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Hunt Race Aero Wide wheelset review

22 Sep 2020
Verdict:

Incredible wheelset upgrade to boost not only climbing and sprinting but also everyday riding

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Weight-saving • Simple to set up • Shrug off impacts • Flex-free • Durable build quality

It’s a common contention that the most effective upgrade you can make to any bike is to its wheelset. The Hunt Aero Race Wide wheelset, handbuilt in the heart of Surrey, is hugely worthy of consideration if you’re upgrading any low to mid-range bike – machines typically featuring low-cost wheelsets in order to hit an eyecatching price point.

Key to this review of the Hunt Aero Race Wide wheelset is that I’ve already tested the Ribble R872 they’re fitted to, but while it was wearing Mavic Aksium wheels, effectively making it our ‘control bike’ for this experiment.

Scaling up

Weight is naturally at the heart of most bike upgrade decisions. To this end, while the Hunt Aero Race Wide wheelset is not in the featherlight category, it does shave a few grams off.

Using an identical Shimano 105 11-32 cassette (£54.99) and the 28c Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres and tubes previously fitted to the Mavic Aksium wheels on the Ribble R872, the weight of the front Hunt wheel (including valve cap and quick-release skewer) is 1014g.

The rear wheel tips the scales at 1054g. What this amounts to is a 160g total weight loss in rotational mass.

Fitter, faster

Getting a 28c folding tyre to seat on the 24mm wide rim of the Hunt Aero Race Wide wheels takes two tyre levers and zero swear words – a rarity.

Hunt says the wheels will take anything up to 34c, so gravel and cyclocross are go (and they're more than up to the job strength-wise). The fitment of a Shimano 105 cassette could have been easier had I not spilt it across my patio and had to piece the cogs and spacers back into the correct order again like a dangerous toddler’s toy tower, but slotting each part on to the H_Ceramik coating of the Hunt freehub body was an almost therapeutic experience.

Reaching for a Pro Starter Toolkit (£99.99) supplied me with the correct Shimano lockring tool to secure the whole cassette.

 

Time to ride

Initial concern at the tight clearance between brake block and rim is forgotten within minutes when I set out to cover an undulating local loop.

Hit the climbs and the Hunt Aero Race Wide wheels flex not one jot. Power up shallower inclines and the bike becomes more alert to inputs; acceleration feels noticeably more immediate.

Straight-pull spokes and hubs are claimed to bolster strength, and the sensation is certainly of more direct reaction to my pedal strokes.

Weight isn’t the whole story here, either – rolling resistance performance is discernibly improved. Hunt says the fitment of EZO sealed cartridge bearings with the rear hub upgraded to S&S low-friction seals on the internal bearing face is a contributing factor in this department.

Strength is of no concern – these wheels have shrugged off rippled (and downright pothole-ridden) B-roads whilst staying true throughout.

Although, despite their moniker, the wheels don’t appear to be built with aero in mind, Hunt’s development engineer Chris Colenso explains: 'Traditionally, you might associate an aero-developed rim to be a deeper section profile. However, aero optimisation is much more than that, with its aim being to produce the most efficient system considering all performance factors.

'In the case of this alloy rim, the considerations were maximising the depth whilst balancing weight. If you go too deep with alloy, the weight penalties are significant.'

Buy now from Hunt for £379

Interestingly, the aero benefits come not from the depth of the rim in this case, but more from its width. 'The overall rim profile is optimised to ensure an efficient system with both 25 and 28mm tyres, therefore accommodating this trend for wider tyres given their greater comfort and rolling resistance performance,' Colenso adds.

'The 24mm external width benefits the aerodynamic performance because when considering the flow over the tyre there is a higher chance of reattachment of that flow after it has transitioned over the tyre than with a narrower external width. If separation of the flow from the surface occurs, then the performance is significantly reduced.'

Boutique feel

There is a lot to recommend in this wheelset, but sometimes it’s the details that matter. Like the fact that Hunt has considered the skewers – fitted with self-lubricating brass cams and rust-proof stainless steel springs.

Then there’s the signed quality control card from the person who built these wheels (Victor, since you ask…), discovered upon unboxing.

Buy now from Hunt for £379

The Hunt Aero Race Wide wheels are not the most eye-catching to behold, but that’s part of their charm – I like a ‘sleeper’. Clocking a pair of these on a bike is almost a case of ‘if you know, you know’, and unlike megabucks deep-section wheels, they offer a serious performance boost for a sensible price, without making you look like a total whopper on the club run.

Price: 
£379

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