Over the past 26 years Steve Hed has spent his energy developing the best cycling equipment available When it comes to wheels, the end goal is simply to make them as fast as possible. It may sound easy but the journey to building the world's fastest wheels is a complicated one. In the pursuit of speed, Steve continually pushes the envelope to its fullest; no stone is left unturned. Hed is known for building the world's most aerodynamic wheels, a title that all wheel companies wish they could claim. Most people do not realize that Hed goes a lot further than just aerodynamics to bring you the fastest wheels on earth. Other important issues such as tire performance, stability in crosswinds, lateral stiffness, drivetrain efficiency, durability, comfort, quality control, carbon fiber manipulation, and weight are also carefully considered. Each wheel addresses these aspects in different ways, and this is truly where the art of True Speed is born.
Back in 1984 Steve Hed started his company and building disc wheels back in 1984. At that time, Hed was the only company that made them affordable to the masses. With his wind tunnel experience and solid manufacturing knowledge, it became obvious to Steve that his disc wheel provided a huge aerodynamic advantage. Using them for front wheels, however, created steering problems that sometimes could be outright catastrophic. In order to solve this problem, Steve simply invented the deep section carbon wheel that we all see today. In hindsight this seems like a simple solution but back in the 80's it was quite a revolutionary.
Steve's understanding of how airflow interacts with wheels led to further improvement and innovation. While other companies talk about aerodynamics, Steve Hed masters it. Through the years, he has accumulated more than 200 days in the wind tunnel and this knowledge goes into every wheel. Year after year, bike magazines, pro tour teams, and amateur athletes do their own testing in the wind tunnel and on the track to verify what we already know: that Hed wheels are still the world's most aerodynamic.
In 2006 Steve became rather dissatisfied with the interaction between the rim and the tire. By this time the 23mm tire had become the standard choice for nearly every cyclist. However, Steve noticed that combining a wider tire with a narrow rim simply did not make any sense. Aerodynamically, the narrow 19mm rim and a 23mm tire created a light bulb shaped profile. Needless to say, this is just not very efficient and leads to increased wind drag. Steve simply invented a solution and Hed's C2 technology was born. C2 technology has its maximum effect on clincher tires by solving the problem of the tires requiring extreme pressure to keep them from flopping over the rim during a turn. This high pressure also leads to deficiencies in cornering performance and comfort. By making the rim edge wider, C2 allows the tire to flow almost perfectly into the rim shape, ushering in a revolutionary step forward in aerodynamic performance. Although, the benefits of C2 design go even further. The wider tire mount also creates a larger contact patch with the road which distributes load better and lowers speed-sapping rolling resistance. All said, C2 technology improves aerodynamics, increases the road/tire contact patch for better cornering grip, decreases rolling resistance, and allows the wheel to be more comfortably ridden at a lower tire pressure. Not a bad improvement.
Stability Control Technology:
Steve Hed's follow up to C2 technology is Stability Control Technology (SCT). Anyone can design a wheel that fast going straight into the wind. Making one that is excellent in all wind conditions, which is what riders deal with most of the time, is quite different. With the newly found aerodynamics that the C2 platform provides, Steve engineered how to tame the stability of a wheel in crosswind situations. After all, what good does superior aerodynamics do for a cyclist if they are not able to control their wheel? The resulting SCT design is yet another Hed-invented technology that has revolutionized overall wheel performance. The knowledge and design technique involved in the SCT design is Hed's most heavily guarded secret. Recreational cyclists confirm SCT's effectiveness after just one windy day in the saddle. Professional cyclists confirm it daily by their numerous victories throughout the season.
Rim construction (carbon manipulation), hub design, spoke count, spoke lacing, and spoke selection all play a significant role in the stiffness of a wheel build. If you spend just one day with one of the professional teams we work with, you will often hear the riders discussing the lateral stiffness of wheels. The reason is simple: lateral stiffness contributes greatly to the efficiency of the wheel. The fewer watts lost in sideways movement means more of the rider's energy is transmitted to forward motion. If you do not believe this we invite you to test ride and compare a traditional 32 spoke, low profile wheel against any one of our wheels. What you will find is that a laterally stiff wheel build is considerably faster than an old school, flexi wheel every time.
Hubs and Lacing:
Development of the best possible hubs has been a long-running passion of ours, and the Hed Sonic hubs deliver. The hub is the heart of the wheel, and when designed correctly, like our Sonic hubs, they work seamlessly with the overall package. While the Hed Sonic hubs may go nearly unnoticed in our designs, their durable and sleek engineering allows them to excel in their role as the mechanical core of the wheel. With this rock-solid hub platform in place, we then lace our hubs with only the finest spokes available, using patterns that best transmit energy to the drivetrain, limit lateral movement, and give ample comfort to the rider. Our in-house testing, as well as feedback from professional teams, confirms that the radially laced 18 spoke front and the 2 cross/2 cross laced 24 spoke rear are ideal for nearly every rider. The only exception to this are athletes who produce an abnormal amount of watts. For these riders (as well as heavier riders) we recommend increasing the spoke count slightly to a 20 spoke front wheel and a 28 spoke rear wheel.
Carbon Fiber Matrix:
The properties of carbon fiber can be tailored and modified to your advantage if you have the expertise. Hed has had this know-how for years, and constantly improves their designs by continually tweaking and revising this process. By fine-tuning the resins, layup schedules, and fiber orientation we can manipulate a wheel's comfort, strength, and weight while maintaining its lateral stiffness. Although this creates extra steps in the production process, the advantages these processes create are astounding. After one good ride on our wheels you will find that this extra effort is worth it.
Steve Hed loves to talk about quality control and has been in business long enough to know its importance. Steve is often heard saying, "Don't confuse technology with execution." What he is getting at is that no matter how good your design is, the execution of the design is just as important. This is why every Hed wheel goes through a rigorous quality control program. This QC begins at the individual component level. Every rim, hub, spoke, bearing, and nipple goes through a painstakingly meticulous inspection before they are built into our wheels. We also require each wheel to be built to our strict standards. Spoke tension as well as trueness in both axial and radial directions are measured and recorded with every wheel. This level of precision is crucial to deliver the finest wheels that have ever been built.
While weight is a factor in True Speed, it is one of the smallest influences. Each of our wheels is a particular weight because of the performance that is engineered into it. We do not set out to hit a target weight with any particular wheel; we build wheels to perform properly. In some cases this means that our wheels weigh a bit more than our competitors' wheels. Nonetheless, the small amount of extra weight in our wheels is there to ensure that we hit our parameters for lateral stiffness, drive train efficiency, durability, and fatigue resistance. When weight adds stiffness, for example, you expend less watts pedaling. When you compare this watt efficiency to the savings you achieve from reducing the weight of a flexible wheel, you find that a little weight and stiffness wins out by a lot. Know that when you ride a Hed wheel, every gram is there for a reason.