Hed Wheels & Steve Hed – Aerodynamic Pioneers

I recently rediscovered some very old photos of myself and my other Zimbabwe Junior team mates just before the start of the 70km Team Time Trial at the 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships in Colorado Springs USA.

They reminded me of the extremely kind sponsorship we received from Hed Cycling and got me thinking that those original deep section Hed Wheels that we used on the front must have been well ahead of their time.

Unfortunately memory fades and I don’t have many other photos (especially of the other teams), but I am pretty sure that most were just riding with a standard front wheels and a disc at the back. That is apart from the winners (USSR) who I seem to remember used double discs without aerobars!

To me it shows just how much of an aerodynamics pioneer the late great Steve Hed was. Anyway with no internet or social media back then, I never got the chance to thank Hed Cycling for putting their faith in this small African country and so would like to do so now.

Aero Wheels – Right Place, Right Time

Whilst deep section aero wheels are no doubt “faster” and now here to stay, there are certain situations and circumstances where perhaps they may not be the right choice:

The start house of the 70km Time Trial
Team Zimbabwe (Gary O’Hara, James Walker, Myself & Nathan Jones) at the start house of the 70km Time Trial 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships

If you look at the photo above of us at the start, you will notice that Nathan Jones (nearest the camera) decided not to use the deep section front wheel. We had spent a good amount of time testing the wheels on the course on the days leading up to the event and got a great feeling for them and what to expect.

Indeed the photo below shows us along with our coach, the late and very sadly missed Steve Draver going over some points after he and been following us in a vehicle whilst we had been out training on the actual course a few days before the event. In it you can clearly see that Nathan (center with his head in the aero bars) was actually using the deep section Hed front wheel, so why the change of heart you may ask?

Training on the course a few days before the start of the Team Time Trial at the 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships
Training on the course a few days before the start of the Team Time Trial at the 1991 Junior World Cycling Championships

Whilst most people who know Colorado Springs will think of it as a hilly place, but the Team Time Trial was actually held on the massive, wide open and very flat plains not far from the town and basically consisted of one huge 70km loop.

As you can also see from the photos there were not many trees about and we found that there was often a lot of wind, so for one quarter of the course there was a head wind, the next quarter was cross wind, the third was very fast with a tail wind and then for the final quarter another cross wind.

I don’t want to go into details, but Nathan had one arm that was a little shorter than the other and so he found it harder to keep the bike steady on the aero bars than most.

On the day of the TTT, it was actually very windy and so he decided to forego the aero benefit in favor of stability. I think his decision was correct, in a individual time trial he probably would have been fine. But as we had been excellently coached by Steve Draver for months and months leading up to the day we now were like a well oiled machine and really would remain literally just a centimeter or two from the wheel in front. On your aero bars, for the whole 70km at 100% effort. So there was absolutely no room for error or instability.