Unquestionably one of the best upgrades you can chuck on a road bike is a wheel set, with different designs giving different results. Super light low profile rims for climbing, and deep section aero for speed on the flats. Matching a set of wheels to the terrain you ride for 75%+ of the time will really get the most out of your bike, and as tech continues to filter down to a lower price point you can get some real bang for your buck nowadays.
The cycling around Bournemouth is pretty flat and up until this point I’ve been running a very lightweight (1300g) set of Easton climbing wheels, whilst they accelerate quickly and climb well they don’t hold speed due to lack of aerodynamics. I’ve been hankering after aero carbon wheels for a long time but they haven’t really ticked the boxes that would enable me to purchase. We are talking bang for buck, watts for wedge. Until about two years ago (unless you wanted cheap chinese wheels of spurious quality) you couldn’t buy a set of aero carbon wheels for less that £1500. Sadly this was way out of my price range.
This price bracket has now been absolutely smashed by the guys at Hunt, not only have they beaten the pricing then have also rewritten the rule book of how an aero carbon clincher wheelset should be specified. The wheels I have purchased are tubeless compatible out of the box, have 27mm wide rims, and have the latest U profile 50mm rims. All these specs add speed. At £900 I snapped up a set (although due to the popularity of the wheels there was a near two month wait for delivery). For the price you get tubeless valves, spare spokes, quick releases, spoke key, and spoke holder. Everything ready to just bang them on!
The wheels are built with aero spokes laced into lightweight alloy hubs fitted with EZO bearings. These bearings also have low friction seals to reduce drag further. The rear hub has a really great sounding freehub with a nice positive buzz to it, it also engages super fast with a 48 tooth ratchet and 3 pawls. These should be pretty maintenance free and reliable as none of this is new or ground breaking tech, it just works. I also means that spares should be in ready supply if need be.
I’ve covered about 400 miles on the Hunts now and I’m very impressed. The first thing I noticed was how sure footed they felt, the additional rim width and increased tyre profile really give a solid but nimble feel. You can really lean on the tyres but still have a sharp turn in response. Wider rims open the tyre out increasing its radius, increasing tyre contact patch, and shoring up the sidewalls. This reduces tyre roll leading to that surefooted feeling. Another benefit to running a larger tyre/rim combination is the ability to run lower pressures without losing speed, in fact you can gain speed as rough roads are swallowed up and no longer act as obstacles in the road (don’t get me wrong though, you cant just charge up kerbs!). The last bonus of this setup is the tyre and rim sit flusher and become more aerodynamic.
The Aero 50mm rims are no fatties either, weighing in at 1537g (Hunts data), with rims only weighing in at 498g (again from Hunt). Now compare that with the Mavic Open Pro UST rims I run on my winter bike at 430g each that aero profile doesn’t come at much of a weight penalty. There is very little difference in their climbing ability over the previous Eastons or the Mavic winter wheels. Yes there is a slight difference but I am not running the Hunts tubeless like the Mavics and this does change the weight of the wheel significantly, with 68g in rim difference and 100g in tube weight, over 300g is noticeable. Weight is something that aero wheels have struggled with for years with most set being 1800g+, especially hybrid items with alloy braking surfaces,so Hunt have done really well at this price point.
That brings me onto one key aspect of running carbon rims, braking. Its taken a long time for rim and pad manufacturers to get the braking performance up where alloy rims are, they have done a pretty good job now. The Hunts come complete with special pads to work with the basalt braking surface and its very close to alloy braking (admittedly I have only ridden these in the dry so wet weather is yet to be tested) but with the occasional squeak you get from carbon!
So then, the speed. Aero wheels are fast, the Hunts are no exception. They compliment the Ribble R872 so well (read transformed it, unlocking the speed in the frame). The wheels are stiff, hold speed really well, accelerate hard, and handle well. Very confidence inspiring. They are perfectly suited to the road cycling around Bournemouth enabling me to hold onto 25mph on the flat with a little work, and I’m able to sprint them over 35mph with a good push. On the descents….. there’s as fast as you can handle!
Finally, is the looks. Hunts low profile monochrome branching is nice, it doesn’t shout too much. The all black setup is classy and fits with everything so whats not to like? I guess some people like things a little flashier, if so go buy yourself some stickers!
To sum up, I can wholly recommend a set of these wheels. They do everything you need them to do. Light, fast, brake well, and look awesome. The only negative with deep section wheels is that they are more susceptible to side winds, but in the 400 miles I’ve covered I’ve not found this to be an issue. £900 is a snip for technology that would have cost you twice that four years ago. You can get them online from Hunt Wheels but I purchased mine through The Woods Cyclery as they are a local Hunt wheels dealer.