If you follow any triathlon accounts on Twitter, you’ll probably have noticed a little bit of a fuss being kicked up on the “Jet 180” *definitely not a disc* wheel, disc wheel made by HED. Well, it’s not a disc wheel but you can view the picture yourself. It looks like the love child of a disc wheel and a giant hole punch - the point of it is to obtain the aero benefits of the disc in scenarios where a disc wheel isn’t allowed.
This wheel is everything I love about triathlon! It has, generally speaking, unrestrictive bike rules that allow (some very funny) innovations to take place. I wonder how many people will pair it with a Cadex triathlon bike?
HED’s engineering press release said: “The Jet 180 is a fast tracked wheel designed to go fast in races where a disc is not allowed.” This is not a scenario that comes up in cycling very often (and there’s absolutely no chance this is UCI legal anyway let’s be honest) but in triathlon this rule happens once a year - Kona. The Ironman World Championships take place here and, due to notoriously high winds, disc wheels are banned.
HED went on to write, “It was built off our renowned Jet lineup and has proven itself in our initial in-house tests. Compared to the next deepest wheels we have, we saved 5-8 watts on average during testing. Rough CdA experiments also concluded that the Jet 180 is our fastest wheel, shallower than a full aero disc.”
So, HED have found the key to making a fast, non-disc wheel. Simply make it a disc. I look forward to next year’s HED Jet 181 that tests slightly faster…
It’s probably fair to say that this product is not pretty and given that it’s likely to be paired with a shallower front wheel, it will probably look even worse on the bike. The thing is, you don’t win races by looking nice - you win them by going fast.
What does 5-8 watts do over an Ironman bike leg?
No one in the world of bike racing is going to be using this wheel and I can’t imagine many triathletes (apart from some on the Big Island) will be buying one either - but, all that said, this is excellent. HED have basically created an attention-seeking meme product that actually makes you faster. The development of products for extremely niche scenarios is also, in my opinion, something that should always be encouraged.
Let’s assume, mostly for ease of maths, we have a rider doing 250W for their 180km Ironman bike split and are travelling along at 40.5kph. (Check out our explainer on triathlon distances if you're not familiar). This means, their Ironman bike split would be 4 hours, 26 minutes and 41 seconds. For context, the Ironman course record currently stands at 4 hours, 9 minutes and 6 seconds and was set by Australia's Cameron Wurf.
If our rider was on HED’s fastest non disc before and has now switched to HED’s new fastest non disc-disc wheel (the Jet 180) will they be catching Cam Wurf? If we plug an 8W improvement into our calculator we come out with a time of 4 hours, 23 minutes and 30 seconds. This is quite a lot of time… It’s possible that my aero model is a little too crude and I suspect that if they really did shave three minutes off an Ironman bike split HED would have mentioned it in their press release. Either way, if our rider wants to catch Wurf, they’ll have to access more than eight extra watts.
The technical specs…
This wheel is tubeless compatible, has a 21mm internal rim width and with a 32.5mm external rim width (which should make this a good choice for either a 25mm or 28mm tire). The wheel will weigh just over 1,200 grams and is available with rim brakes (my TT bike has rim brakes if anyone at HED is reading this…). There’s no news yet on pricing but I’d imagine it will be in line with HED’s disc wheel, which will set you back £1,200 - I wonder if you get a discount for the small hole in the middle?
Where will I see this wheel next?
This wheel could, according to the rules of triathlon which essentially allow anything, be used as a front wheel. This is not something I would recommend in Kona however, as their medical facility is often very busy on race day so you’ll be sat in a queue with your broken collarbone. There may, however, be a market for the Jet 180 front wheel on the notoriously creative CTT scene - this is something I’d love to see. This will be out on the road in Kona, which you can watch for free on the evenings of the 6th of October and 8th of October for the (equally prize monied) women’s and men’s races respectively.
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