A few years back, if you wanted deep-section wheels like the pros, you had to pay handsomely for the privilege. More recently, we've seen a huge number of aero wheels available at more affordable price points. When Swiss Side set out to develop its Hadron range of clinchers, the goal was to offer class-leading performance at a more affordable price point. And the science has paid off – the Hadron 485 is a fast wheelset and amazingly stable in the wind.
Hadron wheels (named after that big circular tunnel near Geneva, of course) are available in rim depths of 48.5mm, 62.5mm and 80mm (front)/85mm (rear). All share the same fundamental construction, with aluminium rims and carbon fairings. Swiss Side says it's done an enormous amount of work to perfect the aerodynamic design of these rims, focusing on aerodynamic drag and also minimising the sensitivity to side-winds.
The people behind Swiss Side have deep roots in Formula 1, and their knowledge of wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) have played an integral role in the development of the product range. The same is true of other leading bicycle aerodynamics brands, but what sets Swiss Side apart is how it has made the process public. You can read, at great length (here), about the research, testing and decisions which shaped the Hadrons. Swiss Side says that this was done to give the prospective buyer confidence in the performance claims, and it's certainly interesting stuff.
I've been testing the 48.5mm deep wheels and they've performed well in a wide variety of riding. As ever, we've not had our own wind tunnel testing, but Dave did spend some time in a wind tunnel with Swiss Side, and the company has also published results from benchmark testing with leading (unnamed) competitors, suggesting that the Hadron range equals or betters more expensive competitors of equivalent depth.
Subjective impressions from our testing are also very good – I won't pretend that I can accurately determine the difference compared with other quality aero wheels of a similar depth, but they certainly feel like they're in the same ball-park, holding speed really well and making a rather satisfying hum in the process. They're louder, in fact, than other 50mm wheels I've tested, which I suspect is because the carbon fairing is much thinner than the walls on a full carbon rim, making it resonate more.
Swiss Side recognised that real world performance required more than simple straight-line drag reduction, and the aerodynamic development of the Hadron range also focused on a range of wind yaw angles and the resultant steering torque felt by the rider. As it explains here, a linear steer torque curve makes for handling that is predictable and confidence-inspiring. If you feel the bike to be stable and controllable in the wind, you are better able to remain in your aero position and maintain speed.
Here again my experience was very positive – these are without doubt the most stable wheels of this depth that I've tested. Racing on a windswept airfield, turning into and out of the wind engendered real confidence that the bike would go where I pointed it. This is a valuable commodity at 40kph-plus in a pack of 100 or so cyclists. Riding in the mountains, even sudden gusts when descending at speed weren't a cause for concern.
The key, undoubtedly, is the wide, blunt profile of the carbon fairings. The Hadrons are wide wheels, measuring 23mm across the brake tracks, and the fairing bulges out slightly giving a maximum width of 24mm. That's less than Zipp's 303 clincher rim or Spin's Dark Energy wheelset, but the rim shape is similar and the handling is a real treat. The deeper versions of the Hadron are wider still – the 80/85mm set are 28mm wide.
Arguably, the key advantage of hybrid rims like these (compared with a full-carbon construction) is the fact that the braking surface is machined aluminium, offering consistent friction and much better heat-dissipation than the black stuff. This makes for an excellent braking performance in wet or dry, better than the best full-carbon rims I've tested. I used the Hadrons on a trip to Andalucia, which included some pretty epic descents of up to 25km, and they were absolutely dependable, giving strong and predictable braking the whole way down. You can use standard brake pads, rather than needing carbon-specific pads, although I found performance was also pretty good with Cole's pink carbon-specific pads.
The Hadrons are handbuilt using Swiss Side's own hubs, forged then machined from 6061/T6 aluminium. They use quality sealed Enduro bearings, which spin very well, with a ceramic bearing upgrade available for £95.65 per wheelset.
Top-notch spokes are used too: Sapim's CX-Ray, with blackened brass nipples concealed inside the rim. This is inevitable given that the fairing wouldn't be strong enough to take the loads, but it does mean it's a bit more of a faff to adjust spoke tension – you have to remove the tyre and rim tape and get in there with a small socket wrench (not supplied).
Happily, the wheels were delivered true and with exceptionally even spoke tension. The front wheel is laced radially, with 18 spokes, and the rear wheel has 24 spokes with radial lacing on the non-drive side and two-cross on the drive side. The result is that the tension between left and right flanges at the rear is quite balanced, with only a semi-tone difference. The design of the rear hub flanges is rather neat, allowing the drive side spokes to cross without actually touching each other, avoiding any rubbing.
