On the Hunt for stock wheel upgrades. Apologies for the dad joke…. Usually the guide of ‘cheap/fast/good - pick two’ holds true. In the context of that saying, fast means speed of delivery, but in our mountain-biking world we take it to mean fast rolling. No-one seems to have told Hunt Wheels that their budget-minded offerings should make any sacrifice in order to hit price-points though. There’s no denying Hunt’s pricing structure is at the lower end of the range for aftermarket mountain bike wheelsets, but this is not a bad thing when the trade-offs with quality and performance are minimal - perhaps even non-existent.
This review is a little different in that we’re covering two styles of wheelsets - not in a direct head-to-head conflict style, but with the view that both products provide a budget-conscious offering for riders upgrading their stock wheels. The wheelsets in question are the alloy Hunt XC Wide, and the Hunt All Mountain Carbon. Although the XC wheelset is legitimately an option for riders who are all about the climbs (lightweight and relatively narrow by current standards) they’re an equally valid consideration for all-round trail riders who simply want to ride up, down, around and over all sorts of terrain, without a focus on pure climbing performance.
At face value, one wheelset is XC labeled – alloy and lightweight – while the other is trail oriented – carbon with a performance carbon design. What makes these worth speaking about together, really comes down to pricing. For a rider looking to upgrade their stock OEM wheelset of no-name, or house-brand rims and hubs, both these options are feasible considerations. Keep in mind, the XC Wide is only available in 29, while the carbon All Mountain is offered in both 29 and 27.5 guises.
Alloy - modest, but capable of embarrassing much fancier, more expensive offerings. First up, the alloy XC Race Wide wheelset. At $700 including shipping, these are available at a sharp price, largely due to Hunt’s online, direct-to-consumer model, which is increasingly common these days. When ordering online, you choose a SRAM XC, Shimano or Microspline driver. Your wheels arrive with tubeless rim tape and valves installed, along with the driver you specified. You’ll also get four spare spokes, of the correct length, for each wheel/side and a spoke key with inset tool specific to the wheelset. You’ll also receive a couple of stickers for your toolbox, your kid’s lunchbox or the neighbour’s letterbox.
The XC Race Wides utilise 28h front and rear with straight pull spokes. Those spokes benefit by being weight saving, but the downside is that they’re a little tougher to true. Alloy nipples offer a weight saving over brass, but are not my personal favourite as they can eventually round off with repeated truing. These are hard-anodised though, so long-term truing shouldn’t involve too much swearing… hopefully. Their weight, with rim tape and driver mounted (but no valve or discs), is 820g for the rear and 780g for the front - giving a flat 1500g total for the 29er wheelset. That is only 17g off their claimed weight and remarkably lighter than competitors in the same price bracket. If the rider’s goal was to achieve a lighter wheelset than that, it would invariably mean going carbon, at quadruple the price - or more. These are on par with the lightest alloy wheelsets available. In-the-field testing show the wheels hold up reliably on a go-everywhere trail bike, but there are limitations to the nature of narrow, stiff alloy rims.