A little while back we had the pleasure to drop in on the folks that run Hunt Bike Wheels (along with their ITS Cycling distribution company) out of a small town in Sussex, in the south of England. I was just around for a quick visit, but they decided the best thing I could do to get a feel for their small company was to get on a bike and get out for a ride with on their local roads. They put me on an aluminum Definition road bike from Mason Cycles and their new 38mm deep carbon wheels. Then we proceeded to hit the narrow local lanes, steep hills, strong coastal winds, and even get a nice torrential downpour for that full British ride experience. See how the wheels fared after the break…
It can always be a bit tough to get a good feel for a single component on a bike that you ride for just a few hours, but I’ve been putting in a good bit of time riding a Mason x Hunt 4 Season Disc wheelset also with the Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires and the guys dialed my fit in perfectly before I arrived. What I could tell right away was that the wheelset had a much stiffer feel then the 4 Seasons, with only a negligible 50g weight savings. Even though the 4Seasons have turned out to be an excellent handling wheelset for everyday riding, the 38 Carbons that we previewed a few months back were noticeably more stiff and secure dropping into tight turns. A bit of that stiffness did translate into feeling the road a bit more. These definitely aren’t a carbon wheelset that deadens road feel. Sure they trim off a little road buzz, but with an 18.5mm internal width (1.5mm>the 4Seasons) these are wheels that are best ridden with 25s or 28s and lower tire pressure.
Hunt builds these wheels to stand up to a lot of everyday abuse, and for a carbon wheelset at 1530g they aren’t super light. But add in disc brake hubs and the fact that Hunt will set them up tubeless for you out of the box, and it is hard to beat the balance of U-shaped aero profile + low rolling resistance and reliable performance of contemporary road tubeless.
images courtesy of Hunt. Instagram @huntbikewheels
I had no problems getting these wheels up some of the steepest climbs the South Downs has to offer, and they treated me well in the stupid strong headwinds that we hit cresting the Devil’s Dyke. The only problems came when we took to riding perpendicular to strong coastal winds along a few kms of exposed ridge road. In steady 40km/hr cross winds the 38mm deep wheels were no issue to manage, leaning gently into the wind, but the occasional gusts of twice that lead to a couple of harrowing moments. Following the wheel of recent Transcontinental winner Josh Ibbett on the 50mm, I wasn’t envying him. On my home turf where strong cross winds are not very common, I’m pretty confident that the 50mm or 38mm rims would be fine. (I regularly ride a similar 45mm deep blunt-nosed rim without problems.) But if I regularly rode over the South Downs and hit strong gusts coming up off the coast, I would think twice about even the shallower 35mm wheels.
As to bits of dirt, mud, and gravel, I can say that the wide tire bed and tubeless setup was perfect. And during an hour or so of torrential rain on unfamiliar roads, I can’t fully express how perfect disc brakes and wide low pressure rubber are. Riding in that kind of wet weather, on roads where you are likely to find washed out gravel around every steep turn, there is thankfully no reason to really even think about braking on carbon rims any more. At £950 for a carbon clincher wheelset (or £1000 for the 50mm option), there really aren’t many other competitors that give you a proper molded in tubeless-ready bead, and I still think Hunt’s optional inclusion of tubeless tires pre-installed is one of the smartest ideas in the business. So if the 38 or 50mm carbon wheels are in your price range, I’m pretty confident that you’ll be happy with the purchase.
The carbon wheels I had a chance to ride had Hunt’s old graphics package, which was just some thin (but surprisingly durable) white vinyl brand and model name decals. But they’ve done a bit of overhaul of the finish for the 2016 line-up with a new gloss black on matte black look. The new design is subtle, but allows Hunt to include their crossed spoke logo and some more tech details without more white text.