Despite claims to the contrary, it’s pretty rare these days that a magazine or website will get an exclusive look at a new product.
“Sneak previews,” and “spy photos,” tend to be just so much manipulation handed out to us hacks by some cagey character in the PR department, whose giving out the same “exclusive” shots to some other hack, with another magazine’s logo on his pile vest.
So we were especially pleased to have an honest-to-gawd exclusive look at the latest creation from an old friend.
VeloNews technical writer Lennard Zinn and wheel guru Steve Hed go back quite a few years and it was Lennard whom Steve called when he came up with an innovative idea, one which is bound to give the peloton’s most fearless riders a major competitive advantage.
Zinn and a group of volunteers were invited to review Hed’s newest creation, the Stalingrad descending wheel.
Hed arrived this week at VeloNews world headquarters in Boulder with a pair and invited several of us to take on the steep descent of Flagstaff mountain, west of Boulder. Using a ramp-equipped truck, we hauled a pair up Flagstaff after weighing them in our test shop.
Put away the gram scale, these monsters live up to their name, weighing in at just around 47 pounds each, making the total bike weight 111 pounds.
We have to admit that we were all a little hesitant to try these things, but once on the road we realized that Hed may be onto something here. Indeed, coming down Flagstaff was something of a revelation. The speeds we could attain were downright unbelievable.
Okay, okay, to be sure the handling was a bit cumbersome, but it’s spot-on once you get your turning arc established. Nothing deflects these babies from their direction of travel, but you do want to make sure that, at the beginning of a switchback, you are set up on the correct arc, one whose trajectory stays within the confines of the road at the bottom of the turn. We learned that from experience. (Here’s a big shout-out to Matt! We all wish you a speedy recovery. – Editor)
While these wheels are designed for speed, they are not really designed for slowing down. Still, we found the steel braking surface to be very positive and, with a bit of finesse, most of our test riders were usually able to bring the bike to a stop in a bit under the target design distance of one kilometer.
You really don’t have to worry about losing a tire on these, because there is just so much thermal mass it very effectively dissipates braking heat so that the rims will never get hot enough to melt the tire glue.
While Hed is adding weight to these beasts, he hasn’t forgotten his aero’ roots. The deep-section and low-spoke-count prevents air drag from taking away anything that gravity has granted.
As Hed has been a sponsor of ONCE and Liberty Seguros, we wonder whether the amazingdownhill attackthat brought a temporary victory in the Vuelta to Roberto Heras may not have come on a prototype version of the Stalingrad.
“I’m not saying anything,” Hed answered when we pressed the question.
VeloNews European correspondent Andy Hood says he recalls a bike switch at the top of the climb, but isn’t sure what sort of bike was involved. If our theory is true, it’s no wonder Denis Menchov looked like he never knew what hit him, because he might have just been whacked by a pair of 47-pound wheels!
If you need to get down fast, go to Stalingrad!
Hed Stalingrad Descending Wheels
Weight: 47.37 pounds front; 47.84 pounds rear