Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc road wheelset review: wide and stable
A long-term review of Hunt's premium all-rounder road race wheelset.
A long-term review of Hunt's premium all-rounder road race wheelset.
As our road tyres have ballooned in width, so too have the rims that support them. Meanwhile, trends in aerodynamic wheel design aim to smoothly retain the airflow from those increasingly wider tyres. And of course, the reign of disc brakes has only spurred on this movement.
At 31 mm wide, Enve’s 4.5 AR wheels were arguably the first movers in the wider-is-faster philosophy in relation to matching modern tyre widths. And while others such as 3T and Cannondale offered similar, it was the UK-based consumer-direct wheel company, Hunt, who took it to yet another level.
Hunt made its splash almost two years ago with the 48 Limitless, a disc-specific aero wheelset with a 34.5 mm external rim width. Since then Hunt’s approach to aero speed with stability has been somewhat validated with the likes of Roval’s Rapide CLX mimicking the ultra-wide U-shape rim design.
It’s been a year since I received my test pair (sorry Hunt!) So, finally, here’s my long-term review of these performance road wheels.
Intended to be the company’s flagship all-rounder race wheel, the 48 Limitless Aero Disc was the first wheelset to be wholly designed in-house by Hunt. The project was spearheaded by Luisa Grappone (MSc Aerospace Engineering) who had previously worked under the banners of 3T and Campagnolo.
The goal was to create a truly disc-specific rim that was not constrained by the space, heat, or shape limitations of rim brakes.
The outcome was an ultra-wide rim that kept the air smoothly retained while using modern-width tyres. Here Hunt employs a structural polymer (aka foam) in the sidewall, a patented approach that aims to achieve the massively wide outer rim dimensions at a lower weight than if it was made entirely of carbon fibre.
At the time of launch Hunt claimed its blunt-profile and ultra-wide rims produced the fastest disc brake wheel under a 50 mm depth (company-provided aero comparisons can be found via that link).
Hunt’s unique polymer filler sits hidden within the rim sidewall, beneath a thin layer of carbon. It’s a surprisingly small component that occupies a width of approximately 2 mm and a height of roughly 5 mm on either side of the rim, below the bead hook.
These wheels initially came to market in 2019 and were quickly followed by an unfortunate voluntary recall related to the potential for rim damage in the event of impact. Having released fewer than 100 wheels to the market prior to the recall, Hunt quickly returned to the drawing board and revised its internal tests to go well beyond the testing parameters required of road wheels (the original versions passed ISO and UCI testing, and were designed with Paris-Roubaix in mind). The revised rims offered a modified layup and added about 32 g of material per rim. A not-insignificant increase for a performance road wheel.
As a result of that design revision, I weighed my sample set of Limitless 38 Aero Discs at a not-super-light 1,670 grams (with rim tape), 52 g more than the company’s claimed figure. While not feathery, the matching front and rear rims (there’s no front- and rear-specific profiles here) each feature a 34.5 mm external profile, a 48 mm depth and a rather generous 22.7 mm spacing between the bead hooks.
This hooked rim bed allows the use of almost any clincher or tubeless tyre ranging from 23 mm and up (but they are aerodynamically optimised for 28 mm tyres). “Hookless is forcing tyre choices on consumers, which Hunt is trying to stay clear of,” said Ollie Gray of Hunt. “It’s not our job to force them to do that. We seek to offer the decision to the consumer.”
The wheels are strung up with Pillar Wing bladed straight pull spokes (20 front, 24 rear) with Hunt’s free-spinning “Sprint” hubs between – the same straight-pull, center-lock disc hub used in the previously reviewed 34 Aero Wide. Within the rear hub sit three stepped pawls which provide 48 engagement points (7.5°). The hubs of my test samples feature CeramicSpeed bearings throughout, and Hunt has since released a lower-cost option with EZO steel bearings.
