HED is a storied American brand founded in the 1980's by Steve and Anne Hed. Until his passing several years ago, Steve dedicated himself to making the best cycling equipment available and the fastest wheels possible. The brand's road wheels were highly sought after as they were some of the most aerodynamic wheels available.
With Hed's wind tunnel and manufacturing experience, he was able to create products with distinct advantages in ride quality and aerodynamics. A solid disc wheel had many issues in wind, therefore Hed invented the "deep" sectional carbon wheel that's commonplace on many high-end road bikes today.
HED Raptor 29 Details
• Size: 29"
• Intended Use: XC
• Hub options: 28h; HED, Onyx, I9
• Driver options: HG, XD, Microspline
• 25mm Internal / 31mm external
• Weight: 1460 grams
• MSRP: $2,650 USD (as tested)
The company is now based in Minnesota, where it's still being run by Anne Hed. The brand has branched out beyond road wheels and now produces carbon mountain bike wheels and is a highly acclaimed contract manufacturer for other companies. All of HED's carbon is USA sourced and hand laid in their Roseville, Minnesota facility.
HED's Raptor 29 XC wheelset is aimed at XC racers, and it's built with carbon rims that measure 25mm internally and weigh 380g apiece. The rims are available as a wheelset with HED's Brick House, Onyx, or I9 Hydra hubs along with 28 Sapim Laser spokes. As tested, the wheelset sells for $2,650 USD.Design
It's been a while since HED have had a true XC wheel. The Raptor 27.5" is a part of their line up but the Raptor 29 is a completely different wheel. All 148 sheets of carbon in the rims are hand-laid in HED's Roseville, MN facility and utilize HED's engineering to make what they believe to be one of the best XC wheelsets available.
The rims measure 25mm internally and 31mm external. They are designed around use with 2"-2.5" wide tires and are drilled for a 28 hole hub. The set I'm testing is laced up to Industry Nine's Hydra hubset, complete with 690 points of engagement, and riders can choose between I9, Onyx, or HED hubs, depending on their mood.
The core of the rim system is HED's DNA rim profile. "DNA" stands for Dual-axis Nipple Alignment. Haha, right, what does that mean? The DNA profile aligns the spoke bed and hole to match the four spoke angles that occur in a wheel. Those angles are pushing, pulling (on one axis), left, and right (on the other). By having everything perfectly aligned, the interface where the nipple pulls on the rim stays completely even and consistent. With the nipple oriented to the spoke angle, the spoke path is straight and direct all the way into and onto the head of the nipple.
This puts even stress on the nipple and keeps the spoke from bending to accommodate a mismatched angle which creates a stronger nipple bed and a stiffer and stronger rim.
HED's DNA system, illustrated. This shows how the rim bed is designed to keep the spoke path straight and keep even tension on the nipple.Performance
I've been riding the Raptors, on and off, for the better part of six months now. More about that "off" time below.
For an XC wheelset that weighs 1,460g, the Raptor 29's are quick to accelerate, responsive, and amply stiff. The ride quality is superb, although the wheels don't weigh as little as some other wheelsets I've been on, such as Bontrager's Kovee XXX (1,290g), or the Atomik's we recently reviewed with BERD's fancy spokes (1,360g). The overall feel is closer to that of the BERD spoked wheels rather than the Bontragers - the HED wheels have a little more forgiveness. In the world of short travel bikes, this is a welcome trait for most, myself included.
Spinning them up to speed is effortless, as it should be with a wheelset at this weight, mounting tires is painless, and long term durability has been ALMOST
That's right...there was an issue. On the first ride, after I had put the Raptor 29's onto a Trek Supercaliber, I was be-bopping along my standard test loop, a combination of trails I've ridden hundreds of times, and upon landing off of a small (2-3') drop, I heard a loud "pop" that sounded suspiciously less like a shock bottoming out and more like something carbon breaking.
Upon inspection, I noticed a very small, but very present crack in the layup of the rear wheel. Everything else seemed fine...tire still inflated, all in one piece, but having just mounted the wheels up an hour earlier, it was obviously an issue. As much as it pained me to bail on the rest of the ride on a beautiful fall day, I pedaled back to my house and sent HED an email saying "Hey guys, this isn't ideal but I cracked your wheel on the first ride" along with the below photo.
I sent the wheels back to HED. A couple of days later, I received the following response:
|You cracked our wheel, and you are right - this is not ideal. Here’s where we are: We got your wheels back and in a semi-panic, stripped them down for the hubs, so we could rebuild as quickly as possible and get something back to you. Then we took a pause to assess where we were. We have not had abnormal breakage in our internal lab testing, and trail testing has gone great. We built your cracked rim up and ran it through our regular test protocol on the drop tower. It broke way too soon. We sectioned the rim, looked at the plies, and found a layup flaw on your particular wheel. |
Following this, we made a kit change on rims and a procedure change on the layup. We built that modified rim and ran it through the drop tower test. It has even better strength than the rim that we thought we were giving you for the initial test. What happened in layup on your rim should not be possible now due to the changes we made. The rim is now also slightly heavier, but it really is a small change with a big result for only 20 grams additional. All rims will be made this way going forward.
In summary, your rim was defective. We changed things so that we can’t duplicate that flaw.
Great ride quality+
Owned their mistake
Price. $2,650 isn't the most competitive, even for lightweight carbon-
Initial test rim cracked
|Since receiving set two, I have had no issues with the new rims and I have been riding them exceptionally hard over the last few months with various tires, air pressures, and on different bikes. Evaluating the wheels solely on that, I have no complaints and would recommend them to anyone looking for a top-tier set of American made XC wheels, assuming cost is not much of an issue. |
HED taking full responsibility for the issue with the initial set of wheels by investigating the cause and then changing the way they make subsequent products to eliminate any chance of it happening again, despite taking a weight penalty, is commendable. Other brands could stand to take note.— Daniel Sapp
Carbon XC rims crack. Alloy XC rims melt like cheese. That's the reality of the sport. Train on stronger alloy rims and race on 4 times as expensive disposable rims.
