14 August 2008

bikefix Initial Review: HED Bastogne wheelset

After about 8 months on a pair of 10 year-old deep section Mavic Cosmic Carbones, I decided that a 2100g wheelset that is unmanageable in our area's strong crosswinds is somewhat poorly suited to commuting, hills and the occasional dirt road. Did I mention that they had 16 spokes per wheel and hidden nipples? A local TT kid was happy to take them off my hands and the search for a new wheelset began.

While I had become accustomed to a wheel with good aerodynamics, I hoped to save some weight, find something sturdy enough for year-round commuting and with external nipples (for easy at-home truing). Given what I'd received for the Carbones and what my budget could tolerate, I decided to focus in the $800 or so price range, figuring that would provide good quality hubs, spokes and rims and light (but not silly light) weight. After talking to several shops, my short list included Zipp's CSCs, Ritchey's WCS Protocols, American Classic's 420s and HED's Bastognes. After a couple of weeks on a demo set from very helpful our local dealer, I'm leaning heavily toward the Bastognes.

The Bastognes are HED's training/racing wheelset. The company is best known for its carbon fiber aero wheelsets and has been around, well, forever. Their HED 3 tri-spoke wheels are legendary and Setve Hed has also been working with Bontrager of late to get their wheels into shape. The Bastogne is a bit of a departure- the rims are aluminum and only about 30mm deep, though the hubs are shared with the company's other wheelsets. Part of what piqued my interest, though, is the fact that the Bastognes are coming stock on a handful of Cervelo's high-end bikes. Now Cervelo is rumored to put pretty much everything they sell in the wind tunnel. Our dealer was fresh back from Cervelo training camp and claimed that the Bastognes were some of (if not the) the most aerodynamic wheels in their class). In any case, at under 1500g, I figured that they were worth a go.

What initially (and repeatedly) draws the eye is the front Sonic hub. It sure is tiny- pictures don't do it justice. The bit where the spokes mount is barely larger than the end caps, which are the same diameter as my Trek fork's dropouts. The rear hub, while it sounds solid (and a bit loud for my tastes), is fairly traditional, using J-bend spokes and a three pawl engagement that could pretty much be made by anyone. Not bad, but not particularly special as far as I can tell.

The company's website advertises 18 bladed ti spokes on the front wheel, 24 bladed steel on the rear. They're all black, but the rims & spokes are also available in silver. The included quick releases are, in a word, awful. Plucked out of the Tranz-X catalog circa 1998 (the company says that the skewers will be improved for 2009). Almost all of us have a few sets of skewers lying around, though, so it's not really a big deal either way (bad skewers vs. no skewers). As OEM wheels, this particular pair have steel spokes all around- aftermarket will be Ti in the front. The claimed weight for the set is a very nice 1409g- though I haven't had the tires off to weigh them and have a feeling that the OEM version is closer to 1500g.

On the road, the Bastognes were a bit of an adjustment to ride. Rather being massive flywheels that need winding up, they accelerate almost the instant power is applied. By the same token, they tend to decelerate noticeably as soon as power drops. They initially felt a bit squirrely (probably due to their light weight), but over the past 250mi, I've adjusted just fine. While they'll never be as fast on the flats as a heavier, more aerodynamic wheel, as soon as the grade steepens, they pull right away. What surprised me, though, was their downhill speed. I'm certain that they're faster on extended (35mph+) descents and coasting I was able to visibly pull away from a friend with a similar build/weight on DT's Mon Chassaral 1450s. Laterally, they didn't flex under my 145lb (I would hope not) and overall they seem very well behaved. While not as comfy as the Carbones, they were far from harsh and I would have no qualms about taking them 'around the mountain,' a local ride that includes an 8mi dirt road climb. My only concern is about the long-term durability of the rear hub. Not that I have any reason to doubt it, but there just don't seem to be that many out there.

It sounds like the shop's demo WCS Protocols will be back in before the next shipment of HEDs arrives, so I will try to get my hands on those before pulling the trigger on the Bastognes. I'll let you know what I think, but so far I'm very impressed.




Dr Joe said...

What did you decide on for your new wheels?

bikefix said...


I went with the Ardennes- over a year later I can say that they're worth the money. Check out the review here: http://www.bikefix.net/2009/04/bikefix-exclusive-review-hed-ardennes.html

The said...

I was looking as closely as I could to the details on HED's website and the only differences I could see was the Ardennes weighed 51 grams less and it's rims where made of scandium while the Bastogne's are made of alloy. How much of a difference do these two things make in ride quality and performance? They look identical.

I'm looking at each set and would like to know to help me make up my mind. I am budget minded and even though it's only $200 difference, that $200 difference is huge right now.

Thanks so much,