As tested with CeramicSpeed bearings, the 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheelset sells for US$1,969 (approx £1,412 / AU$2,639). Opting for steel bearings saves quite a bit, with the new lower-cost option priced at US$1,559 (approx £1,118 / AU$2,089). You can order the wheels in various common axle formats (except 100×15 mm), and to suit either Shimano, SRAM XDR or Campagnolo cassettes.
These prices are quite low given the tech involved, but unfortunately they may not be indicative of the final landed price. The pricing excludes international shipping, however Hunt does greatly subsidise the express shipping fee (e.g. Australia is US$39 extra). Additional import duties are included for some regions (UK, EU and USA), but will be an additional expense for those from other regions such as Canada and Australia. And then sales tax is also applicable to those in Australia, Canada, and certain states with the USA.
Hunt includes a number of small parts in the wheel box, many of which aim to keep you self-sufficient in case of future repairs. These include spare spokes and nipples, a spoke wrench, and a bladed spoke holder. All that’s really missing are the two 17 mm cone wrenches required to get into the rear hub.
Hunt provides its own appropriate-length alloy tubeless valves. Also included are a couple of center-lock rotor lockrings (standard external bottom bracket tool required for use), although with a steel construction they’re not the lightest option out. Six-bolt rotor adapters were previously included, but Hunt recently moved to making these a separate item for purchase as the majority of customers weren’t putting them to use.
You can tell quite a bit about the build quality of a wheel by assessing the consistency of spoke tension. Generally speaking, the straighter the rim, the more consistent the spoke tension. And my sample pair of the 48 Limitless fared only OK in this regard (however do keep in mind that this is a single sample).
Overall the tensions were fairly well balanced and consistent, but there were outliers present in both the front and rear wheels – namely on the respective lower-tension sides (right for front, left for the rear). The front wheel had a number of spokes that had between 5-10% deviation in tension. Out back, things were far more consistent, but still there was one spoke on the driveside that dropped almost 10% tension compared to the rest (which sat at approximately 112 kgf.)
While these tensions may not be perfect, they’re overall comparable to what’s commonly measured with many higher-end performance wheels. More importantly, those tensions didn’t change through the test period, there were no unusual spoke noises under power, and the wheels remained wonderfully true, too. And while the need didn’t arise, it’s a positive that the wheels can be trued externally (no internal nipples here).
Getting going with the 48 Limitless wheels is pretty straightforward and the wheels arrive awaiting tyres, cassette, and brake rotors. Hunt also offers the ability to purchase the wheels already set up with tubeless tyres, a cassette, and/or brake rotors.
Being a tubeless-ready rim the tyre fitment is on the snug side but I’ve yet to try any tyres that proved problematic to fit. Both the tubeless Continental and Maxxis tyres I tried inflated with a regular floor pump and offered a confident fit that I never had to think twice about. More importantly it’s nice to have the choice to install just about any tyre, whether tubeless or not – a feature that’s increasingly missing from many competing wheels in this category.
With an inner rim width approaching 23 mm you can be sure that tyres will plump up larger than the figure printed on the sidewall. For example, a pair of Maxxis HighRoad 28s inflated to an actual 31 mm.
Care must be paid to ensuring your frame and fork have the clearance for such ballooning tyre sizes. And similarly, the ultra-wide external profile of the rims needs consideration, too. I tried these wheels across a number of modern disc road bikes, including a Ritte Phantom, Specialized Tarmac SL6, and new Giant TCR Advanced Pro, and ran into zero signs of issue, but it’s still worth noting that some early disc framesets, with dated tyre clearance, could be problematic.
There’s no denying that once you’re rolling these hold speed amazingly well and with ease. In my testing, I spent countless hours switching between the 48 Limitless, the Scribe Aero Wide 42+, Giant SLR1, and Roval’s Rapide CLX. And while obviously subjective, I found the 48 Limitless to feel equal to or even faster than anything else of a similar or lesser depth, only beaten by the deeper Rapide CLXs (a review of those is on the way).
