Review: SwissSide Hadron Classic 485 Aerowheels – More Performance for Everyday Cyclists

swissside hadron review

If you want performance in a wheelset, do you go for the lightest wheels, the most aerodynamic wheels… or the cheapest wheels? The verdict is ‘aero’ because it delivers the biggest performance gains and I am just joking about choosing the cheapest. But you don’t have to break the bank either because performance wheels can be more accessible than you expect. SwissSide position their aerodynamic cycling wheels right at the top of the ladder… beyond Zipp, Enve and Mavics. This young Swiss brand is gaining traction among elite level triathletes and their new range of Hadron wheelsets serves both elite athletes as well as mere mortals who just love to cycle with great equipment.

This is a review of their smallest profile (48.5mm) full carbon fiber aerowheel in the Hadron Classic series for Rim Brakes. It has accessible pricing and can be broadly described as an all-rounder. Before we start this journey, how do you even sift through the marketing driven world of wheelsets and why would you chose SwissSide?

 

Why SwissSide?

Whether you call yourself a Mamil, an everyday cyclist, a club racer  or elite cyclist, it is not particularly easy to pinpoint the best brand and model wheelset because you have to wade through all of the marketing jazz first. You need to weigh up the popularity; big brands tend to be readily available and are seen as more trustworthy but some of the lesser-known brands appear to have a similar spec but cost much less. You will also have to see which wheels your cycling buddies and the pro-riders use and recommend. And you may even get advice from the bloke at the bike shop who will tell you that you have got it all wrong and their XYZ brand of wheels are the ones you need.

swissside hadron aerodynamic wheelset review

As a rider seeking the best value and performance, there is a huge range of brands and models available, but locating the facts among the buzzwords is hard. For this independent review of the SwissSide Hadrons, I’ll share my own experience but for hard data will refer you to the SwissSide in-house data. In context, all the brands release data which they feel is beneficial so it is fair to treat this data with a degree of caution. But SwissSide regularly invite cycling media to their wind tunnel and comparison tests plus they publish more test data than you have probably seen from any other brands. Instead of buzzwords, their focus is on describing the aerodynamic concepts and sharing real test data to visualise the performance differences. To lend further credibility, the SwissSide engineers have gained a reputation within the cycling industry for their comprehensive testing and are regularly engaged by other brands for their aerodynamics expertise.

swissside hadron review design

To summarise why you would opt for SwissSide; they are the most aerodynamic wheels available and are better value than competing ‘big name’ wheelsets.

 

The two sides of Hadron

This year, the new Hadrons aerodynamic wheels have been released with two series, the affordable ‘Classic’ and the top level ‘Ultimate’. The carbon fiber fairings are identical and core difference between a Hadron Classic and Hadron Ultimate is the hub.

A highlight of the new Hadrons is the flat pricing – both the Classic and Ultimate series include a 485 (48.5mm), 625 (62.5mm) and 800 (80mm) profile wheel and you can chose between a rim brake or disc brake version. Irrespective of the profile size or brake type the Hadron Classic’s the retail price is (ca.) $1,980 for a set while the Hadron Ultimate costs (ca.) $2,650 as a set. As a detail, a front and rear wheels are priced differently and the flat pricing makes it easy to mix and match so you can choose a 625 front wheel and 800 rear wheel for competition.

SwissSide have a ‘direct to customer’ business model and with this approach cut out the middleman. The new Hadrons to come with a price increase over previous model so are inching closer the price-bracket of big brands.

For Australian cyclists and triathletes, keep in mind that for online orders, the European taxes are removed but Australian customs will likely levy tax and duty. More info: calculating the expected tax and duty on imports.

A wheelset ships to Australia for about (ca.) $220 and for the Hadron Classics, the GST and duty would be around $280 so the total cost would be around $2,480. Even with the shipping and import costs, tallying the price, specs and performance against other ‘big name’ wheelsets would still see the Hadrons ahead.

 classic- 485 wheelset review

This year SwissSide announced a partnership with wheel brand DT Swiss which is a bit surprising as they could also be described as a competitor. The distinction is that Swiss Side are concentrating on the absolute top-end aerodynamic market while DT Swiss sell a broad range of wheels in different performance and price categories.

The partnership brings two advantages, firstly DT Swiss do the assembly, although I never had concerns with older SwissSide models, this is a symbol of quality and reliability. The second advantage is that the entire global DT-Swiss dealer network can be used by SwissSide owners should after-sales support be required.

In the BNA video, the SwissSide Hadron range is introduced along with a look at the Hadron Classic 485 wheels.

 

Out of the box

You can spend thousands on a wheelset but they usually all arrive in a brown cardboard box and there is no marketing magic when you unpack. The front and rear Hadron wheels however were packed in individual boxes rather than together so this provides a bit more protection during transit.

swissside review accessories

Beyond the actual wheels, the contents of the box are fairly unspectacular. You get instructions, the quick release skewer, valve for tubeless, brake pads and valve extenders.

