Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Wheelset Review. Hunt Race Aero Wide
My quest to find the great all-rounder wheelset continues.
The primary spin-off from the atrociously early demise of my beloved Dura Ace C24s, with their rapidly vanishing braking surface, was the momentous decision that disc brakes are my future. The secondary one, since I'm not willing to just sell all my rim-brake bikes immediately, was a search for a worthy replacement for my favourite climbing wheelset. One that could handle the relatively harsh conditions of tropical roads, but one that you might be able to replace parts of without too much diffculty, should they go wrong.
I had been paying attention to the Hunt company, a British outfit, barely 2 years old. Their customer reviews - not to mention sponsorship of British Pro Continental teams and numerous design awards - gave me the confidence to take them seriously. Plus, they are one of the new breed of manufacturer that only deals directly with the consumer online, and have all sorts of safety nets for the customer, including a 60-day returns policy.
I was obviously looking for something robust, but being that it would be part of my climbing bike setup, I couldn't help trying to factor in a bit of weight reduction if at all possible. Dangerous ground perhaps. You have to save the weight by reducing something, and one of the criticisms of the C24s is that the braking surface is compromised through attempts to shave weight. Many of the options I looked at were bomb-proof, gravel crunchers, but somehow I wanted to try and keep the set under 1500g. In the end though the choice for me was between two Hunt options: the extra-robust 4-Season Aero at 1579g a pair, or the lighter Race Aero Wide at 1487g.
It was the Race Aero that won. These wheels not only have a weight and aero advantage, but at around 400 GBP, are remarkably good value too. At 31mm of depth and 24mm width, these are designed to work with 25mm tyres for the optimum aero advantage, plus the ability to run lower tyre pressure for improved comfort and handling.
Every wheel you check out on the Hunt website has availability listed immediately in the opening description, so apparently I'd have to wait 3 weeks before the stock became available. Not an issue, and they also offer the option of paying an initial booking deposit so you only have to pay the full price when they are ready to ship. They also offer free worldwide shipping on any order over 70 GBP.
True to their word, the wheels came into stock a little ahead of schedule. They arrived on my doorstep within a couple of days of shipping, and were soon equipped with a pair of 25mm Continental GP4000s and rolling happily up and down all my favourite local hills.
The first impression is that they roll very nicely. The bearings are fast and smooth, and the wheel has a robust feel to it. They really climb very well and feel laterally stiff when out of the saddle. They also feel quite aero, and are quick to pick up speed on descents. In the corners they quickly inspired the confidence to trust them, even at their higher rolling speed, and with the 25mm Contis at around 80psi, I'm really rocketing down my favourite technical descents.
I switched the skewers to a pair of Dura Ace after a few rides. I have yet to be convinced that anyone except Shimano knows how to make skewers. I just can't enjoy a ride if my bike is making noises, and it's an art I have not yet mastered to stop the average skewer from creaking. I hoard my old Dura Ace skewers, and any new wheelset almost immediately gets the skewers switched out. Freehub sounds nice though.
A lot of the roads I ride have poor surfaces, and these wheels definitely have a good amount of vertical compliance which is important for the kind of endurance rides I do. In fact it's a given that the nicest, quietest roads have the worst surfaces, since the integrity of poor old tarmac is no match for the flash-floods of the tropics, and only the roads which see heavier traffic volumes get regular facelifts.Vertical compliance is possibly the most crucial consideration when putting a bike together here.
The wheels looks great in a nicely understated way, with an anodised silky-matt surface and the quite minimal but stylishly different brand logo. Add a pair of the very black GP4000 tyres, and the braking surface really stands out, especially on my "stealth" machine, so visually they are a great match for this bike.
Overall I'd say that they feel a lot more expensive than they are, and for the money, you're really getting a great wheelset that should last you a few years. If you're in the market for a light alloy-rimmed wheel for hilly rides that you can train and race on, then I can't see you finding anything significantly better than this.