Hunt's latest take on an alloy cross country focused wheelset, with an affordable price tag.
Hunt has made a name for itself over recent years by offering MTB wheelsets, suitable for multiple disciplines, at a killer price. Its TrailWide wheelset impressed us and scored a place in our 2019 Editor’s Choice listing. These lightweight £350 XC Wide wheels are no exception, using a shot-peened, 6066 heat-treated aluminium rim that it claims has 34% more tensile strength than commonly-used 6061 series alloy. Hunt also specifies different alloys for different jobs in the CNC’d hub body, where oversized axles spin inside double sealed bearings.
- Best mountain bike wheels: aluminium, carbon and budget options
- Best mountain bike tyres: all-rounders and terrain-specific rubbers
The brand’s six-pawl, 36t freehub has a fast engagement of 5º and a ceramic coating to prevent gouging from Shimano HG fittings. Being XC orientated, the rims are skinnier, at 25mm, than most wheels you’ll find on complete bikes. Laced with 28 J-bend Pillar cold-drawn spokes (which are easier to replace than straight pull), they use lighter alloy nipples and asymmetric flanges on the front hub for more balanced spoke tension. Despite the narrower width, the rims work fine with 2.4in Maxxis Wide Trail tyres.
Whether Hunt’s claims about rim toughness play out is hard to say as (like other brands), we’ve dented plenty of Hunt rim walls in the past, and strength is also influenced by rim geometry and wall height. What’s in no doubt is the brand’s claim that they’re super fast. There’s an upgrade in rolling speed and acceleration that’s immediately obvious, and not just over the kind of basic, heavy OEM (original equipment) wheels you might want to replace at this price point.
How they ride
The pace injection is so strong, in fact, it feels more like the effect you get from fitting lightweight carbon wheels costing over a grand – the kind that makes your legs feel fresher, puts wind in your sail, and constantly urges you to squeeze in one more lap. Low weight’s a major influence on this sensation, but the thinner rim also moulds the tyre’s contact patch on the ground – making it longer and narrower – and that has a significant effect on turnover.
Like the (slower) Silt XC Alloy wheels, we didn’t find many drawbacks to having a narrower tyre profile or how it grips. In fact the steering is a bit more dynamic, with the bike tipping from side to side more easily than it would with a very wide rim. Wider rims do ‘plant’ tyres on terrain more solidly though, if stability is a priority – for a beginner for example.
One thing we didn’t expect from the XC Wide is the level of stiffness and solidity. The ride is choppy, with plenty of feedback over rough ground, and less compliance. In back-to-back testing with the same tyre pressures it was obvious that the Hunts transferred the most feedback and vibrations of all the wheels on test, even if this didn’t slow the bike down as much as we expected.
The fact you really zing uphill and along the flat on Hunt’s XC Wide wheels mean they offer a real tangible benefit. Do remember this is an XC-targeted wheelset, that works fine for trail riding as long as you don’t live anywhere rocky. For heavier riders on rougher tracks, these Hunt XC hoops aren’t the ideal solution.
Hunt's XC Wide wheels offer a low weight for the price, feel fast and are reliably built. Although the stiff 25mm rims work well with a broad range of tyre widths we did find they contributed to a slightly harsher ride quality than comparable wheels we had on test.