there was no difference, but put them in the jig and ran the tests anyways. It turns out this width has 18% less rolling resistance than a standard 19mm rim. And, because of the smoother shape, the transition the air makes from the edge of the tread - to the sidewall - to the rim wall - to the end of the rim, is smoother and causes less disturbance. This results in a more laminar air flow and less aerodynamic drag. It might have seemed crazy at first blush, but the industry is following. Obviously, it's a good idea to run 23mm or wider tires on any of HED's Ardennes wheels.
Now to be sure the Ardennes were worthy of their name, HED didn't just redesign the rim. They've reworked the entire wheel. The spokes are Sapim's popular and aerodynamic CX-Ray spokes with self-securing aluminum nipples. The straight-pull spokes are laced radially in front to aluminum end caps bonded to a carbon fiber shaft. The rear is laced two-cross for greater stiffness. The spokes are polished and silver in color.
The hubs are also HED's design. Known as Sonic, they run ABEC5 bearings on oversized axles, 12mm in front and 15mm in the rear. HED spaced the flanges as widely as possible to create a stronger bracing angle, resulting in better lateral stiffness. The front hub has a carbon-fiber tube with aluminum end caps. The rear is aluminum with flanges.
As this wheel has the Flamme Rouge designation, you know everything has been pared down to reduce weight. The rim is Scandium, an alloy added to aluminum to produce a lighter, stronger compund. The skewers have titanium shafts. The ratchet ring in the rear hub is titanium as well. Even the rear hub has been stepped up, with a grease port and carbon-fiber port cap; with this, you can power-wash your bike and re-lube without taking your wheel apart.
The HED Ardennes Flamme Rouge Clincher Wheelset, is available in SRAM/Shimano or Campagnolo versions. The wheels come with HED's titanium-shafted skewers and rim strips. HED does not recommend this wheelset for people weighing over 190lbs. Claimed weight is 1492g for the set.