I did just order an XX1 kit, mostly due to the tie dye cogset and better shifting over my GX. But, the XC MTN guys all the time wonder why I did not get the carbon, well, because, the carbon is carbon, duh. No one can seem to offer me a benefit to it on the MTN bike, however.
They’re just not very durable
Maybe, just maybe, that would be Tr!ckstuff. If Shimano is Toyota and Sram is Ford then Hope would be something like Jaguar. More exclusive and focused. One way or another, don't try to look into it too much. I'm bright example of a man trying to have everything sorted in life when it just colossally sucks.
1. Don't listen to pink bike comments.
2. Carbon vs Aluminum hoops are very subjective to use/user.
3. Don't listen to pink bike comments.
Hope that helps
CaRbOn RiMs ArEnT ReLiAbLe!!! lulz
In reality, the cheap stuff breaks down all the time around us, and of course the high-end stuff is under a microscope and anytime something goes wrong everyone is all up in arms. Truth really is that carbon is a stronger material. Alloy is more malleable (which can be good or bad depending on the situation).
I give manufacturers the benefit of the doubt. You'd think if alloy really was stronger, then manufacturers would spend far more time and money developing the stuff and putting teams on them, and ultimately selling more to customers. And yet they keep pushing carbon...must be for a reason other than making money. You have to wonder...the stuff must actually work more often than not.
Brands made it work over time by improving design, but its like using a posidrive on a philips head screw
Set 1, Light Bicycle DT 240. 1450 g. Built in 2010 or 11, Ridden hard til 2 years ago, when the alloy nipples started to fail. Relaced and repurposed on the gravel bike. Never touched outside of relacing.
Set 2: Also LB, Slightly burlier, DT 350 hubs. 1520ish g. 5th season and on their second "downcountry" bike. I ride the hell out of these things. Untouched.
Personally, I'm a fan.
Got them for 350 euros as take offs and while they weigh slightly more (around 150gr more) they didn't crack and work perfectly.
That’s not to say there’s not a market for US made weight weenie rims at all. If you posted a review of some hyper lite shmolke road rims on here everyone would suffer from temporary blindness after gazing at the price tag and wax poetic on the good ole days of bikes built from washing machine parts that “worked just fine.” Doesn’t mean they don’t sell em, because clearly they do
Curious that they do not have experienced such failure in their test procedures and then one review later from a third party the rim cracked... maybe elaborate stricter testing also?
Anyway they had a good (and quite pragmatic) response to the issue, let's hope it will be the same for any other customer in the future!
I could'nt care less about the weight, it's the "for only 20 additional grams, we will be able to prevent this failure from happening but we have not gone through this issue during our simulation and testing processes"
"The Raptor 29 wheels are a lightweight, XC-oriented option that's made in the USA."
That bare fact recitation is typical for a press release, but ominous for a review. If there were anything good to say about them, you'd expect to see at least a passing reference.
Stimulus check #2 $1,450.00
How much HED would you be willing to give for that extra check
Hold my aluminum wheel set .....beyotches !
Believe it or not, there are aluminum XC wheels that weigh less than carbon wheels.
American Classic Race 29”
Who in the real world will spend 2500 bucks on a set of wheels?... And those are just wheels, what about the rest of the bike/supplies/tires/park fees/gas?
Not to mention, everything else that a regular joe spends money on...
I can see these are very niche, as are most expensive carbon wheels/bikes.
For us regular biking dudes, who just don't ride mtb exclusively, spending 3 grand on a set of hoops is just stupid.
Give me a good quality set of aluminum rims, laced with dt swiss spokes, hooked up to a deore hub, and i'll be happy .
Heck, I still have the giant 19mm rims that came with my budget bike. There still holding out fine, even after a bashing at dh park last year .
More expensive doesn't always necessarily mean better for the everyday world (lambo vs accord comes to mind).
If you took a look at what a regular bike shop sells (no, not the ones in Whistler , and you will see the majority of bikes they sell are in the $2000-$3000 price range.
And besides the point, when you get to these kind of prices, you'll be building your own wheels, with parts that you want.
One point I have to concede on, I am going to be upgrading to something better in the near future. Not because of the rims themselves, but because no stinking company wants to make narrow tires!
@peleton7 I agree that these aren't up to standards, as are most products when there first released .
But I have to disagree with your premise,
"Cross Country"-shorthand for "not a great bike handler-avoids hard/comitting/exposed trails",
Here's a food for thought, maybe these kind of riders, don't want too/have interest in "seat of your pants, on the edge of death" type of riding, rolling bikes/tread that looks more moto then bike.
Maybe there more interested in riding tamer trails, enjoying the scenery, taking your time, and god forbid, not using a dropper post.
Well, that does it, made enemies with every pb commentator, in only 1 statement. Bring on the hate boys, i'm a 70 degree head angle, lyrica clad, non dropper, narrow 29er boy...
Now that should get some hate...
Can't say much bad about the carbon DT wheels on my trail bike.
They have seen a lot of action those past weeks. After all the rocks and roots they are still completly true.
But I ran proper tires.
Only the center lock thing sucks.
Such a bullshit standard.
When the godlike syntace megaforce stem and bars come out, they were labeled as the stiffest and lightest stem, rated for DH. I only used it on a trail bike, but man that was a noodle.