This Fuji D6 TT rig was used for testing and racing.
I was in the market to replace my 9-year old Hed Alps wheelset which feature a structural carbon fairing that is 50mm tall. The front wheel was out of true and when my mechanic tried to true it, the first nipple he tried shattered. He advised that it might be a good time to get a new wheelset.
Though I am six feet tall and approximately 155 pounds, unfortunately, my upper body resembles a T-rex more than Hulk Hogan. To this end, I am very “sensitive” to cross winds and prefer to stick to a rim no taller than 50mm.
I was really tempted by the 45mm Zipp 303 which I enjoyed reviewing but the MSRP of $2725 was more money than I wanted to spend. Additionally, the Zipp 303 and 404s are carbon clinchers and, though the Zipps had excellent braking while I tested them, I was still a bit worried about braking on long descents with carbon clinchers as there are still many reports of carbon clincher wheel failures under extreme braking. Ever since having two kids, I’ve become pretty conservative while descending as a whole, and, as a result I tend to ride the brakes, so this is a real concern for me.
A wheel with more traditional and proven aluminum braking surface was more to my liking. So what wheelset to buy? I had narrowed the choice to clinchers with alloy braking surfaces and rim heights around 50mm.
Mavic has some really intriguing Carbones, including the SLR, SLE, and SL. However, they have a narrow rim profile and can be susceptible to cross winds. The SLE and SLR also have their proprietary Exalith treatment which requires special brake pads — an inconvenience if you want to swap the wheels among bikes. The Carbone SL also looked interesting with its uncoated aluminum rims but they’re a little on the heavy side.
I was also interested in the new Shimano C50 clinchers, which have an alloy brake track, but they, too, are somewhat heavy, expensive and can be sensitive to cross winds. Finally, Zipp re-released a derivative of their old rim design with an alloy brake track called the 60, but they are very heavy at 1820 grams for the set. That led me back to Hed and its Jet 5 Express.
The Jet 5 features a 23mm wide rim which is meant to be optimized with 23mm wide tires. Here’s how Hed explains what it calls “C2” technology.
“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. 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. The wider tire mount also creates a larger contact patch with the road, which distributes load better and lowers speed-sapping rolling resistance. 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.”
More Marketing Spin
Hed also claims that the aerodynamics and cross-wind stability are optimized with their “Stability Control Technology.”
“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 Hed engineered a way 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.”
The rim is joined with no visible seam on the sidewall.
So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, Hed has a wide rim followed by a wide fairing that has a blunt taper (versus a sharp V) to smooth airflow from the front of the tire across and past the rim. And the wide rim width allows you to run lower tire pressure (they advise 80-95 PSI) which increases comfort, and according to Hed, reduces rolling resistance. Armed with this knowledge, I hunted around for a pair of Jet 5 Express wheels, and found a pair for just $960 on the Competitive Cyclist website. Head to page 2 to find out how they rode.