Today, with the launch of the ARD44 wheelset, Chris King adds an all-road offering to their FusionFiber wheelset lineup that previously catered to gravel cyclists with the GRD23 and mountain bikers with the MTN30. Laced to King’s R45D hubs, at 25mm internal width and 44mm deep, ARD44 wheels are designed for riders of all roads – from tarmac to dirt tracks. Josh got his hands on a set of these new aero wheels just a few days ago and shares a first look below…
Many wheel brands are working with US-based CSS Composites to manufacture thermoplastic FusionFiber rims as an alternative to traditional carbon fiber. There are various advertised benefits for doing so, including enhanced durability, better compliance, and even the potential for recycling once a rim reaches the end of its life. When Forge+Bond (CSS Composites’ house brand) launched its mountain and gravel wheel collection last month, Travis Engel dove deep into the weeds of this relatively new manufacturing process. He outlined its benefits and implications for the cycling industry. While I won’t be rehashing that conversation today, Chris King’s new ARD44 represents an interesting development in FusionFiber as the first US-manufactured aero wheel made from the material.
The ARD44 press release from King says the wheels are:
“…designed for serious cyclists who want all-out speed on flats, climbs, and through corners. It’s an aero wheel that shines across a wide range of terrain, from smooth pavement to rough gravel roads.”
They are leaning into current trends where more and more riders are realizing the benefits of wider rims and tires. In the same press release, Greg Husson, Wheel Product Manager, unpacks this idea:
“We all used to think that 19-21mm wide tires inflated to incredibly high pressure produced the fastest ride. We mistook the harsh ride that setup produced for speed, when in reality it caused a loss of speed, through lost traction and body fatigue. These ARD44 wheels represent everything we’ve come to understand about what makes riders faster.”
I always try to jam the biggest tire I can on all of my bikes. I prefer 2.6-3.0″ mountain tires and, on gravel bikes, usually anything wider than 48mm will do. I prefer comfort and traction rather than bouncing around, thinking skinny tires might shave some time off my ride. So, it’s refreshing to see this wheel option that seems to be a combination of both.
ARD44 rims are paired with R45D hubs, which are available in any of the 2023 color options (including the new 3D Violet pictured here) and a choice of ceramic or steel bearings. Of course, some of the performance gains many will find with any of King’s wheelsets, including the ARD44, come from their hubs. Named after their 45 points of simultaneous engagement, King claims R45D hubs are optimized for lateral stiffness and durability with single-piece axles, house-made bearings, and perfectly matched races.
Additionally, the ARD44 are adorned with a fresh logo design. The simple “KING” mark is said to be complementary to King’s unique FusionFiber gloss finish while not distracting from the wheelset as a whole. All new GRD23 and MTN30 wheels will also receive this subdued logo.
The ARD44 is “aerodynamically tailored” for 28mm-32mm tires, but its 25mm internal/30.5 external width can accommodate a variety of sizes up to an advertised 700x47mm. This means that to maximize the rim’s aero properties, you wouldn’t want a tire to significantly exceed the rim’s external cross-section. However, there are wind tunnel studies that prove even some drag reduction is possible when using wide tires on aero rims. King doesn’t have much information available yet about the aero properties of the ARD44, but I’ll dig into this further during my forthcoming in-depth review of these wheels in a few months.
I currently have Teravail Rutland 29 x 2.2 tires mounted to this wheelset. It’s one of my favorite gravel tires and the ones already set up on my Amigo Bug Out with Industry Nine UL250 wheels (also with a 25mm internal profile), as reviewed here. My Bug Out is currently still set up in winter tour mode, with lots of storage for longer rides, but will soon be back to summer sport mode where I’ll mostly use it on flat and fast gravel rides as temperatures here in southern Arizona start to climb — a perfect testing environment for these wheels. When I asked the folks at King about using the wheels with tires exceeding the recommended width, they responded with a resounding: “Go for it.” Soon, I’ll swap the wheels over to a true “all-road” bike that’s currently in the works. It will have narrower tires, but the idea to test them across a broad spectrum of tire sizes – in King’s view and mine – will highlight the perceived versatility of the ARD44.
In addition to any potential aerodynamic benefits gained from these deep rims with wide tires, I’m also interested in testing their handling performance and compliance. Will the added depth help absorb chatter and small bumps while creating a smooth, comfortable, and responsive ride compared to a more standard depth gravel rim like the UL250? Look for my review in a few months!
- 44mm Depth Front and Rear
- Weight – 1525g / Set
- 435g (+/- 15g) Rim
- Available with Ceramic or Steel Hub bearings (+$120 for ceramic upgrade)
- R45D Hubs available in all 2023 Color options
- Designed for 28mm-32mm tires, accommodating up to 47mm.
- ISO 5775/ETRTO 25-622 Rim Bead Seat TSS Hookless rim design for seamless compatibility with modern TSS road and gravel tires.
- FusionFiber Thermoplastic construction for unrivaled comfort, speed, and handling.
- 25mm internal rim width / 30.5 external width
- MSRP: $2850
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