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by Matt Wikstrom
May 1, 2017
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
When disc brakes started appearing on road bikes, proponents predicted a change in wheel design and construction. However that change has been very slow, especially where carbon rims are concerned. It is taking place though, and Hunt Bike Wheels is one company that is embracing new thinking for road disc wheels.
In this review, Australian tech editor, Matt Wikstrom, takes a look at what Hunt has to offer with its 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset.
Hunt Bike Wheels is a small rider-owned company that was established by two brothers, Peter and Tom Marchment. After working in the UK bicycle industry for many years, the two men decided to capitalise on their experience in marketing and product sourcing to start up their own company.
The decision to start Hunt really stemmed from an unfulfilled desire. As avid road cyclists, the Marchments had a clear idea of the wheels that they wanted for themselves, but they couldn’t find a company that could supply them. The realisation that they knew a lot of riders that also wanted the same kind of wheels provided the impetus to concentrate on wheels.
The first steps towards the launch of Hunt were taken in the second half of 2014, and by early 2015, the Marchments were ready to announce Hunt to the world. Underpinning the company’s ideology was a devotion to tubeless technology, wide rims, and wheelsets that could serve year-round riding without succumbing to demanding road and weather conditions.
Hunt’s first wheelsets were alloy however the company moved very quickly to expand its catalogue to include carbon fibre rims for both rim and disc brakes. Every wheelset is tubeless ready, and for an extra charge, Hunt can supply and fit tubeless tyres with sealant. Prices for Hunt’s alloy wheels start at £249 (~AUD$400/US$310) and £949 (~AUD$1,525/US$1,160) for carbon wheelsets.
Hunt sells all of its wheels online according to a customer-direct sales model. Rather than attempt to hold stock and anticipate customer demand throughout the year, Hunt uses a batch ordering process instead. Customers simply place a pre-order with the company for £69-99 (~AUD$110-160/US$85-122) and the balance is collected once the wheels are ready to be dispatched.
The interval between each order varies depending on the popularity of the wheelset, however the expected delivery time for the next batch is clearly shown on Hunt’s website. In some instances, the wait period can be as short as six weeks, while in others it can be as much as 16 weeks. While this strategy won’t satisfy trigger-happy online shoppers or those that are desperate for a new wheelset, it’s an economy that allows Hunt to charge a little less for its wheels.
For this review, I spent a few weeks riding Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset courtesy of Hunt. This wheelset features disc-specific all-carbon clincher rims, weighs less than 1,400g, and comes with a variety of adaptors to suit different hub axles and rotors, all for £999 (~AUD$1,610/US$1,230).
The 30Carbon Aero Disc has everything you’d expect from a performance-oriented wheelset: a lightweight 30mm all-carbon clincher rim (claimed weight 380g), relatively low spoke count (24 front and rear) and semi-aero bladed straight-pull spokes, and a pragmatic hubset (made by Novatec) that is compatible with all of the axles found on road disc bikes today.
At face value, the generous U-shaped profile (30mm tall, 26.5mm wide, 21mm bed) of the 30Carbon Aero rim may seem generic yet it boasts more disc-specific features than many other brands manage for their road disc wheelsets.
For starters, the 30Carbon Aero lacks the hooks normally found on a clincher rim. Such “hookless” rims are nothing new — automotive wheels are all hookless and MTBers have been using them for a few years now — however Hunt is one of the first companies to bring hookless rims to road cycling.
The whole notion of doing away with the hooks on a clincher rim may terrify some, the primary fear being that the tyre will suddenly blow off the rim. But strictly speaking, the hooks don’t actually keep the tyre on the rim; that’s what the bead of the tyre is for. When the bead of the tyre is a close match for the bead seat diameter of the rim, then the tyre will remain on the rim, even at high pressures.
Hookless carbon rims started showing up in the MTB market a few years ago and now Hunt is applying the design to its carbon road disc wheelsets.
The hooks are more important for guiding the tyre into place as it is inflated, though they can compensate for a loose-fitting tyre by stopping it from blowing off the rim. There is a limit, though, as to how much the bead hooks can compensate for a poorly fitting tyre.
The reason bead hooks have persisted for road clincher rims is that they mitigate the risks associated with high inflation pressures (>100psi) and even higher tyre pressures that can develop with the heat of rim braking. Such concerns don’t really apply to disc-equipped wheels and tight-fitting tubeless tyres.
