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September 23, 2011
A few weeks ago I was introduced to a gentleman named Brent Dawson through one of my teammates. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s Brent was pro cyclist, Junior World Teams Pursuit Champion and Elite Australian Criterium champion. He’s still a gun rider in his own right, but his main business now is importing HED wheels into Australia.
After chatting with Brent I hit the jackpot and came away with a set of HED Jet 6 FR (Flamme Rouge) wheels to try out. I’ve been riding these for a month now and since the ITT World Championship was just won by Tony Martin on similar wheels, I can’t think of a better time to talk about them.
A world championship time trial on clinchers you ask? That’s right, Tony Martin won his rainbow jersey using a HED Jet 9 FR front clincher and Jet Stallion FR disc on the rear (the ‘Stallion’ build means its a 28 spoke disc build, making it very stiff). I believe Judith Arndt won her World title using this same clincher rear disc.
Tony Martin on his way to becoming the 2011 World TT Champion on front and rear clinchers made by HED
Tony Martin also won the final time trial of the 2011 TdF in Grenoble on a HED Jet 6 clincher on the front and a HED Stinger Disc (tubular) on the rear:
Tony Martin in Grenoble winning the final TT of the 2011 TdF. Front Hed Jet 6 clincher (Continental tyre) and rear Hed Stinger Disc (23mm wide rim) with a 22mm Conti Podium tubular.
Enough with the endorsements. Sure it gives HED clinchers some clout, but Martin and Arndt probably could have won their titles on square wheels. I’m not certain of their sponsorship obligations, but since I’ve seen Martin ride both HED clinchers and tubulars, the fact that he chose to ride clincher wheels is something special in it’s own right.
There is a shifting belief that clinchers have less rolling resistance than tubulars. There is also a trend where wheel manufacturers are beginning to use wider rims. HED now uses 23mm instead of the usual 19mm. My Zipp Firecrests have a noticeably large rim width at 25.5mm.
Steve Hed told Velonews:
“With the right clincher on that Jet 6 rim, there’s probably nothing faster. Some tires are better than others aerodynamically on our rim, and Contis tend to be the best. Rolling resistance doesn’t vary with speed, and as the bikes and wheels have become more aerodynamic, rolling resistance has become a bigger percentage of overall drag. Using a wide clincher rim and reduced tire pressure, a clincher feels more like a tubular and can roll faster.”
I’ve been riding these wheels for a month now and absolutely love them. The look great, they handle beautifully, the hubs roll smoothly, and best of all, they sound like you’re cruising along in the Millenium Falcon. The first thing everyone comments about is how cool they sound.
What everyone wants to know though, are they fast? I always think that’s a tough thing to quantify in real world conditions, but there’s heaps of wind tunnel testing out there that says that they are. Comparing wind tunnel simulations is a whole other topic I won’t to get into here. It’s an interesting technical aspect that attempts to quantify a wheel’s value, but in the end it’s the rider who makes a set of wheels fast.
I own a set of Zipp Firecrests full carbon clinchers which makes an interesting comparison to these. The main difference is that the HED use an alloy breaking surface with a carbon flange, and the Zipps are completely carbon. The overall feel between the two wheelsets is remarkably similar. The biggest difference is weight, breaking power/predictability on the alloy v.s. carbon surface, and price. There are definitely merits to both and for most of us it comes down to what you’re willing to spend.
HED uses steel bearings in their hubs. Their reason for not using ceramic bearings is because they don't have contact seals and therefore wear out quicker. Contact seals are important in bearings because they keep the road grime out. Don't worry, even though there's hype around ceramic bearings, steel bearings won't slow you down!
The rear hub has a grease port underneath the removable carbon cap for easy maintenance access. The rear hub has 4 sets of bearings: 2 in the hub and 2 in the cassette body.
The carbon flange (or "cap" as HED calls it) is primarily for aerodynamics, it's not structural. It's built from a thin 1k carbon weave and if feels soft when pinching it with your fingers. This is bonded to a HED C2 alloy clincher rim
The HED Jet 6 Flamme Rouge wheelset. 18 bladed front spokes, 24 rear.
The Jet 6 Flamme Rouge wheels I’ve been using RRPs for $2250 AUD. You can also get the more basic Jet 6 wheelset for $1750 AUD. The differences are the usual suspects: weight, hub quality, spokes, and therefore price.
Jet 6 FR Specifications
• C2 Scandium clincher rims
• Light weight FR 1K carbon aero section
• 18 front and 24 rear silver bladed spokes
• Carbon FR Sonic hubs
• Rear hub grease port with carbon port cap
• Titanium Ratchet ring
• Titanium Skewer, Rim Tape and valve extender included
• Rider weight limit 190lbs
• Stallion build available for riders 191-225lbs
• Available in Power Tap or track model
• Weights (g): Front: 797 – Rear: 984
• Width: 23mm, Depth 60mm
The Jet 6 FR’s aren’t extremely light nor are they exceptionally stiff. Many people rank wheels on these metrics, but lighter and stiffer doesn’t necessarily mean that’s right for all circumstances. These wheels aren’t designed to be a pure climbing wheel. They were designed for road and crit racing, and of course the front one is a pretty good TT wheel.
In my opinion, the Jet 6 FR is not only a exceptional value for money, but an excellent race wheelset that I’d expect to pay in the $3k range. After a month of use I can’t think of anything negative to say about (except that I got a puncture on Tuesday). If they’re good enough for Der Panzerwagen, they’re good enough for me.
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