Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (2023)

Hunt Bike Wheels

A relatively new name to the scene, Hunt Bike Wheels was first established in the UK back in 2015 by the Marchment brothers; Tom & Peter. With a goal to shake-up the market by delivering sensible, durable and well-priced complete wheelsets direct-to-consumer, Hunt doesn’t shy from the fact that it utilises high quality components sourced from its Taiwanese manufacturing partners, some of which are producing parts for the much bigger brand names out there.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (1)

When Tom & Peter first started out, they went after the emerging disc brake road market, with a focus on offering wide, tubeless-compatible rims that were sensibly laced to double sealed cartridge hubs – ideal for their local UK market. The range has expanded rapidly since then, and now encompasses a plethora of road, gravel and CX wheelsets, including rim brake options and a deep-section carbon wheelset that Hunt proclaims as being the fastest disc-brake road wheelset in the world.

Last year, Hunt made the jump into the mountain bike market, with the release of three wheelsets; the Race Wide, Trail Wide and Enduro Wide – all sub-$1000 wheelsets built with standard J-bend spokes, double sealed cartridge bearing hubs, and wide, tubeless-ready alloy rims. The UK wheel brand has since added the heavy duty Downhill Privateer wheelset, its first carbon wheelset called the All Mountain H_Impact, and this; the Race XC Wide.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (2)

The Race XC Wide

The Race XC Wide is the lightest mountain bike wheelset that Hunt produces. It’s lighter than the existing Race Wide wheelset (1647g), which has been achieved by using a lighter rim, straight-pull spokes and hubs. Available exclusively in a 29in diameter and with Boost hub spacing, this is a wheelset that Hunt says is built to handle the demands of modern technical cross-country racing.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (3)

No Carbon Here!

Turn up to any XC race, and you’ll find the vast majority of competitors at the pointy end are aboard carbon fibre wheels – and for good reason. Carbon fibre rims can be made very light, and they can also be very stiff – attributes that are typically lusted after by weight weenies and big-quadded racers.

While carbon fibre continues to dominate when it comes to new wheel releases, the Hunt Race XC Wide bucks that trend by producing an impressive sub-1600g wheelset that utilises alloy – not carbon – rims.

The rims are made from a 6069-T6 heat-treated alloy blend to be specific, which Hunt claims offers 69% greater tensile strength vs 6061-T6. I’m no scientist, but given both Peter and his father John Marchment are both materials engineers, I’m inclined to believe that claim. The stronger alloy blend allows Hunt to use less material to reduce weight, with each Race XC Wide rim said to weigh just 380g. That isn’t quite as light as a 364g Stan’s NoTubes Crest MK3 rim, though it’s worth noting that the Hunt rims are a touch wider (24mm vs 23mm internally).

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (4)

How Light We Talking?

Confirmed weight for our test wheelset is just 1538g including the supplied tubeless tape and valves. That’s a darn competitive weight for any XC wheelset, let alone one that achieves it without carbon fibre. To put that number into perspective, here’s a look at a handful of alloy XC wheels currently on the market;

  • Hunt Race Wide (1647g claimed) – $629
  • Hunt Race XC Wide (1517g claimed) – $749
  • Stan’s NoTubes Crest MK3 (1579g claimed) – $999
  • Newmen Evolution SL X.A.25 (1480g claimed) – $1,130
  • DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline One 25 (1600g claimed) – $1,499
  • Mavic Crossmax Pro (1580g claimed) – $1,899

Certainly on paper, the Race XC Wide looks like a great value proposition. Of course you can go lighter with a carbon option like the Stan’s NoTubes Podium SRD wheelset (1287g) or an ENVE M525 wheelset (1388g), but you’ll be spending a helluva lot more cash – about four times as much!

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (5)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (6)

What’s The Build Like?

Every Hunt wheels is hand built and finished in Taiwan by two master wheel builders. The Race XC Wide is laced with 28 triple-butted stainless steel Pillar PSR spokes per wheel. These straight-pull spokes are slightly thicker at the head for increased strength, and they thread into 14mm alloy nipples that are hard-anodised for long term durability.

The 6-bolt hubs are initially forged from hunks of 6061-T6 heat-treated alloy, before they’re CNC machined and anodised into the final structure. Inside you’ll find sealed cartridge bearings with dual contact seals, and large diameter 7075-T6 heat-treated alloy axles.

The rear hub is a buzzy one, with 6-pawls set in a dual phase to deliver 72 engagement points per revolution. They’re not as obnoxious as a Chris King or Industry Nine hub, and I was able to dull a little bit of noise by adding a little extra lithium grease partway through the test period, but they’re still pretty loud.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (7)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (8)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (9)

At the time of ordering, you can request either a Shimano HG (9/10/11-speed) or SRAM XD freehub body. Hunt has just added a Shimano Micro Spline freehub option for the Race XC Wide wheels, which will be available from January 2020. For existing users, you can buy a freehub body direct from Hunt for a very reasonable $45.

The complete wheels are shipped with four spare spokes and nipples in the box, a spoke key, and RockShox Torque Cap front hub adapters. Kudos to Hunt for doing so.
A point worth raising for Australian riders is that while Hunt offers free worldwide shipping with the Race XC Wide wheels, they will attract a GST surcharge at the time of purchase, which pushes the price up to $823.90. Hunt does offer a range of add-ons via its webshop, including Schwalbe and Maxxis tyres, Peaty’s tubeless sealant, Huck Norris tyre inserts, tubeless repair kits, and various tools. This is worth considering, because if you can get your order over the $1000 threshold, you’ll be able to dodge the GST. Like any foreign online purchase, there’s still the chance of attracting import duties though – check out this section on the Hunt website for more info there.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (10)

Setting Up

With its shallow-profile rims and all-black finish, the Hunt Race XC Wide is an unassuming wheelset alongside big-profile carbon wheels with their shouty graphics. Look closer though, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the rims shot-peened finish and laser-etched graphics. Classy.