Getting rid of the hooks was more than an academic exercise. Hunt could also see that it would make for a better rim. Manufacturing a carbon clincher rim with hooks is a demanding process because there is a high risk of voids associated with moulding the hooks, or if they are machined, then the carbon plies must be cut. Without having to resort to either process, Hunt’s hookless rims promise to be tougher, plus, they are also a little quicker and cheaper to produce.
A closer look at the rim bed design for Hunt’s 30Carbon and 50Carbon hookless rims. Note the raised lip at the edge of each ridge that locks tubeless tyres into place.
The rim bed was refined to improve its hold on a tubeless tyre. Where most tubeless-ready rims employ simple ridges, Hunt has added a lip (dubbed “H-lock”) to the inner edge that acts to lock the tyre bead in place. As a result, the tyre is much less likely to slide off the ridge, even when low pressures are used.
While some manufacturers are happy to modify their existing rim brake rims for disc brake use by leaving the brake track unfinished and adding larger logos, Hunt abandoned the brake track altogether and swapped to a low-temperature resin to add extra impact resistance to the rim.
It is well known that low-temperature resins aren’t as brittle as those designed to resist high temperatures. And according to Hunt, its so called V:Absorbe resin not only increases the impact resistance to the rim, it’s also more effective at damping vibrations. When added to the other features of the rim, Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc rims are truly disc-specific.
Hunt uses hubs supplied by Novatec for its 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset that can be easily converted from standard quick-release axles to work with different-sized thru-axles.
Hunt applies the same level of careful consideration and thoughtfulness to the rest of the wheelset. The straight-pull Novatec hubset that wears Hunt’s branding is essentially identical to that found in Prime’s RP-38 road disc wheelset, the only difference being the choice of mount for the rotors. In this instance, Hunt allows buyers to use both Centre Lock and 6-bolt thanks to pair of adapters that are included with the wheelset.
The 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset ships with a choice of three freehub bodies — Shimano/SRAM, Campagnolo, or an XD Driver — quick-release axles, and some nice skewers with internal cams that offer a smooth, easy closing action and plenty of bite. The Novatec hubset can be easily converted to suit other axle types (see my review of Prime’s RP-38 wheelset for a closer look at this), however the only extras that Hunt supplies are a second set of end caps for the front hub to suit a 12mm thru-axle. Be that as it may, the company stocks various end caps and axles that can be ordered with the wheelset to suit the buyer’s specific needs.
Hunt uses Pillar spokes to build all of its wheels. This brand lacks the same kind of cachet as DT and Sapim, however Pillar has been making spokes for over 30 years. In this instance, Hunt has chosen a butted and bladed spoke that goes by the name of PSR X-TRA. As mentioned above, there are 24 spokes in each wheel, laced two-cross with alloy nipples and washers.
Out of the box, Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset is ready for Centre Lock rotors…
…but for those that own six-bolt rotors there are a couple of adapters…
…that can be used to quickly and easily install six-bolt rotors to the wheelset.
All of these parts come together to create a very classy and attractive wheelset. Hunt keeps the branding to a minimum with a simple logo that proves there’s no need to assault the senses to make an impression.
Total weight for the wheelset sent for review was 1,327g (front, 587g; rear, 740g) including tubeless tape and valves but no skewers. That’s a low weight for any set of clinchers, more so for a road disc wheelset. It does come with a couple of limits though, namely 95kg for rider weight and a maximum of 100psi for tyre inflation.
The 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset has an asking price of £999 (~AUD$1,610/US$1,230) with free worldwide delivery. Buyers outside of the EU will be liable for any other taxes or duties, so for buyers in Australia, that means another ~15% (~AUD$250).
Each Hunt wheelset is supplied with a two-year warranty as well as a 60-day ride-and-return policy along with rim tape, tubeless valves, a pair of skewers, two pairs of end caps for the front hub, six-bolt rotor adapters, spoke wrench, and a couple of spare spokes and nipples. For more information, or to place an order, visit Hunt Bike Wheels.
