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.


Facts & figures.

9 07 2015

Spent 10 minutes measuring various wheel/tyre combos. Maxxis Chronicle 29×3″ on Nextie junglefox 50mm is 766mm at my riding pressure (9psi). A WTB Trailblazer on a Nextie 650bx50mm rim is 727mm and a Maxxis DHF 2.5 on a 30mm Enve rim is 742mm. The Nate on a HED BigDeal rim is 737mm at 18psi, which is higher than riding pressure. So it may drop a mm or two?

Why the measurements?

Fox announced a 27.5plus 34 fork recently and Rock Shox announced the Lyrik and Yari in a 27.5plus/29er casting as well.

The Fox is *likely* to have an a-c of ~532.8mm in a 120mm travel setting. This is an extrapolated figure as I could not find an actual a-c. for this fork. The 34 29er version from 2013 had an a-c of 542.8 for the 130mm travel model. Take 10mm for the reduced travel and you get the 532.8mm.

Now, add sag of 25mm, leaving an actual a-c of 507.8mm – but lets call it 508mm.

If I used a WTB Bridger or 27.5×3 Chronicle when they become available, the diameter is likley to be around 737mm or so – bit less than a good sized 29er – with me? so the radius is 368.5. Along with a 508mm a-c height this takes the total to 876.5mm.

The 29plus tyre diamter is 767mm so radius is 383.5mm. 876.5 minus 383.5 = 493mm. The a-c of some readily available carbon rigid forks, more or less.

A frame designed around this ride height could use a suspension fork with a 275×3″ front wheel or by swapping to a 29+ wheel, a rigid fork, with no real change in geometry.

Interesting, eh?

Oh, btw, the vinyl tape dropped 10psi in 24 hours without sealant, with sealant, no drop in 24 hours. Pretty stoked.

Edit: Fox tech specs are here. As you can see, the 120mm fork is 525.5mm a-c. This would put the equivalent rigid fork length at 485.5mm. Not bad at all. Oh, and the Fox 27.5+ fork fits 29+ it seems.


31 05 2015

In certain circumstances, the floatation provided by a fat tyre bike (I’m talking about ~4″ wide tyres here) allows forward progress where a ‘normal’ bike tyre would come unstuck. This is as true for packed snow as for boggy, waterlogged ground.

In addition, I have found fat tyres ‘smear’ on densely rocky trails. I am thinking here of Highland passes such as the Lairig an Laoigh. The low pressure, flexible sidewalls and ability to deform around the low amplitude but high frequency (if you will) trail, again, allows forward progress.

As time has passed I have gone to wider, lighter rims and, with this most recent wheel build, I think I might have my mucky paws on the best there is, thanks to the recent release of the DT Swiss 350 197mm Big Ride hub (with thanks to lacemine29).

The rims are HED Big Deal rims, from Tim, at Sideways Cycles. They are 85mm wide, weigh a frankly astonishing ~450g and build really well. I would never have considered these rims previously: then I rode my friend’s fat bike.

Sean has Industry 9 hubs built to HEDs on his bike. Dropping 250g or so over an aluminium rim makes a noticeable and welcome difference and they feel solid.

I got the usual extremely good advice from Jon at Justridingalong for the spokes. I wanted something durable but on the lighter end of the spectrum. In this instance, Jon recommended D-lights from Sapim. These spokes have very short 2.0 sections with an unusual 1.65mm centre section. This makes them less prone to wind up commonly found when building with DT Revolutions or Sapim Lasers, which are 1.5mm in the middle. Of course, bladed spokes can be used with a holder to stop windup altogether, but the advantages of a bladed spoke are otherwise negligible on an mtb (though DT claim they are the most fatigue resistant spokes they make) and the cost is high.

I was impressed with the spokes.

Nipples are DT Swiss aluminium Pro Lock and I used Sapim round washers for the nipple at the rim (as recommended by HED) from DCR Wheels. A normal washer would be fine, though heavier and HED now have some washers with some sort of rubber or neoprene coating to aid tubeless set up.

Of course, building a single wall rim with aluminium nipples means getting the spoke length absolutely bang on as you need to fill the nipple at least to the bottom of the nipple slot, but I did not want to end up using a dremel on protruding spoke and risk damaging the rim. Advice here is measure, measure measure. I would highly recommend paying attention to published ERD but *always* measure it yourself. In this case, I found the ERD to be 566.5mm with 4.5mm left and right spoke hole offset. This means, with the DT Swiss Big Ride hub, I would need 279mm left and 277mm right for the rear wheel. I used freespoke for the calculations.

I converted my Centrimaster recently (to allow 300mm OLD hubs if needed!) with the fat hub kit and I used a new spoke key, from P&K Lie. This is compact, with a wide flat thumb paddle and a spot on interface for the spokes. I think it is very good, though quite light in the hand.

They built smoothly and easily, to a very balanced 85kgf on the ‘high’ side with less than 0.1mm of lateral and radial irregularity. The rear weighs around 900g. Sweet as.


4 05 2015

Picking up components. I have a fascination with new stuff, it’s true. Admittedly, sometimes my fascination is morbid. Other times it is an appreciation for a finely balanced marriage of form and function.

For me, next comes thinking. Consideration. How will it all work together? No. How will it all work together *best*? When I am 10 hours into the day, in the middle of beautiful no-where, what will make my day more difficult? what will make my day better? (note to self: remember better ≠ easier).

So I read. Dwell. Cogitate. Measure. Measure again. Write. Scheme. Plan. Finally, hopefully, I commit. Then it is time to use tools to make great components come together to make a near-perfect whole.

After that, well, It’s time to ride.

On the bench: xtr 9000 & 785, go and stop, with some Race Face next SL. Syntace and Selle San Marco for perches, with Jeff Jones on the Loop. DT Swiss 197mm mixed with HED Big Deals. Lets see how this all goes together…