Wheel bending stiffness is good – I only saw brake rub with the pads set very close and under very heavy pedalling loads. The relatively wide rim helps with comfort too, making for a larger air volume in the tyre. I mostly ran 25mm tyres during testing – surprisingly, Swiss Side's own testing found that there was negligible difference in terms of drag between 23mm and 25mm tyres.
Claimed weight for these 48.5mm wheels is 1639g +/-5%. Ours came in right at the top of this tolerance band, at 1730g including rim strips; one wonders if some lucky customers get a set weighing 1557g or whether there's some marketing going on here. Still, it's not a bad weight for the rim depth and the money, close to that of several full-carbon alternatives such as the new Cosine 45mm set from Wiggle. As Dave learnt in the wind tunnel, though, for most riding, aero gains are more significant than weight losses.
The Hadrons are supplied with reasonable external-cam QR skewers and good quality wide rim tape. Wheel bags are not included but are available for an extra £47. A minor complaint concerns the length of the front QR – on one carbon frame that I used for testing, the QR nut would come off before it would clear the dropout tabs.
The fairing needs to be treated with care – Swiss Side says that the bike shouldn't be hung from a wheel, or strapped down around the rim. I forgot this when testing the Seasucker rack, without any apparent consequences. The wheels have a user weight limit of 105kg and a tyre pressure limit of 120psi.
The Hadron range is available with a Shimano freehub as standard but there's a no-cost Campagnolo option. Deeper-section versions are available for relatively little extra outlay (62.5mm deep rims for £29 extra per set, 80/85mm for £103 extra). Wheels are bought individually, so you can mix and match. Swiss Side has recently announced the launch of a full-carbon version, the Hadron Ultimate, which will start shipping in April 2016, with a total weight for the equivalent depth reduced to below 1500g, and the price moving in the opposite direction.
There are plenty of full-carbon wheelsets available for this sort of money, and some may prefer the aesthetic of a fully black rim without the silver brake track, but in terms of bang-for-buck performance, the Hadron is a really excellent choice. It combines top-drawer aerodynamic performance with great stability in the wind and dependable braking thanks to the aluminium brake track.
Excellent aero wheelset offering a compelling combination of speed, stability and good braking
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Swiss Side Hadron 485 wheelset
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Swiss Side says: "Inspired by Switzerland's revolutionary Hadron particle collider. Developed with previously unseen methods from Formula 1. Aerodynamically superior through extensive CFD development and wind tunnel testing. The Swiss Side Hadron is proven to be one of the world's leading aerodynamic wheel sets."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
RIDER WEIGHT & SAFETY NOTICE
– The maximum permitted rider weight for this wheel set is 105kg.
– Tyre pressures of 120psi should not be exceeded.
Rim: hybrid alu/carbon, 48.5 x 24mm (max width). Alu brake track is 23mm across.
Spokes: Sapim CX Ray straight-pull (18 front, 24 rear)
Nipples: brass, internal
Weights (excluding skewers and tape):
Front - 732g
Rear - 907g
Pair - 1639g
Neatly made wheels, with particularly even spoke tension. The aluminium provides the structural strength; the carbon is an aerodynamic fairing only. No corners cut in the details, either - top quality spokes, nipples and bearings.
Subjectively they feel fast, and Swiss Side has stacks of data which indicates as much. They are also really excellent across different wind conditions - the most stable mid-depth wheels I've used.
I've done a lot of miles on these and had no issues. You just need to look after the fairings which are made of quite thin carbon.
This is generally the downside of wheels where there's a non-structural fairing. For the money and the depth, though, they're not a bad weight at all; almost the same as the Cosine 45mm carbon clinchers we tested recently.
Generally deep-section wheels fall into one of two categories - expensive ones where a lot of wind-tunnel time, CFD and thought has gone into optimising performance, and cheaper ones where the performance claims are a lot vaguer. Swiss Side has impressed us with the scientific way it has gone about developing these, and to be able to sell them at this price is great.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Excellent even spoke tension and they stayed true during testing. Adjusting them is a bit more faff thanks to hidden nipples.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Easier with 25s than 23s, as they're quite wide rims, but not a massive problem in any case.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The skewers are the usual external-cam type which are a little squeaky. Also, the front skewer length could do with being a little longer - on one bike I fitted them to, the QR nut would come off before you could get it past the dropout tabs. Only minor issues, though.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well - remarkably stable in wind and proven speed. The braking is good, and they're a respectable weight if not class-leading in that respect.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Really excellent stability in the wind, the appliance of science to the aerodynamics.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Wouldn't be my first choice for climbing as they're not the lightest, and (being picky) the silver brake track arguably spoils the looks a bit. Also, I'd like to see a spoke tool included, given that you can't use a normal key.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
This is a fast wheelset with very few vices - built using good quality parts and designed with real science. I like it a lot.
About the tester
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.