HED is responsible for some major innovations. You can quibble over the fine details of who did what, but HED was certainly very involved in the development of wider, more blunt aerodynamic rim shapes as well as wider road rims in general. The HED C2 was a seminal rim in the proliferation of the wide road rim trend. Interestingly, HED as a company has stayed out of the full carbon clincher game even to this day, which doesn't stop their Jet wheels from being a top choice for people chasing the asymptotes of aerodynamic gains. But today we look at the rim that really blew it wide open for HED's reputation in alloy rims - the Belgium+.
At the outset, I will give HED (like we did Easton) tremendous credit for making these available as component rims. As we've been discussing in the last few posts, it's easy to support a higher price point for complete wheel products when the components used within them don't have MSRPs that you can look up and do a little math to figure out what kind of premium you're paying for "productization." And though it's easy to accuse HED of pushing the limit of alloy rim price points, you can still do builds with tremendous value based on a Belgium+ - we can build you a custom wheel set with hubs that are the easy equal of most "premium" wheel system hubs with CX Rays for $720. Bump the hubs up to WI T11s and you're at $880. Compare what else is out there at anything close to that price point and then tell us that HEDs are expensive.
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There's also the ridiculous "expensive for alloy" argument. If you'd rather have the carbon wheels you can get for $880, with the purchase process and customer support inherent with them, instead of a set of wheels built with the nicest alloy rims made and paired with the best spokes and hubs that have no superior on the market, we just can't help you. That's an idiotic premise. Oh and don't forget that Belgium+ are the aerodynamic equal of Flo 30s (don't get me started), and exceptionally competitive even compared to Zipp 303s.
So I just used this phrase "nicest alloy rims made." Yeah? Yeah. The first thing I noticed when we got our first Easton rim in for testing was that Eastons are clearly made by the same people who make HED's rims. This was like an immediate "oh these will be great rims" tell. Let's go back to November 2014 and repeat what I said about HED rims in our road and cx rim roundup from back then - "What I'm saying there is that a HED alloy is darn near at the limit of what an alloy rim can be, fit and finish-wise." When you build a HED rim properly, you can make the spoke tensions darn near exactly the same in any group. The reason why you can do this is that the rim is rolled completely round, and the extrusion (the raw aluminum shape that becomes the rim) is freakishly uniform in thickness and incredibly straight, with no weird hard spots in the metal. The join is more or less invisible. This gives the rim durability and strength, which goes back to the value/expense issue - you're getting return on the extra spend on these since they're so freaking strong and durable.
Is this all that big of a love-fest? Kind of. They're great rims. The magic of the Easton rims is that they more or less do what HEDs do for less money, but it's not that much of a premium. Just like Eastons, putting tires on is easy, and tubeless setup is easy as well. Aggressive cross tubeless use isn't quite as tight with Belgium+ rims - although I've heard several people swear by them, it takes a really tight fitting tire (Hutchinson) to get the most out of them. Their ~460/rim weight doesn't make them lightweights, but it does put them comfortably into a category where you only really go much lighter because you want your scale to say a certain number.
HED covers the gamut of spoke drilling options, as well - 20/24/28/32 rim brake and 24/28/32 disc. On HED's factory builds, they put a rider weight limit of 225 pounds on their 18/24 lacing. We're a whole bunch more conservative than that, but there are certainly use cases for each lacing option.
For a very lively, responsive, light and light-feeling wheelset that sets tires up extraordinarily well, has aerodynamics that make all of your KOMs all your own (and leaves fault for the ones you miss entirely with your legs), will last a long long time with zero headache, and makes you "the guy who's smart about the stuff s/he buys" in any bunch, Belgium+ are almost impossible to top. Buy a set, we love building them.