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Hed, Dupont and Specialized Trivia(11 posts)

Hed, Dupont and Specialized Triviasievers11
Oct 21, 2003 1:44 PM
Have a trivia (trivial) question about the history and relationship of these three companies in relation to the infamous 3 spoke aero wheel. (known today as the "HED 3"

My understanding...Dupont develped a new composite and spend 1.5 million developing the thing and then specialized jumped on board and spent another 1.5 million on rider R & D and sponsorship. On and off road. Specialized eventually couldn't make sense out of sticking with the product and sold the rights to HED. and became known as the "HED 3".

1) Am I close, can anyone verify this stuff.

2) Dates, When were the specialized wheels in production and when did HED start making the "HED 3".

3) How far ahead of its time was the dupont/specialized design that many top pros are still considering it the best front TT wheel in the world? Posties are still using...millar used the front and a new HED 3D disk.
re: Hed, Dupont and Specialized Trivialancezneighbor
Oct 21, 2003 2:48 PM
I was at the Texas A&M wind tunnel when Steve Hed was testing his new three spoke wheel back in 1988 or '89. I believe the Specialized/dupont wheel came out later and is not connected with the HED. Unless HED bought the design and replaced their original design. BTW I admire Steve Hed because when he saw the poor results of his original design he went back to the drawing board instead of just trying to sell a mediocre product... unlike a well known helmet company whose 'aero helmet" was not so aero at the same session of testing.
1989 Specilized introduced...sievers11
Oct 21, 2003 3:06 PM
I have been doing some more research. (not bias for one or the other company, hed or specialzed)

The specialized wheel came out in 1989, according to several sites including It was a joint project between Dupont and Specialized.

Steve started in 1985, so was he out sourcing his work to specialized or did you just see Steve with one of the Specialized wheels. I don't think there is any denying that they are the same product.

Steve has made some improvments over the original design, but mainly to the hub/bearings and manufaturing talorances. I wouldn't say he went back to the drawing board.

I have inspected both very closely and there is no way on earth that they were conceved from different minds. They are exacty the same shape and construction. The specialized wheel is not a mediocre product...I think it was way ahead of its time in 1989, especially sense it is still considered "The" front wheel for TT by many critics including your neighbor, in the form of the "HED 3".
1989 Specilized introduced...lancezneighbor
Oct 21, 2003 8:41 PM
Just to clarify my statements... I don't have any deep knowledge of the history of either wheel. The "mediocre" product I refered to was not the Specialized wheel, it was in reference to a so called aero helmet that was being tested at the same time as Steve Hed's wheel. Steve was very disapointed with the numbers and he admited to me that the profile was wrong and a redesign was in order, This was either in fall of 1988 or spring 1989. The aero helmet was a design by that same company who I will not name but they do sponsor my neighbor. The designer chose to ignore the data which did not indicate that the helmet provided aero benefits. The reason I was impressed with Steve Hed, on a personal level, was his honesty in discussing his disapointment, especially compared to the designer of the aero helmet. I would agree that the Specialized is a fine product and was indeed ahead of it's time. From my conversation at the time, way back when, with Steve it did not seem as if he was collaborating with anyone else. Now a little more history, both HED (the company) and the unnamed helmet company have both been sold to other interests. At the time HED was a very small company and Steve was the R&D team. That was it. He started in the composite field from an interest in skateboards... I don't know if Steve is still with HED. Now it's also possible that the two wheels are so similar just because aerodynamics dictates it. I'm just speculating on all this and I am just recalling some information from an event almost 15 years ago... so take it all with a a grain of salt or a gulp of gatorade. But just for the record I again wanted to state my admiration for Steve Hed in being able to admit the product he tested at A&M in '88 or '89 was not the best it could be, it is refreshing in this time of marketing when products of dubious value are sold as the next great thing even if the designers are aware that their initial idea may not have turned out with the desired results. Out of curiosity, what is driving your interest? And good luck with the search I wish you well and look forward to reading your results.
Having been to HED-filtersweep
Oct 22, 2003 4:16 AM
I think, and some of the details are a bit foggy, but I believe HED had been making carbon wheels for while- as you say- even while Specialized was making their tri-spoke wheel (HED was making their soft carbon wheels). For whatever reason, Specialized stopped making the tri-spoke wheel, and HED purchased the machining or the right to market the wheels or the patent, or whatever (they are apparently made in Spain) and basically continued the line under the HED name- built in the same factory.