The rims are wrapped with Hunts own high-tensile PET tubeless tape, and valves are included in the box. A gently curved rim well is designed to ease tubeless inflation, and once the beads have popped in place, the H-Lock profile utilises ‘up-kicks’ to the rim shoulder to keep the beads locked in tightly to help prevent burping.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (11)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (12)

Hunt states the Race XC Wide wheelset is compatible with tyres from 2.1-2.35in wide. I’ve tested the wheels with 2.3in wide Specialized GRID tyres (a Ground Control on the front and a Fast Trak on the rear), as well as 2.2in wide Pirelli tyres (a Scorpion M on the front and a Scorpion R on the rear). In each case tubeless inflation has been effortless with a regular hand pump. No compressor or any foul language required.

On The Trail

My first experience with the Hunt Race XC Wide wheelset was on my personal Santa Cruz Blur CC, where they replaced a set of Santa Cruz Reserve 27s – a relatively stiff carbon trail wheelset. Having swapped over the same Specialized tyre combo while keeping everything else the same, the resulting ride quality was considerably different.

With the shallow alloy rims, the Race XC Wide offers an impressive degree of compliance. Compared to the Reserve 27s, the Race XC Wide is quite a lot smoother, and a whole 200 grams lighter too. This gave the bike a nice and whippy feel through twisty singletrack, with an ease to directional changes that’s useful in an XC racing scenario. I also found the whole bike was a little more composed in really filthy rock gardens, where the wheels wouldn’t punish me so harshly, with less pin-balling and violent tugs at the handlebar.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (13)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (14)

Looking to put them up against something a little more comparable, I did some back-to-back wheel testing with the Reynolds TR249 wheelset on the 2020 Canyon Lux CF SL 8.0 I’m currently reviewing. These are a superb set of hoops that weigh in at 1601g, with carbon rims that feature the same 24mm internal width, along with 28 straight-pull spokes front and rear.

I setup both wheels with exactly the same tyre combo – a 2.2in Pirelli Scorpion M on the front and a 2.2in Scorpion R on the rear. Tyre pressures were set to 22psi on the front and 25psi on the rear. I rode the wheels on a variety of local test loops, which included technical switchback-heavy climbs, loose rocky high-speed descents, and smooth buffed-out wooded singletrack. To round out the comparison, I spent a couple of test sessions on the Blur, and a couple on the Lux too.

The result? There’s no doubt in my mind that the Race XC Wide is one of the smoothest wheelsets I’ve ridden. They’re noticeably more yielding than stiff carbon hoops, with less shock coming through the contact points when I was hammering the millions of embedded square-edge rocks that bless my local trails around Bendigo. The longer the ride, the more noticeable (or unnoticeable) this characteristic is. And while this was something I was still able to appreciate on our two full suspension test bikes, it goes without saying that it’d be even more appreciable on a hardtail.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (15)
Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (16)

The Race XC Wides are only about 60g heavier than the Reynolds hoops, and I’m inclined to believe most of that difference is in the rims. I was still able to detect the improved acceleration – both off the start line, and when attempting to bridge a gap while racing.

But while the Race XC Wides are more forgiving in the rough stuff, they’re not quite as stiff laterally on buffed-out, high-speed trails. I noticed this on twistier, high-speed singletrack in the woods, where the carbon wheels were more responsive when rapidly changing direction and flipping from left to right. In comparison, there was marginally more understeer with the Hunt wheels.

No, it isn’t an enormous difference, and like a lot of handling minutiae, it’s the sort of thing that you subconsciously adapt to within a few corners. Still, it’s worth factoring into the broader picture of overall bike stiffness and handling.

Any Durability Issues?

Nope, these wheels have been rock solid, despite the punishment that wheels and tyres are subjected to on my local trails. The rims are ding-free, the spokes haven’t required any adjustment, and there’s been zero bearing contamination even with all the powdery moon-dust that’s built up around the seals. The hubs are easy to pull apart with tool-free end caps, so they’re a doddle to clean and re-grease periodically.

Hunt seems plenty confident in its product, with the Race XC Wide wheels coming with a very generous 120kg rider weight limit. You also get a 3-year warranty with the wheels to cover any materials or manufacturing defects, and there’s a crash replacement program too.

Review | The Hunt Race XC Wide Wheelset Is Proof That Carbon Ain't All That And A Bag Of Chips (17)

Flow’s Final Word

While many riders tend to overlook alloy wheelsets in their desire for carbon fibre upgrades, the Hunt Race XC Wide is proof that an all-metal wheelset can perform just as well on the trail, while even providing certain advantages.

Firstly, they’re mighty good value at well under a grand. Secondly, they’re very light at just over 1500 grams. Thirdly, they offer a smooth and compliant ride quality that lends itself well to the world of XC where bikes tend to be rather stiff and uncomfortable devices of torture.

Heavier riders and those who desire the most razor-sharp handling will likely still prefer a carbon wheelset – assuming you’re happy to pay the premium. And if you want to run wider tyres you’ll be better off looking for a slightly heavier alloy wheelset like the Hunt Trail Wide or Stan’s Arch MK3 for example. For those after a race-ready set of hoops that won’t shake your teeth out of your skull however, the Race XC Wide is a killer option for the money.

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