From the moment I pulled Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset out of its box, I was looking forward to riding them. The presentation really caught my eye in a way that few carbon wheelsets do. They were also very light, promising all sorts of agility and responsiveness, and with a relatively low asking price, they were starting to look like an ideal upgrade for any road disc bike.
The wheels did not disappoint. Stiff and light without being harsh, they were easy to ride on any terrain and in any conditions. Taking off from a standstill, there was never any hesitation, and when I wanted to accelerate, the wheels almost anticipated my needs.
The benefits of the low rim weight were most obvious on any slope. They were very agile, offering the kind of zippiness that made me feel like I could go faster up any of my favourite climbs. It didn’t matter whether I was in the saddle or out of it, I was always able to lift my pace.
Hunt goes all the way to supply the wheels with a decent set of skewers with internal cams that are easy to use and provide plenty of bite.
The 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset was as predictable and well mannered as any low-profile wheelset. I found it easy to descend and corner on these wheels, and when it came time for a hotly contested sprint, they were easy to wind up. There’s no point in talking about brake rub for a road disc bike, however the wheels always felt sturdy and responsive under load.
I spent about a week riding paved roads with 23c tubeless tyres then switched to 30c tubeless tyres for a week of unpaved routes. The wheels performed flawlessly in either setting to the point where I was able to take them for granted and enjoy the ride.
Cannondale’s CAAD12 Disc Ultegra served as the test rig for all of this riding, a bike that was literally weighed down by a very heavy stock wheelset. Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset was the perfect upgrade for the bike, knocking 500-700g off the total weight of the bike (depending on the size of the tyres). What started out as a capable road bike was transformed into a lively race bike.
At this stage in the life of road disc bikes, wheel choice is critical for offsetting some of the extra weight associated with disc brakes. At present, this penalty can amount to 500g or more, which may go unnoticed by enthusiasts and endurance-oriented riders, however experienced racers are less likely to forgive the difference.
In the past, a sub-1,400g wheelset might have been something of a luxury for a rim brake-equipped bike, yet it’s almost a necessity for a road disc bike. Considering that a lot of the stock wheelsets that are being supplied with road disc bikes at the moment typically weigh more than 1,600g, I expect that Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset will do the same for the performance of almost any road disc bike as it did for the CAAD12 Disc Ultegra that I was riding.
I didn’t have any trouble installing and inflating tubeless tyres on the 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset. In this regard, the wheels aren’t any better or worse than many other tubeless-ready wheelsets on the market. That all changed when it was time to remove the tyres because it was incredibly difficult to unseat them.
Those that have had experience with tubeless tyres will already know that the tyres need a little extra effort to unseat after the air has been let out. Pinching the tyre firmly is normally enough to accomplish this. In the case of the 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset, both tyres refused to budge and I needed several minutes of careful prying with a tyre lever to dislodge them from the bead seat.
While this demonstrates just how effective the H-lock design is at securing the tyre, I wouldn’t relish this task on the side of the road. Repairing a cut tubeless tyre in the field is already challenging enough — the sealant makes everything very slippery, including your hands — yet Hunt’s hookless rim design adds to the difficulties to make it very time-consuming, if not near impossible to repair, tube, or replace the tyre.
While this issue might be a deal-breaker for some buyers, it’s worth noting that it had no effect on the seating of standard clincher tyres. According to Hunt, there is no strict requirement to use tubeless tyres with the 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset, so for those worried about the issue they can bypass the problem by using standard tyres.
Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset ticks most of the boxes as a reasonably cost-effective wheel upgrade for any road disc bike. First, there is low weight of the wheelset; second, Hunt supplies a number of extra fittings and sells many others to help with the compatibility of the wheels for any road disc bike; and third, there are enough features to label it as one of the few road wheelsets on the market today that is truly disc-specific.
Hunt’s pricing for the 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset is too high to ever describe it as a bargain, but consider this: in terms of performance, I’d put in the same category as Zipp’s disc-equipped Firecrest 202 clinchers. Both wheelsets offer the same kind of versatility and class, yet Hunt bests Zipp on the basis of weight, price, and tubeless compatibility.
Looking at the rest of the market, it’s hard to find a road disc wheelset that can compete with Hunt’s 30Carbon Aero Disc wheelset on every front. As a result, it really appears that Hunt has outpaced the market (at least for now) and that this is one upgrade that road disc bike owners cannot afford to overlook.