Our World’s Funnest Bike 2017 project kicked off yesterday with the Rodeo Labs Trail Donkey 2.0 frameset. The Goal? Create the funnest gravel adventure play bike we could. To do that, we needed capable wheels and tires. I’d tested the HED Ardennes+ wheels for cyclocross a couple seasons ago, but as I went to write the review, they updated and completely changed the model, making the old wheelset not worth writing about. But I was impressed, so I swapped them out for the 2017 Ardennes+ SL model to see how they’d improved. For tires, I turned to upstart Terrene because their Elwood had the right combination of light weight and a tread pattern that looked capable for a wide variety of surfaces. Here’s how they’ve come together…

HED ARDENNES+ SL MEASUREMENTS, DETAILS & ACTUAL WEIGHTS

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross

The HED Ardennes+ SL wheels come with their lighter J-bend bladed spokes, saving a few grams over the next model down. They’re built with 24 spokes front and rear (no more 28 hole option) and are compatible with thru axles and QR, though you’re better off ordering them as needed as the swap process requires tools…and a bearing swap if you want to go from QR or 12mm thru axle to a 15mm thru axle on the front. They’re available with Shimano 11-speed, Campy and SRAM XD driver bodies and are rated for road, cyclocross and XC. Inside the 545 hubs are 45 teeth and 5 pawls, four 6902 bearings in the rear (two on the axle, two under the FH body).

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross review and tech details

There’s basically the same sizes in the front, but it only gets two.

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross review and tech details

The disc versions of their wheels come only with Centerlock rotor mounts, but they offer rim brake versions, too.

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross review and tech details

Rim depth is 24.5mm and has a mostly straight, angled shape with flat ridge where the spokes meet the rim. The internal channel has a deep center section to make tire mounting easier. The bead seats then angle downward to help lock the tire into place once inflated. They seem to work, set up was quick and easy.

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross review and actual rim widths

The Ardennes+ line claims rim width at 25mm, and ours measured in at exactly that. Inside width is 21mm. They come with tape and valve stems the box.

HED Ardennes Plus wide alloy road bike wheels for gravel and cyclocross review and actual weights

 

Claimed weight is 1535g. Ours came in at 688g front and 807g rear, totaling 1495g…a pretty good savings. That’s without rim tape or valve stems, though. Check out HEDcycling.com.

TERRENE ELWOOD MEASUREMENTS, DETAILS & ACTUAL WEIGHTS

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

Terrene Tires offers a small assortment of tires, with only one or two designs for most disciplines. But they seem to be building on years of industry experience to put in all the features we’d want and keeping the decisions easy. Their Elwood is a fast rolling 700c on-and-off road tire. Like their others, it’s tubeless ready, and it comes in Light and Tough versions.

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

I’m testing the Light version, which gets a 120tpi casing but lacks the extra puncture protecting reinforcements of the Tough version. For this build, longer rides are planned, and our trails don’t usually have thorns or sharp rocks, so my weight weenie tendencies won out.

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

The center is a closely packed section of file-like tread nubs, followed by smaller but more spaced out nubs, then side knobs. The whole thing is 60a rubber from bead to bead. On pavement, they make a nice humming sound but feel smooth. On access trails and gravel sections, there seems to be ample grip. More testing is in order, but first impressions are good.

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review and actual widths

They’re labeled as 700×40, but ours measured 44mm at the sidewall when inflated on these rims.

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review and actual weights

Actual weights are 443g and 435g, just a hair over the claimed 438g. The Tough version carries a 59g weight penalty to add a tougher casing and their TekShield. More info on their brand at TerreneTires.com.

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

In Part 1 of this project bike’s debut, we listed the frame’s clearance at 56mm in the back and 52mm up front…which needs some clarification: That’s actual clearance widths. Rodeo Labs recommends a max 700×45 tire. Here’s how the Elwoods look inside the frame. Up front there’s not a ton of spare room on the sides or top. Out back it’s better…

Terrene Elwood gravel bike tire review

…and depending on your wheel’s dish, it may sit a little closer to one side or the other (which is normal). The chainstay clearance seems a little tighter than the seatstays. And yeah, that SRAM eTap battery sits very close to the tire, which we’ll discuss in a separate post.

BONUS MATERIAL

These pink stems have been on my ‘cross bike for years. The green ones on this build (see top pic) are the same length…and get color-matched caps!

