HED ~ what’s the Big Deal ?

9 09 2015

About a month and a half ago, I broke a HED Big Deal rim. It was the rear wheel and it broke while I was riding on rocky terrain on the East Coast of the USA. I had about 8 hours of riding on the wheel in total, which was shod with a tube and a Maxxis Mammoth 4″ tyre at 9psi. For the record, I weigh 88kg and I don’t believe I am a clumsy rider.

Whilst descending a sweet singletrack, near Frederick’s Watershed, on rocky but not sharp edged terrain – think smooth, rounded rock – a loud crack announced a rim break. The rim edge basically frayed apart for 2.5-3cm circumferentially and there was a crack into the flat area of the rim, around 1cm. The tyre wasn’t punctured and I would admit I felt it was pretty bad luck as I was still feeling my way to full speed on the bike (which was new) and had not anticipated any particular risk. There is no real doubt in my mind this was caused by a rim strike.

To add some background to my experience – I have ridden extensively on 3 other brands and 5 sets of carbon rims on terrain accross europe and the USA for many years. I have had more rim strikes than I can count due to punctures or just hard impacts. I have had one rim delaminate, in a very minor way, which was replaced by the company in a responsible and timely fashion. I have had no significant rim damage from riding. All the rims in question have marks, scratches and signs of a happy and good life, but that is all.

On building the HED wheels (being from the UK, HED Big Deal rims are available separately, unbuilt, whereas in the USA they are only available built by HED) I was mesmerised not just by the lack of heft, but the unimaginably thin rim bead seat edge. In truth, I was half expecting the rims not to hold up to all trail conditions.

So – why was I riding rocky trail if I was potentially expecting a rim break? Well, HED’s assurances* that the rims were up to it was part and also I would add that I have spent years assessing bike parts not just for my own use but at times for public consumption through UK bike publications. I needed to see if these rims would hold up to back country scottish riding – the purpose of the bike they were mounted to.

The answer? no.

At the time, I was fairly sanguine about the break. I figured that given the previous assurances, publicly* and to several good and astute friends (including Sean at Vertigo Cycles), I would probably be able to replace the rim with a crash replacement – admitedly at what I believe to be 75% of cost – but at least I would then know the rims were only suitable for me on snow or buff trail in the future.

Well, it has been over a month now after HED have been contacted, repeatedly, sent pictures for assessment and I have had no response.

Personally, I find that unaceptable, regardless of the performance of the rim.

I am aware there are others – including riders I know in the UK – who have had no issues with the rims. That’s fine. For me, they would not inspire confidence in any situation where I was fully relying on them to get me home and the trail was even moderately rocky. Perhaps with wider tyres, >4″ so the edge was more protected? or perhaps with higher pressure this would not be the case, but then this requires stipulation by the company to allow the user to decide if they are buying the right product. There is always going to be a market for the lightest stuff, even if conditions of use are limited.

It is the lack of communication I find so disappointing.

So, I can count myself lucky that I can chalk this up to experience. I have repaired some carbon fibre parts in the past and will do so with this rim and continue to use it at times, out of curiosity, but I will also build another brand of carbon rim into a wheel for use where I believe the HED rim is not up to the job.

Of course, perhaps I have a rim that had a manufacturing defect – this happens, occasionally – but if HED are not interested then we will never know.

If you are looking at a set of HED Big Deal or BFD rims, I would self assess very clearly before buying them. They are expensive and may not hold up to general riding as advertised. If they dont, you may find yourself, like me, ignored.

A couple of last points:
As mentioned in the building post, I bought these rims from Sideways Cycles in Alsager. Tim is a good friend as well as one of the people whose knowledge and experience in the bike world I respect the most. He has tried untiringly to engage HED. I can only thank him for all the effort, above and beyond.
Sean broke his rear HED rim on the same ride, in the same way.

*at a couple of points I mention the fact HED publicly okayed the use of Big Deal rims in an unrestricted fashion. There was nothing equivocal about this. This is a post from HED’s instagram account.

Although it has proven reasonable to be skeptical, it remains the lack of communication that I find the most disappointing aspect.

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17 responses

9 09 2015
timmer

Your man Hurl connected me with your post. shoot me an email so we can make sure you are no longer ignored!!
tim@hedcycling.com

9 09 2015
dave macdonald (@davechopoptions)

That sucks big fat balls.

9 09 2015
vertigocycles

I read this, looked at my rim, remembered my conversations with HED and all I want to say or write about them are bad words.

