When the new HED Vanquish 6 wheels came out, they were the first full carbon clincher rim from the U.S. brand. Until then, they’d used an alloy rim bed and brake track for improved heat management and durability. But with the mass movement to disc brakes, this opened up opportunities to do something different. Since then, they’ve added two more depths and a more affordable GP version. Here, we’re testing the higher end Vanquish 4…
HED Vanquish 4 specs & actual weights
Most of HED’s chatter about the Vanquish tubeless carbon clinchers was about the rims, which is understandable since they are their first full carbon offering. But as we dug into it, there’s a lot more to the story that makes these a killer wheelset.
But as a quick recap, HED says the rim’s profile in all three depths (4, 6 and 8) are the most well-rounded aero design because they’re (for all practical purposes) equally aero with any normal sized road bike tire up to a 700×28. Indeed, that’s what we’re testing it with, the new Specialized RapidAir Turbo tires.
The rims measured 21.5mm internal (21mm claimed), 30mm external, and 41mm tall with our calipers. They come pre-taped for tubeless with custom valve stems preinstalled. I used the Specialized RapidAir sealant and both seated with the Topeak booster floor pump at full blast, plus a little extra pumping and wiggling to get the sealant into place. Since then, they’ve held air remarkably well.
Rim weight is claimed at 428g for these 40mm deep rims. The 60 and 80 come in at 479g and 564g, respectively.
What about the hubs?
Here’s where HED should put a little more marketing effort, because the hubs are really good, too.
They say their testing shows they have the lowest drag of any of major, high-end hub brands they tested against. How? They use oversized stainless EZO bearings with stainless races. Larger ball diameters mean they roll smoother and with less friction. As such, HED doesn’t put ceramic bearings in these (or any of their wheels).
They also use a solid axle, which means it’s the axle itself sitting in your dropouts, not press-on end caps. That eliminates two spots where flex can enter the system. The design also means no need for pre-load, so they use flat-race bearings instead of angular contact bearings (which allow for a small amount of lateral movement). Once you thread the axle together, it pulls everything tight, with no side to side play, but also no friction.
This does mean it’s a tooled job to swap axles if you need to change between 12mm and quick release on the rear. Up front, you can swap between 12mm and quick release. If you need to bump up to a 15mm thru axle, you’ll need to replace the bearings, too, since the ID of the bearings (and OD of the axle) are different.
They use a five-pawl system with a 45-tooth ratchet ring for 8º engagement. Wheels are built with 24 Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes, alloy nipples, and a custom printed alloy valve stem with their logo on it.
Why upgrade from the Vanquish GP?
The newer (and less expensive) Vanquish GP rims use the same mold and layup process, but with a less expensive carbon fiber. The top end Vanquish rims come in anywhere from 50-70g lighter per rim (V4GP is 487g, V6GP is 513g, claimed). And the GP uses a lower end hub (four pawls, 27 ratchets, 13º engagement) and Sapim Race spokes. And it only comes in 40 and 60 depths.
HED Vanquish 4 actual weight
On our scale, our Centerlock-mount wheels came in at 700g (front) and 820g (rear), for a total of 1,520g. That’s all in, ready to ride with tape, valve stems and 12mm thru axle setup front and rear.
The Ride Review
HED’s Vanquish 4 performed really well for me, as any good carbon road bike wheels should when you’re up in the $2,400 wheelset price range. But two things stood out to me: First, they’re really quiet. Even with larger 28mm wide tires, they slipped through the air almost perfectly silently. To me, that suggests their aerodynamic claims are valid, because turbulence can be loud. Bolstering that is how they felt riding, like they were just gliding along. It’s all very subjective until you get into the wind tunnel, but the lack of wind noise coming from the wheels was refreshing.
Second is how they handled. Turns were crisp, whether it was a long sweeper, a fast corner, or slaloming dashed street lines. The wheels stayed on track and came in and out of turns in a stable, predictable manner. I chalk this up to the hubs’ solid foundation but of course the entire build plays a role here.
I also really like the appearance and finish. While it’d be nice to have the option for black logos (these are applied in such a way that they’re really not removable, according to HED), at least the lines are small. The custom printed alloy valve stem is also a nice touch, particularly since the logo will always line up facing out. They’re also long, so inflating the tires is easy.
HED says these are perfectly suitable for gravel and cyclocross, too. Which makes me think, as their freshman effort at a full carbon clincher perhaps they overbuilt them slightly just to err on the safe side. The only minor “complaint” I had is that they don’t feel as sprightly on a sprint, which could also be because of the 300g rubber wrapped around each rim, too. But it would be interesting to see what they could do if a lightweight climber’s wheelset were the goal.
That said, the wheels never felt slow or sluggish, and once you’re cruising, they just keep cruising. I’m really enjoying them. And if you’re only wanting to pop for one really expensive high end wheelset that’ll cover all your fast drop bar bikes, the HED Vanquish 4 are worth a look.