Providing the valve extenders is a good move, it saves cyclists from being stuck if they only have short-valve innertubes available. Swiss Stop Black Prince brake pads are provided so it is an ‘All Swiss’ affair with wheels, brake pads and the hub all delivered from Swiss brands.

swissstop black prince brake pads

 

Details

The Hadron Classic 485’s have the 48.5mm profile rim and is full carbon with a carbon fiber braking surface. The aluminium rim in the previous generation hadrons is now gone. On the road this makes the wheels much quieter as the previous aluminium rim with carbon fairing construction amplified the noise.

The wheelsets are tubeless-ready and you can use the provided valve and appropriate tyre along with tubeless sealant, or simply opt for an innertube. I appreciate the versatility of tubeless (over glued tubulars) because I can always put in a spare tube and get home if I get a puncture.

swissside hadron review tubeless

The carbon rims are smooth with bold decals and rim-tape is already mounted. I received wheels for testing that has the regular white decals though customers can also choose from blue, green or yellow decals if you want to match your bike and style. The wheels are modern and subtle and the toned down graphics also make the SwissSide Hadrons less recognisable.

aero wheel review

swissside hadron review aero spokes

Black DT Swiss Aero Comp spokes connect the rim and hub without a visible nipple (to eliminate drag) and the wheels have 20 spokes up front and 24 on the rear. Tying each wheel together is the DT Swiss custom hub which is labeled, DT Swiss 370 Classic. In comparison, the Hadron Ultimate’s use the DT Swiss 240’s which weigh less and has a design which further reduces wind resistance.

swissside hadron classic hub

The 485 Hadron Classics weigh 1691 grams which is respectable, on top are the cassette, skewers, tyres and a tube or tubeless sealant. If you wanted to compare the weight, the higher level Ultimate wheel save you 90 grams and on paper, travelling at 35kmh over a 40km distance – when all factors are the same – there is only a 5 second total time difference (ca. 30 meters).

Competitors include the slightly lower profile NVE SES 4.5 clincher wheels with DT Swiss 240 hubs which weigh 1,526g while the ZIPP 404 Firecrest clinchers weigh 1620g. If weight is the deciding factor, then the Hadron Ultimate 485’s are 1,520g and still sell for less than the Enve’s and Zipps.

 

Assembly and setup

Bike wheels are pretty straight-forward to setup, you just need to put the cassette on, tyres and new brake pads then check and adjust the brakes and gearing. I used a 10-speed Shimano Ultegra cassette with my spacer and barely needed any fine-tuning of the gears. The freehub takes 10 and 11 speed Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo cassettes. At the end of the review, the aluminium freehub was notched, but that is perfectly normal for aluminium.

swissside hadron classic dtswiss

The brake pads demand a little more time to get the position, toe-in and gap exactly right. I like about 1mm gap, as I face some steep downhills (top speed was 85kmh), braking has to be spot-on. After setting up the brake pad positions, I didn’t have to do a single adjustment over the course of two months testing. After about two rides I cleaned the pads and rims with a clean rage to remove road grime and any excess material. There is a bedding in process and I helped by applying the brakes lightly while pedalling on the first ride for a few short intervals and taking a care on the downhills. But unlike some disc brakes I have used, I felt that the Hadrons were able to deliver maximum braking capabilities very quickly.

brake pad toe in

Mounted on the rims where the crowd-favourite Continental GP 4000 II’s in 23mm width. Swiss Side recommend 23mm tyres and suggest that a 25mm tyre can be used on the rear for increased comfort. Tyres also play a role in aerodynamics and Swiss Side testing shows that these are the best.

continental gp 4000 tyres

I had no trouble getting the tyres on or off. Generally I refuse to use tyre levers on carbon rims and was able to massage the tyres on fairly easily.

 

Hitting the hills

I fancy myself as a confident hill climber and Hadrons worked in my favour as a relatively lightweight wheel with sufficient stiffness.

Sufficient stiffness… is exactly the right amount needed because when a bicycle wheel is too stiff, it becomes quickly uncomfortable. With high pressure road tyres (I was at 110psi), compliance in the wheels and frame helps to absorb road noise and some of the shocks. Be rest assured, these are still stiffer than your average aluminium wheels and power is transferred directly. Even with the brake pads set at about 1 mm from the brake track I didn’t get any rub or indication of flexing.