HED's headquarters are local- it is just a house in WBL with a little HED sign on the mailbox. I mean, it literally is a house with wheel building gear all over the place. I don't think they layup the rims there, but they lace spokes, true wheels, etc... my guess is the rims, etc. are all made abroad. An employee gave me a rundown of the HED story, but I wasn't taking notes ;)

I really like the idea of HED as a company- that, and they practically gave me a set of Alps- but they are almost a victim of their own success in the triathlon world, so I don't think they are taken as seriously by road bikers. Also, their wheels are a bit heavier than Zipps (at a fraction of the cost) - but they are relatively bulletproof. Weight really shouldn't be that much of an issue for an aero wheel, but for some reason it is, and there seem to be many more Zipps used in races.
re: Hed, Dupont and Specialized TriviaAkirasho
Oct 21, 2003 3:01 PM
... pretty much the story I've heard... with the H3 now being made in Spain...

... don't have the facts on dates, but I'd guess that the switch came around '96 (there were probably a lot of Specialized wheels still in the pipeline before the HED sticker started to appear... and for a while, you'd see both in some shops).

... another detail I'm not privy to is changes in design and manufacture of the life of this product... I don't know if you can directly compare an '03 H3 with the Specialized Trispoke save perhaps the aero properties. My understanding is that HED has developed an even lighter, perhaps slipperier H3. Indeed, there are many more options available for this type of wheel (tri and quad spoke'd composites from several Tiawanese mills... and Mavic's penta spoke'd wheel).

Overall, HED has been able to capitalize on the aerodynamics of the wheel... so much so that, as you've noted, many pros run them sans graphics to avoid conflicts with other sponsors.

It's taken quite a bit longer, but look at the market and manufacture of carbon forks... hell, even carbon cranks and frames... All of these have been capitalized on by a wide variety of makers. I'm guessing because of the race and venue specifics of this type of wheel, other manufacturers have given HED a semi monopoly... but that's evaporating fast now! It might also be linked to expiring patents on the original wheel... perhaps someone with the inside track can set me straight.

Be the bike.
"slipperier H3"sievers11
Oct 21, 2003 3:17 PM
I heard that it was mainly lighter and faster because of a better grade of carbon fiber and better hub enginering. I can't imagine that the new H3 would be that much faster aerodynamicly than the specialized, but it is so hard to tell the differences in shape, unless you had some serious testing equipment. Weight wise the new HED's are lighter, that would make them faster.

I also heard...0.020 mm or less to leave the factory as a first run. (is this right?)

I recently rebuild my specialized wheel, with new bearings. Then I rebuilt the $2 a pop (6001 bearing), I figured what the hell. Tossed out the seals (specialized has a metal seal in addition to rubber), then put in a high speed skate bearing oil. They are "Zipp" bearing fast now. Bearing won't last long, but hey I am only going to use 6 or 7 rides a year for 50 mins a ride.
Generally right - DuPont did the R&D, Specialized marketedKerry Irons
Oct 21, 2003 4:01 PM
DuPont did all of the engineering on the airfoil shape with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) calculations and wind tunnel tests. Likewise they developed the CF composite and manufacturing techniques. But DuPont did not have a channel to market nor any savy about issues like rim design or hub design. Specialized supplied the plain vanilla part of the wheel while DuPont supplied the science. Not sure what DuPont hoped to get out of the deal, though it might have just been flexing its technical muscle while gaining some hands-on experience in both design and manufacturing issues. DuPont gave (?) the whole thing to Specialized after a short while, and Specialized continued to build the wheel unchanged for many years. Great aerodynamics, hell-for-stout but with high weight, so the wheel was ripe for a re-engineering with modern CF technology. The aero aspects are not to be messed with, as these wheels have not been out-performed in lo these many years. But making the wheels lighter was a real opportunity for Hed, and so it was a win-win (for riders) that the wheel would be picked up by Hed.
When did HED jump-in?sievers11
Oct 21, 2003 4:17 PM
Some have said 1996, I would have thought it was earlier than that. I thought 1996 was their first year with product.
I'm thinking HED didn't pick it up until around 2000Kerry Irons
Oct 21, 2003 5:11 PM
But I don't keep close track.
That sounds about right 1999/2000TJeanloz
Oct 22, 2003 8:03 AM
I was working at a Specialized shop when it changed over from being a Specialized wheel to a Hed wheel, so it was probably ~1999 or 2000. Specialized sold very, very few of them, and didn't really care about the product - at that point in time, the Company (Specialized) was getting increasingly focused on mountain bikes, particularly dual-suspension mountain bikes. The Festina sponsorship in 2000 really got them back on the road scene - but the trispoke was gone by then.

The H3 is a little bit, and perceptably, different. The three spokes are a slightly different profile - a little bit fatter. The shape at the rim was also a little different. If you had a tri-spoke and an H3 side by side, you could tell which was which - but if you had either without the other to reference, it would be pretty hard to guess which you had, based on shape. It was a very minor tweak.