However, the shallower Hunt wheels have the Rovals beat in absolute stability, and even in blustery conditions there was no obvious pulling of the bars or having to dance around with the wheels – they always just felt well-mannered and planted like a hoop with far less depth than the 48 mm figure here.
Pushing the wheels into turns or swaying the bike from side to side revealed no issues of flex or the like. These wheels are built stout without going so far as to have a negative impact on ride quality. Similarly, I was pleased to not hear a whisper of disc rub that some hubs can encourage in similar sprint situations.
I’m well aware of the science that proves weight doesn’t have a significant impact on the clock, but mass certainly does change how lively a bike feels. These wheels carry much of their weight in the wide rims and they lack excitement when you’re trying to accelerate them from nothing. Thankfully such a feeling is brief, and once up to pace these wheels do roll with purpose.
Initially, I had the same complaint of freehub noise as I did in my review of Hunt’s 34 Aero Wide wheels, but a welcomed change to the profile of the freehub body’s pawls and springs is currently in the works.
These new low-noise freehub body parts made a world of difference. They immediately transformed these wheels from something that was obnoxious to even walk and one that screamed at speed, to something that now hums loudly and is more than tolerable by today’s standards. I measured the stock freehub at 83 dB (indoors, measured at 50 cm from freehub), while the new low-noise optional freehub clocked in at 70 dB, and while those numbers don’t seem all that different, I can assure you the perceived difference is significant.
Better yet, the new freehub parts have made no perceivable difference to the hubs’ solid durability and reliability. With a couple of simple tools they’re relatively easy to open for basic cleaning and greasing (something I’d recommend as ongoing routine maintenance for any hub), and the sealing means they should roll smoothly for a good period of time.
I’ve used these hubs with both Ezo steel and CeramicSpeed bearings, and while the latter do spin more freely and will be more durable in the long term (especially given the six-year warranty Hunt provides for its hubs with CeramicSpeed bearings!), I still struggle with the US$410 upcharge. The ability to get these wheels with a lower-cost bearing is a new option and should make these wheels more attainable for many.
That said, while I don’t think I’d stump up the extra coin for the better bearings, it may be a justifiable expense if you’re the type to constantly trash bearings and/or simply want the fastest-rolling option.
The low-noise freehub may solve the issue of the wheels being too loud for the ears, but unfortunately, the permanent graphics (you’ll void the warranty by removing them) remain a little too loud for my eyes. When it comes to graphics my preferences almost always lean toward simple and minimalist design, and the Hunts completely lack the latter. The white-on-black graphics worked on some bikes, such as the Giant TCR Advanced Pro, but to my eyes they looked tacky on bikes lacking white detailing.
And if you’re the type to lean your bike up against things by the rear tyre then you’ll want to pay careful attention that you’re not scratching the protruding carbon rim in the process. I experienced this issue when carelessly rolling the bike out from the back of the car, and again when trying to do a quick chain wipe with the bike balanced. Thankfully the painted rims warded off both incidents without a mark.
Super stable, reliable, fast, and with open tyre compatibility, the Limitless 48 Aero Disc wheels have plenty to offer without asking a huge price in return. And while duties and taxes make that price less attractive for those based in certain parts of the world, Hunt’s generous rider care lifetime warranty adds back a good measure of value.
Hunt may have had a rocky start with a recall at first, but I truly have no qualms about the durability and reliability of these wheels in their current form. And while I’m sure Hunt wouldn’t recommend it (especially given they now have a dedicated gravel version), I’d have little hesitation putting these carbon fibre circles on a cyclocross bike or road-leaning gravel bike.
That said, all that aero tech at such a price isn’t without a trade-off, and the figure on the scales is perhaps proof of that. Those seeking an all-rounder road race wheel that can excel on the flats and conquer the mountains will likely want something lighter than these, and although I know in my head that the grams don’t matter all that much, my heart says otherwise.