10 09 2015
Vik

Bummer 😦

11 09 2015
HED ~ what’s the Big Deal ? | Kite*Surf*Bike*Rambling

[…] Source: HED ~ what’s the Big Deal ? […]

13 09 2015
redheadsean2000

That sucks, i was thinking about this rim for the front of my Jones. Whats a good light weight rim for a fat front?

13 09 2015
Vik

I’ve had great luck with LB rims. 5 of my buddies ride them as well in rocky rooty BC terrain. I haven’t tried the fat rims they offer, but if I was going carbon fat that’s what I’d buy.

http://www.light-bicycle.com/65mm-wide-carbon-fat-bike-rim-26er-hookless-double-wall-tubeless-compatible.html#.VfWxJmRVhBc

13 09 2015
redheadsean2000

Nice one Vik, I will check those out.

20 09 2015
John Maclean

Interesting, I’ve recently trashed a Nextie 80mm rim in a similar fashion whilst on a rocky Torridon run.
I’m a carbon fan, but it does seem that while it’s massively strong in some ways, it can fail very easily when hit the ‘wrong’ way. It was a genuinely mild rim strike which killed it. A loud crack and it lost air. It took me back down the full length of Coire Lair no problems after putting a tube in. My previous Rolling Darryl rims (sold as sand and snow only) were battered stupid and are still turning on a mates bike holding air ghetto tubeless. They’re pretty wonky now but still perfectly functional.
The remaining Nextie on the front of my bike has just done a relentlessly rocky week in the Sierra Nevada with no issues apart from plenty gouges and scrapes. If I kill it, Ill go back to alloy on both wheels.

3 01 2016
BUCK

Dr. jOn,

Buck here. Long time no type. Just lookin’ round the net and see that you were in my hood back in Sept. That watershed is 1hr’s drive from my home. Look me up if you’re coming back. Hope all is well with you in the new year. SSWC16??

3 01 2016
velopest

defo….had no idea i was so close! might not be too long til we’re back…hope youse guys are good…

26 02 2016
Mike

Wow that’s a real shame but I must say I’ve got about 1000 hard kilometers on my set of big deal 85’s and I’m 113 kg rider I like them so much I’m buying another set I can’t comment about customer service because nothing has gone wrong !!!

3 10 2016
craig orr

Ditto..beat mine to hell in all seasons and will be buying another wheelset just for studded winter riding. HED makes a solid product.

20 05 2016
Planned obsolescence and the relentless march of progress. | drj0nswanderings

[…] will, I believe, mount without fuss in to my Vertigo Cycles fat bike. While the HED’s are off, I will repair the rim that split and see if this new wheel size has any benefits/drawbacks. The […]

30 07 2016
Seamus

Three of my friends and I bought FatBoy Experts last winter that have the HED Big Deals. All of us now have cracked rims. The cracks go right along the weave lines, like they didn’t put enough fiber directions in it (and probably too thin). HED won’t reply to our emails (besides the first one when they requested pictures) and their customer support line rings unanswered… Did you ever get satisfaction? How?

30 07 2016
velopest

Seamus: very similar to you in some ways. I had no initial response, then I had some contact via my blog, then nothing. I have chalked it up to experience and will repair the rim (to the best of my ability rather than throwing money at a professional repair) with some carbon sheet and epoxy. It has left a sour taste in my mouth for sure, they could have done *much* better with their communication, though I noted that after the time of my and a friends rim failures, they changed the spec of the recommended use from any trail to:

‘2. For all types of bicycle wheels, a hard strike on the rim is likely to result in rim damage. At the point of impact, an aluminum rim will dent, and a carbon rim may delaminate. With any such damage to a Hed wheel, our lifetime crash replacement policy enables the original owner to repair or replace the wheel at substantial savings.
3. Specific to our Big Deal and BFD carbon rims: If you choose to ride these rims on regular dirt trails (e.g. NOT in soft snow or sand), wider tires and higher air pressure will decrease the chance of rim damage from striking an obstacle. We strongly recommend an honest assessment of your ride style. Use 10 psi minimum on 4″ tires, or 8 psi minimum on 5″ tires. ‘ taken from their website. ‘

Quite a difference! Needless to say, I would not recommend this rim to anyone.

15 01 2017
HED rim repair. | drj0nswanderings

[…] over a year ago, I blogged about my HED Big Deal rim breaking and my disappointment with the company’s lack of customer care. Actually, I would probably […]

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