Hunt launched their 25mm and 40mm deep Carbon Gravel Race wheels this summer and we’ve been getting the miles in on these aggressively priced and aggressively fast 40s ever since.
If your looking for the best gravel bike wheels, these 40 Carbon Gravel Race are superlatively rapid on smoother surfaces and comfortable on your wallet. On the flipside the wheels stiffness are not so kind on your back, wrists, or at sustaining rough ground speed.
Design and components
The 40mm deep rim is Hunt’s own design derived from six years of testing and selling carbon ‘gravel’ wheels. It uses a hookless sidewall to mold a lighter, stronger rim edge, and the 25mm internal width can handle tubeless tires from 28mm to 65mm (that’s a 29 x 2.3in MTB tire). Hunt’s proven H-Lock rim bed lip means a proper snap and lock into place too. They are bang on 40mm deep as well with gently curving sides and a broad ‘nose’ that's not radically weird in any way.
The spoke nipples sit outside the rim for easy maintenance with a washer seat for easier adjustment. They are alloy though so be careful of potential corrosion and seizing in winter. The Sandvik Pillar spokes are multi-butted for lightweight strength and aero profiled in the center to drop drag lower. You get 24 of them laced with a two-cross pattern front and rear too.
These Race titled wheels get Hunt’s new lightweight Sprint SL Disc straight pull flange hubs with a Centre-Lock splined disc mount. They can be supplied with all likely axle standards apart from 15mm front and come with Shimano/SRAM, SRAM XD, or Campagnolo freehub bodies. These all use the same 3 x 3 tooth leaf sprung pawl mechanism for acceptably prompt 7.5-degree engagement. As they’re race wheels you even get an upgrade to a faster, low-friction sealed version of the normal Japanese EZO bearings for minimum drag. The Shimano/SRAM free hubs are steel rib reinforced to stop gouging too. Hunt doesn’t recommend this hubset for heavy-duty or bikepacking use though and while the advised overall weight limit is 115kg, riders from 90kg should check their wheels regularly. The H-Care Lifetime Crash Replacement policy is an extra £59 when you buy your wheels, but well worth paying the extra for peace of mind.
Ride, handling and performance
With a rim weight under 400g despite the 40mm depth and the reasonably fast reacting hubs, the Carbon Gravel Race wheels take off faster than a cat on firework night. The low overall weight is a gift when it comes to gaining altitude too and they’re very stiff under power if you’re kicking for the summit. They’re deep enough to give a tailwind feel even when the grass and trees aren’t even wafting and headwinds don’t seem as hurtful either.
While I’m not going to pretend I could perceive the reduced seal/bearing drag I’m happy to presume it helps add to the speed of these wheels. And that speed is fast enough to feel like a genuine extra gear gift on smoother tracks/groomed gravel and actual roads. My regular riding mates were delighted to be able to hear the vocal free hub spinning for extended periods as they plowed along on point while I rested. That’s not just anecdotal hype either as my Strava was happy to prove they were comparable with my road times when I was running them with super-fast Schwalbe G-One RS tires.
Where my mates got to laugh though was when things got lumpier or techier. Even with mid-20s pressures in the super supple 40mm Schwalbe’s the Gravel Race is a thumping rather than forgiving ride. At a more tire survivable 30 psi bigger bits of geology, cobbles or tractor ruts hammer harshly and it starts to become hard to keep a gear turning smoothly. Lack of compliance means traction suffers too and I found myself running wide on loose or lumpy corners and slipping drive compared to softer, impact-shrugging wheels like the Reserve 25/GR I was testing at the same time with the same rubber. And while bigger tires will obviously help cushion the blow, you’d just be better off getting the more comfortable 25 Carbon Gravel Race or bombproof Carbon Gravel X-Wide wheels if you’re racing or riding rougher stuff.
The combination of low weight, deep aero rims, and easy spinning hubs means Hunt’s 40 Carbon Gravel Race wheelset is significantly faster on smoother ground and the road than your average gravel wheel - and many road wheels. So if you’re a racer who’s also thinking about fitting aero bars or a recreational rider who rarely dabbles in real dirt they’re a blisteringly quick bargain.
However, if your idea of gravel is more like old-skool MTB or you’ve given up road riding for the sake of your spine then there are Hunt options that hurt a lot less and roll better on the rough too.
Tech Specs: Hunt 40 Carbon Gravel Race Wheelset
- