Wide rims aren't just the domain of mountain biking - wider rims on your gravel bike can also increase performance and comfort.
Hunt Bike Wheels are making waves internationally with their high performance, high value wheel sets. While their mountain bike range isn't exhaustive, they do hit the mark with their alloy XC wheels and their alloy eMTB and enduro wheels - plus their carbon all-mountain wheels. Where they are quite well-known is in the road and gravel space, given their competitve pricing and wheels that have garnered favourable reviews by the international cycling press and customers alike.
Having tested a pair of Hunt Race XC Wide wheels last year, I was thoroughly impressed with the build quality, finish and ride of their wheels. With gravel cycling booming, and gravel bikes potentially replacing clapped out hardtails in sheds around the country, I thought it was worth taking a closer look at a modern, well-priced gravel wheel set.
Gravel riding is pretty hot right now, but my take is that a gravel bike can be limited by tyres and wheels. Unless you have one of the strange gravel bikes with suspension (yeah, why?), then your tyre and wheel interface is essential for traction and comfort. And like on a mountain bike, that can be optimised by rim width and profile, plus tyres - and even rim protection like CushCore CX as tested in Issue #189. So that means I looked to the Hunt 4 Season Gravel X Wide wheels.
These wheels roll on sealed bearing hubs, and they have interchangeable end caps and freehub bodies. This means they can accept 12mm or QR rear ends, and QR, 12mm or 15mm forks. That should cover just about everything. These wheels were sent with a HG 11-speed freehub body, with a spacer for use with Shimano 11-speed MTB cassettes. You can also select SRAM XD or XDR freehub bodies, or Campagnolo 8-12sp or even their 13-speed freehub bodies. All the hubs are centrelock, which is pretty standard on road, cyclocross and gravel bikes.
Inside the freehub, you can see there are 4 pawls and easy access to the inner bearing for maintenance. This is tool free removal, so if you've been on an adventure that has been really gross, it will be easy to pull the freehub off and freshen up the grease.
The wheels have a claimed weight of 1697g, these came in at 1737g with the centrelock fitment and tape. So that's about spot on for a base weight. These wheels are not really about being super light though, there are other models for that. It's about the specs. They have a 25mm inner width and 29mm external width, and they're 19mm deep. Some might argue that they're more progressive than a NoTubes Crest Mk3 rim! As these are for gravel, they're rated for 35mm tyres and larger. Cyclocross is limited to 33mm, so it's great to see these wheels as a gravel specific wheel set - not something carried across from road or 'cross. The shallower depth, asymmetric rim and wide rim (especially compared to a 35-44mm tyre) really show that these hubs have a lot in common with a mountain bike wheel set, aiming to optimise the tyre and rim dimensions.
The fitted tape is super neat, and the box comes with spare spokes, two alloy tubeless valves, and a nice little checkilst from your wheel builder. The valves are easy to fit, and from experience they inflate well, although the Maxxis Ramblers I fitted keep deflating. They have done that on my other wheels so I think it's a tyre thing, not a wheel thing.
These are replacing a slightly taller, lighter, narrower wheel set - Easton EA90 SL wheels. So I expect the 40mm tyres fitted will be a little more supple, and I'll get a slightly more compliant ride. Which would be good, as my 'gravel' bike is a hard working cyclocross bike that gets used for anything that isn't mountain biking.
The Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc X-Wide wheels sell for $629, which is a good price for anyone looking to upgrade their wheels on a stock build. To me, gravel bikes have come through a bit of a funny area. Until the last year or two, their parts sometimes suited endurance road riding and commuting more than gravel and dirt road thrashing. And that's fine. But if you want a bike that lets you understand the fun of gravel riding, you need a bike with the right frame stiffness, compliance and clearance, with geometry for stability, a reliable and wide gear range, and a comfortable cockpit. Having the right wheels is part of that mix, and kudos to Hunt for building a wheel which looks like it will deliver.
Stay tuned for a full review in a coming issue.