These lightweight alloy Speed Evolution valve stems have proven reliable and easy to use for years. I’ve been running a set on my cyclocross bike in many different wheels and had zero issues with them. So it was an easy choice to include them on this build. The brand’s website is defunct, but they’re available through TruckerCo on Amazon for $20. Yeah, I know, $20 for something that comes with most wheels for free…but a) they come in cool colors, and b) if you’ve ever had a crappy valve stem fail you, twenty bucks is a small price to pay for reliability on such a crucial part of your bike.

Besides being alloy, light and colorful, they also use a well-shaped rubber flange that extends down into the hole, helping provide a better seal. Even after years of use, mine haven’t deteriorated at all.

Stay tuned for the next installment…

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Not sure about the rim width / tire combo. Looking at the pictures the tire sits very flat/squarish. Should make for some weird feeling transitions when you’ll lean in a corner.

    At some point wider is not necessarily better.

    • 21mm internal is fairly conservative for a 40 (43)mm tire. The tire isn’t square, the knobs make it look like it. The knobs take care of transitions on gravel, you want knobs to grip and bite. No knobs is a wash out, this isnt normal road biking.

  2. Unless thats an optical illusion you’re going to get rub on the non drive chainstay with that setup. My super six evo had that kind of clearence with 23’s and even with zipp 404’s I got rubbage.

  3. LOL! It’s not “normal” for your wheel to not be dished properly, or just as bad, your wheel properly dished, but doesn’t line up in the frame.

    Hopefully those tires don’t ever get dirty, because there is zero room there.

    Sweet valve caps by the way dude.

    • Sadly according to a few folks I know in the industry misalignment of dropouts is actually pretty common with off the shelf frames.

  4. Is this bike more fun than the myriad of other ‘all-road’ offerings from more established brands (Salsa, Devinchi, Niner, Jamis, SBC….), due to it’s exclusivity, and comparably higher price? If this frame did indeed offer something extra–say, materially more tire clearance–then it would be easier to buy-off on that price. Hard to see that is the case I mean, this is yet another nicely turned-out, CN or TW sourced, ‘gravel’ frame, right? It certainly IS an super-sano looking frame, though the blocky frame tubes denote a very stiff ride. Hopefully, Tyler can report the ride quality for the TD with other similar bikes.

    • Further: from rodeo-labs.com, “Our resulting tire clearances are 52mm rear, and 56mm front at 700c”. Typically, this would equate to the ability to run 52 & 56mm tires on this frame. That doesn’t appear to be the case. Can the TD run 52mm tires with 650b wheels?

      • Those are the opening sizes (measured from the frame, not the cad, with a digital caliper) not the max tire sizes. We list 45mm at 700c and We run the WTB 47c 650b range and those tires still have appropriate clearance left but if you want to go with bigger tires you’ll need to go with something else.

        Another variable is rims and brand differences. We’ve run 45mm tires on our 1.0 wheels for over a year, but with our 2.0 wheels (which are 24mm internal) those tires got wider and we wouldn’t run them because they could rub under hard efforts or cornering. Nano 40s on the ENVE AR rims measured 45mm and worked great. Tires are fickle. Proceed with your brain engaged, not with your eyes glued to a spec sheet.

    • We don’t “source” our frames. We design them from scratch around our goals and work with a manufacturing partner to get them made. It’s an incredibly collaborative process, not a trip to the Asian Carbon drive through. The recent Pinkbike video summarized the challenges well.

      It shouldn’t come as a shock that all of the names that you listed above manufacture in much the same way. It may even be possible that our frames are manufactured (hand made) at the same facility in Taiwan (not China, for the record) as some of them. There are only a small handful of brands that own a factory and design and manufacture a frame start to finish – companies like Giant for instance.

      Related: Traildonkey 2.0 was designed, conceived, and started shipping before many of the brands listed above were selling anything like it. Salsa has always been a pioneer in the adventure bike space and kudos to them, but we pulled inspiration from nobody on our bike. It was inspired by the roads and trails of Colorado and the adventures that we have on them. The fact that the industry has converged around a similar style of bike only speaks to how much fun it is to ride one. I don’t think Tyler is declaring this the worlds funnest bike as the result of a shootout comparing all available offerings. It seems more of the creative brief of the project at the ground level – the stated goal.

      • Irrespective to the TD country-of-manufacture, it’s a good-looking frame, and clearly not off-the-rack. If I bought one (for a princely $2560 USD) with the anticipation of being able to run 700x52c tires, after reading only the Rodeo Labs website description stating what it does re. tire clearance, I’d surely be disappointed.

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