Overview: For the elite cyclist or triathlete, this is one of the best all-around wheel sets on the market. Incredible stiffness, low weight, easy serviceability and proven aerodynamics make the HED Stinger 6 FR one bad-ass wheel set.
After an entire year off from competitive racing, 2011 will be a re-birth of sorts for me. The effects of racing as a triathlete for the last 10 years led to an unfortunate mental and physical burnout. With over a year off, I’m now craving the competition I left behind and I’ve decided to dedicate my efforts to cycling. I raced at a high level as a triathlete, and I want to see if I can reach the same level as a cyclist.
The first step in my athletic reincarnation was my approach to training. Once I got that sorted out, it was time to invest in some gear. I bought a Cervelo S2 and am absolutely loving it. I decided my next upgrade would be wheels. I needed an all-around set that would carry me through hilly road races, crits and the occasional time trial. With a glut of carbon tubulars to choose from, I went with the wheel that offered the best performance for the price.
I have always been a fan of Zipp and have never actually owned a pair of carbon wheels from any other brand. But when I looked at the specs for a set of 404’s compared to the Stinger 6’s, I decided it was time for a change.
The defining characteristic of the Stinger 6 FR (Flame Rouge) is the 28mm wide rim, which is one mm wider than the Zipp 404. The advantages of a wider rim include a more comfortable ride, increased aerodynamics and crosswind stability. HED requires this wheel be used with a at least a 23mm tire in order to maintain the warranty. The disadvantage to the wide rim profile include the annoying task of having to adjust your brakes in order to have the calipers open wide enough to accommodate the width of the rim. I went with Zipp’s carbon brake pads and was able to adjust my SRAM Red brakes wide enough to work. A co-worker who purchased the same wheels had to grind down his Swissstop Yellow pads.
I still get excited about new gear the way a 6-year-old gets excited for candy. After glueing on some Vittoria Corsa Evo CX Tubulars, I was ready to roll. My first ride on these wheels was a windy cruise along the coast that provided the perfect terrain to test HED’s claim of manufacturing the “most stable aero wheels” available. I prepared myself to get blown all over the road, but to my surprise, the effects of the gusts that came from every angle were far less than I expected. I felt in total control of my machine even with powerful blasts of direct side wind. These wheels handle more like a 40mm deep rim than a 60mm rim.
I did a few sprints out of the saddle once I was warmed up. I don’t often “wow” myself, but ‘holy crap these things are fast’ was my only thought as I rode back to work with a huge smile on my face.
Braking power and control felt great along with overall compatibility with my bike. I raced twice the following day and the Stinger 6’s excelled over the rolling course, helping me snag two top-ten finishes.
New Design for 2011
The 2011 Stinger 6 is not simply tweaked from last year’s model; it’s a whole new rim shape, much more like a different species rather than an evolution. The 2011 wheel is dramatically more aerodynamic than the previous model. HED claims at a 15 degree wind yaw angle, the new Stinger 6 produces 100g less drag than the previous model. The overall result when combined with SCT (Stability Control Technology) is a faster wheel no matter which direction the wind is coming from. The 2011 Stingers are also 20% stiffer laterally and 16% more impact resistant thanks to a new carbon layup schedule over the previous model. Thus the new Stingers are stronger and more resilient than previous models with added stiffness for those out of the saddle sprints.
The Stinger 6 FR wheels use HED’s FR Sonic hubs. Incredibly smooth, light, and aerodynamic is the most accurate way to describe them. For 2011 the Flamme Rouge (FR) Sonic hubs have been made more serviceable thanks to a grease port on the rear hub body. The result is quicker and easier service to keep the bearings rolling smoothly.
Bottom Line: These wheels have helped renew my passion for racing and I can’t wait to test myself aboard the Stinger 6’s this season. Aside from the minor hassle of having to mess with my brakes to make them work with my bike, I love everything about this wheel set. If you’re looking for an awesome set of wheels that can handle any discipline of racing, the HED Stinger 6 should be on your short list.