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
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.
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 Flash Charger. 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.
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 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
- Not the 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
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.