Largely, your bike is only as good as the wheels you put on it. That’s why wheel upgrades are and should be tops on your list. This summer, I’ve had the Wilier GTR SL with the upgraded HED Ardennes Plus SL wheelset and these wide wheels have been quite impressive.

HED Ardennes Plus SL Features:

  • Tubeless-ready clincher wheelset in disc or rim (tested)
  • CNC alloy braking surface
  • Bladed steel spokes with 18/24 spoke pattern
  • Straight-pull spokes up front and traditional J-bend spokes in the rear
  • HED Sonic Black hubs with carbon front hub
  • Depth: 24.5mm
  • Width: 25mm
  • Internal Width: 21mm
  • Weight: 1490g complete (stated)
  • MSRP: $1200
A punchy climb didn't phase these wheels one bit.

A punchy climb didn’t phase these wheels one bit.

Plus-sized performance without plus-sized weight

As an available upgrade to the Wilier GTR SL Ultegra, the HED Ardennes Plus SL represented my first foray into HED wheels. And, if these are any indication, I think I’ll like their other offerings. On paper, the Plus SL’s are wide and in person they do look a little chunky. As such, I thought they were going to be sluggish, heavy and slow.

That initial impression faded as soon as I looked beyond the surface of the wheels. Wow, they have a carbon-shelled front hub. And, they are tubeless-ready. Plus, they have a 21mm internal rim width… OK, now we’re talking. But, looks aren’t everything, so I just had to push their limits.

Aboard my test bike, the Ardennes Plus SL’s were excellent and were tested with the Vittoria Rubino Pro 25mm tires, which are (unfortunately) not tubeless-ready. In concert with the 21mm internal width, the Rubino Pro’s looked more like 28mm tires. In a side-by-side test with 25mm tires on the Zipp 30 Course wheels, the Rubino Pro’s simply inflated wider and more fully.

With a set of Specialized Roubaix tubeless tires, the bead locked in place and it held air like a champ.

With a set of Specialized Roubaix tubeless tires, the bead locked in place and it held air like a champ.

Because of that 21mm internal rim width, tires are most certainly wider and therefore tire pressures can be dropped as well. Running with tubes, I ran these wheels with 85psi (front) and 90psi (rear) with much success. Note that the max recommended pressure on these is 100psi. So, all of us old-school folks really need to accept the new, lower tire pressure logic. But, at 90psi, I not only got a much better ride, but I never had any issues with flats whatsoever.

To test the tubeless design, I mounted up a set of 23/25mm Specialized Roubaix tubeless tires. I did so with just a touch of soapy water around the bead and a Bontrager FlashCharger. The bead immediately locked into place and remained sealed after a couple of days in the garage. When it came time to unmount them, the tubeless bead obviously meets design standards because these were locked into place — even without any tire sealant.

HED Sonic Black hubs include a carbon-shelled front hub.

HED Sonic Black hubs include a carbon-shelled front hub.

On-road performance

I’ve gotta say that these wheels have been quite surprising on the road. As mentioned, I’m running 90psi and have found that to be a great setting for rolling fast, climbing fast and descending with confidence. The ride is smoother at those pressures and the grin-factor is easily had.

I enjoyed pushing these wheels up the local climbs and on roads that I’ve ridden hundreds of times. Under all circumstances, the Ardennes Plus SL’s have come out swinging. Rocking long climbs of 2000-3000 ft., the Plus SL’s spin up fast and don’t feel heavy at all. On the flats and descents, I’ve noticed zero deflection on standing climbs or sprints and have loved how quickly they spin up.

And, again, the rolling weight on these is outstanding. With a wheelset weight of 1490 grams, that’s very low for an alloy wheelset of this girth. While spinning uphill or sprinting, the these wheels respond in spades. The only downside is their lack of depth, but for what they are, I’ve loved riding them on a wide variety of terrain without holding me back one bit.

As with all high-quality alloy braking surfaces, the Ardennes come to a stop in a predictable distance without any quibbles. I haven’t tested them in extremely-wet weather, but did ride in some Washington State drizzle and didn’t notice any degradation in braking performance.