In direct comparison with a similarly sized ‘cheap’ full carbon wheelset , I could recognise some of the differences. The cheap wheels were a little spongier and it just didn’t feel quite as precise in the handling. Plus the cheaper carbon fiber wheels on the cheap model had more sideways flex and while cornering or sprinting, there was a lot of break-rubbing. This unnecessary flex means power is lost while on the Hadrons, the power transfer works to my advantage.

aero wheel review

When cycling fast, particular on downhills, the differences in handling and efficiency become more apparent. I really like how the Hadrons Classic 485’s feel exact, the more wind hitting the wheels, the more they self-regulate and try and keep straight. Blasting downhill the Hadrons are extremely stable so I was quickly leaning into corners with confidence. Even hitting 85kmh, I was always in control and never had any concerns that I was out of my comfort zone.

Braking felt even and regulated, no vibration or pulling – I use the pulsing brake technique of braking heavily and then releasing which allows built-up heat to dissipate rather than constantly braking which is a bad habit. While I was completely confident in the rim braking power, during the heaviest braking there was a loud resonating noise which SwissSide confirm is just a trait of pairing these wheels with the Swiss Stop Black Prince brake pads. In the SwissSide video you can hear an example of this. Compared to other full carbon wheels which can be a bit weak for braking power, I could both regulate braking and also brake hard with immediate effect.

whee review

As a lighter rider at about 80kg, I am disadvantaged on downhills against heavier riders. When the big riders on their aero bikes and aero wheels take-off, their gravitational advantage is hard to counter. With the Hadrons, some smart pedalling and a good aerotuck position, I was generally able to gain and hold onto a downhill lead. There’s no hard data to support my wild claims… but the Hadron just feel fast.

During the entire review period I didn’t have a single wet ride so to make up for this, I integrated a few bone shaking cobble stone (pavé) stretches into some of my rides. At the right speeds, the wheels bounce and skip across the cobbles and I have to take control to guide the bike but could find a good flow. Over cobbles there is nothing unusual to report, the wheels didn’t complain but regular sealed roads and bike paths are simply nicer.

 

It’s all about the wind

The wind can be your enemy or your friend, depending which way it is blowing. The 485’s dealt with strong winds and gusts really well – I could feel the wind but was not pushed around – the wheels felt steady and grounded. Light hands were enough to provide control and direction and against strong winds, the Hadrons would slice straight through without dragging or feeling heavy.

One of the curious traits of of deeper profile wheels is that they can introduce the sail effect to help propel you forward. I can’t say that I distinctly noticed this on the 485’s except to say that I could notice when the wind was working to my advantage on my body, bike and wheels.

Another concept which SwissSide highlight as part of their aero advantage is reduced rotational drag. Based on their studies, rotational drag accounts for 25% of overall drag but it is generally overlooked by most brands in their testing.

“The difference between round spokes and aero spokes is 1.5W, which is 12% of the total wheel drag. Similarly hidden nipples make a difference of 0.5W, another 4% saving. In a market where most top aero wheels are within 2W of each other these are significant findings.”

For comparison, Enve also have hidden nipples in across their range of aero wheels while Zipp use a visible nipple for their entire (current) range.

While the 485’s don’t compete against the 625’s or 800’s in their aero performance, I benefit from a lower weight and improved handling which suits my style of riding. Even for the occasional race, there is no need to swap wheels and so the Hadron Classic 485’s are a wheel for all conditions.

 

Pros and Cons

+ Accessible price for a great performing wheelset
+ Excellent all-rounder
+ Excellent handing and ride-feel
+ A great balance in weight, stiffness and areo

– Squealing brakes
– Returning the wheels at the end of the review

swissside hadron classic review

 

Conclusion

The Hadrons Classic 485’s balance stiffness, weight and price extremely well while delivering a package that brings you into the realm of aerodynamic performance.

More Details: SwissSide Hadron Classic 485

 

Other SwissSide Coverage on Bicycles Network Australia

The Future of Aero: Swiss Side Hadron Wheels and Aeropod Launched
Swiss Side Blown Away by Wind Tunnel Testing Success
Bicycle Accelerator: Swiss Side Hadrons in Review
A Rare Insight into Wheelset Design: Swiss Side Hadron



Alternative Text
About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

2 responses to “Review: SwissSide Hadron Classic 485 Aerowheels – More Performance for Everyday Cyclists”

  1. Michael says:

    Hi Christopher,
    Great review and it’s good to see new players with data to show what the benefits are rather than claims that are not provavble or are so vague that they don’t mean much.

    But as rider that would love to get a set, I’d hardly describe a landed cost of $2,680 as accessible. Sure it’s cheaper than some of the established names, and the mix/match ability is great, but over $2,500 for a wheelset is still a HUGE chunk of money. For me, accessible would be under $1,500.

    Tell me I’m dreamin’ !!

  2. Fair comment – the pricing is more accessible that competitors though probably is inaccurately described as accessible which tends to refer to ‘affordable’ or lower priced items.

    The original Hadrons with the aluminium rims indeed would fit the bill so when describing ‘inching towards the price of big brands’ it is probably stepping towards as it is a big leap.

    Absolutely love these wheels… and they will deliver on value but you have to be able and prepared to spend.