Interbike Product Spotlight on ’Cross Wheels: Hed, Velocity, American Classic
More and more wheel manufacturers are going with the “wider is better” philosophy for their cyclocross – and, for some, road – offerings. Hed has two new cyclocross-specific aluminum wheels in its lineup as well as a carbon tubular designed for cobbles that carries over well to the ’cross world. Velocity has two brand new offerings available as either rims or complete wheels – one a clincher and the other a tubular, and American Classic has redesigned its long-running Micro hubs and has new tubeless 29er wheels that are already creating a stir in the Southeast cyclocross community.
Hed was one of the first companies to push for wider rims in both its tubular and clincher models, and that trend continues with the new Ardennes SL wheelsets. The Ardennes SL tubulars feature 22mm wide by 25mm deep rims while the clinchers are 23mm wide. According to Hed’s Andy Tetmeyer – who may just have the coolest job title ever: “repository of knowledge” – although the rims are reasonably light, the goal was for wheels that ride well and are strong, not that just look good on a scale. The tubular rims are a respectable 430 grams and the clinchers about 20 grams more.
Both Ardennes SL wheelset options are built on new Hed hubs with improved seals for the bearings with Sapim Race spokes sporting custom bladed sections. The front wheels are 24 spokes, rears are 28 spokes, and they’re 2-cross throughout. Although Hed is making road rims wider largely for aerodynamic reasons, with the cyclocross wheels, it’s more about stability. In the tubular models, according to Tetmeyer, the increased width and deeper tire well means more surface area for glue to better hold the tire in place on the rim. On both the tubulars and clinchers, the wider profile offers more support so that tires won’t squirm around when riders angle their bikes over into turns at the relatively low pressures of cyclocross. This is particularly relevant for the clincher, where having sidewalls out wider means that the tire is less likely to want to flop over in a corner.
Build: 24 2-cross spokes front, 28 2-cross spokes rear; 25mm deep x 22mm wide rims
Weight: 430g tubular rim, 450g clincher rim / 1420g tubular wheelset, 1460g clincher wheelset
MSRP: $125 per rim; $850 per wheelset with Sapim Race custom spokes, newly-designed Hed hubs, skewers and valve extenders (and rim strips for clinchers)
On the carbon side of things, Hed’s new Stinger 5 is a brand new tubular wheelset with a 50mm carbon rim designed for the rigors of cobbled classics. As compared to the company’s other carbon offerings, these have an extra layer of carbon at the tire bed for better durability. The rims are 24.5mm wide and are intended for 25mm tires and wider on the road, but as with the Ardennes SL tubulars, the wider rims will provide more surface area for glue and better stability for cyclocross here as well. Look for these to make appearances in the classics under the growing number of Pro Tour road teams Hed sponsors, as well as under ’crossers looking for a well-priced carbon tubular alternative.
Build: 18 spokes front, 24 spokes rear; 50mm deep x 24.5mm wide rims
Weight: 480g tubular rim / 680g front, 800g rear wheel (1480g total)
MSRP: $1,600 per wheelset with new Hed hubs, skewers and valve extenders
Velocity is going wider for cyclocross as well, and the company has new Major Tom tubular and A23 clincher cyclocross models just coming to market now. The Major Toms feature an increased 11mm braking surface, which Velocity’s Ryan Olthouse says will improve handling and braking, and a 23mm wide, 21mm deep rim with a weight of 432 grams. The rim’s seam relief channel is intended to allow for more consistent, improved tubular tire gluing and installation and, similar to the Hed rims, the wider rims are designed for better stability and less tire roll at lower pressures.
The A23 clincher rim is 23mm wide by 19.5mm deep and weighs in at 426 grams.
Both rims are available in a variety of different drillings, and are also available as either Pro builds or Comp builds around Velocity’s new proprietary Race hubs (hubs are 78 grams/front, 256 grams/rear). The new hubs have a 62mm drive side flange and a 42mm non-drive side flange which, according to Olthouse, eliminates the need for an off-center rim – like the company’s OCR – and evens out the spoke tension on both sides of the wheel.
24 spoke radial laced front
28 spoke 2-cross laced rear
Sapim CX Ray spokes and DT brass nipples
28 spoke radial laced front
32 spoke 3-cross laced rear
DT Competition double butted spokes and DT brass nipples
American Classic has upgraded its Micro 58 hubs with improved bearings, which could be good news for cyclocrossers. While the hubs have always been light, their durability under the rigors of ’cross has been well scrutinized. We hope to test the improved offerings soon.
But the biggest scoop may be a cross-over use of the company’s 29er rims. Robert Marion, owner of North Carolina’s Cycleworks bike shop who also races as a Pro MTB’er and cyclocrosser for the American Classic-Kenda-Tomac team, showed us the MTB 29 Disc Tubeless wheelset that he’s gaga about. Marion’s been running them with Kenda Small Block 8 cyclocross tires as a tubeless conversion, and the 150-pounder reports that he’s been railing corners on 22psi tires – to the point that he’ll find grass and dirt between rim and sidewall – with nary a burp. The rims are 25mm wide, and the wheelsets weigh in at 1600g for the set and cost $780.
Want to go even wider? Company founder Bill Shook showed us a 390g tubeless-ready prototype rim at 28mm wide. Complete wheels weren’t even built up yet, but 29er wheelsets are expected to weigh about 1680g and will cost $850. Tubeless road rims and rim brake compatible tubeless 29er wheels are in the works too, and will be available next year.
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