The Good

  • The complete set is surprisingly-lightweight
  • Hubs roll as well as the best hubs on the market
  • Available in rim or disc brakes
  • Wide internal width makes for fuller tires and lower pressures
  • Lateral stiffness is excellent

The Bad

  • Not he sexiest-looking wheels
  • Those skewers look clunky and ugly

The Bottom Line HED Ardennes Plus SL

The Ardennes Plus SL is a legit wheelset that performs like a champ and provides extra width for lower tire pressures, less flats and a smoother ride.

Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com

In Summary

8.5 Wider is Better

No doubt, wider is better. With a nice 21mm internal rim width coupled with a lightweight design the Ardennes Plus SL may not be the sexiest-looking wheels on the market, but they perform like champs.

  • Lateral Stiffness 9
  • Responsiveness 9
  • Durability 9
  • Braking 9
  • Aerodynamics 7
  • Ride quality 8

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

4 Comments

  1. Always love reading your reviews… Keep up the great work!

    I have an older set of Ardennes that my local wheel builder recommended as the “Go To” wheelset that can do anything. I’m a mountain biker at heart and even though I wanted a sexy pair of carbon “somethings”, I just didnt want to deal with carbon pads and switching rims based on conditions etc… I had a set of Ardennes built on my fav hubs, Chris King, and no… I’m not a wheel snob, but King’s are just flat out amazing compared to the competition… My set of Ardenne’s we’re not optimized for Tubeless, so I we setup ghetto style and off I went. Over the last two years, I have thousands of miles on this set of rims and can say they just flat out rip on virtually every terrain. My buddies have Zipps, Enve’s etc…. and in most cases I’m descending faster than them and lighter on the climbs. I know at the end of the day, it’s all about the engine, but I’m not going to lie, this is one awesome “can do all” set of rims. Oh and maintenance is very minimum and the part I love the most, I don’t have to avoid every little crack in the road… Weakness, yes just one… As mentioned in the article, the darn set is not nearly as pretty or intimidating as a set of Carbon deep dish rims.

    Thanks again for the great articles! I’m loving my Tallboy 2 thanks to one of your other great reviews. Hope this helps the community!

  2. Thanks Jason-have just been intoduced to your site-impressed and love your attention to the key topics for real and thinking bike riders and enthusiasts-most of all the fun factor!

    I’m lucky enough to own a new Yeti ASRc MTB and an original ’07 Cervelo R3 road-bike (still the best they made!) with HED Ardenne wheels-great to see your tests and readers’ comments on Yeti and HED and agree wholeheartedly with all.

    The ASRc is the most confidence inspriring and competent all-round performer out there. Here in South Africa-the serious amateurs are moving to the ASR in numbers for multi-day/marathon events like the Cape Epic. Sure the big factory teams dominate the headlines and the podiums with their pro-riders and race style machines (and big budgets!) but for real world XC/Marathon riders the more laid-back and easy to ride bikes are useable and (such as the ASR) can still give the performance. Plus-for casuals like me-the ASR flatters in all areas: climbs, descents, corners and technical-love it!

    As for HED Ardenne Wheels-can’t praise them enough. Have had the earlier LT’s (all aluminium) for nearly 5 years and many kilometers over mainly second grade roads including multi-stage and ultra -distances.

    LT’s were lower down the spec. order but they are very acceptably light and have been ultra-reliable/bulletproof. Design and build quality excellent.

    Best of all is the combination of road comfort and performance. I ride 25 clinchers at 90 psi but can fit a 28 at rear if required. The ride is smooth and doesn’t wear you out over a long day in the saddle. They spin up on the climbs and fly down the descents (see the performance comparison reports on bigger section tyres)-plus hardly any punctures.

    Steve Hed was a wheel genius and even his shallow section designs are very aerodynamic. Ardennes may not be the sexiest looking wheel but hey- when the deep-section/120psi guys are rattled to exhaustion after a long day and you’re still with them-who notices the bling?! See Cervelo are fitting Ardennes as standard to their new C-series bikes-that says something!

    • The Yeti ASRc still remains one of my all-time favorite bikes, so you’re stoked to be on that one! And, the R3 is a classic, for sure! Glad you’re still rocking the HED’s and having a great experience on them. They do make great wheels for sure.

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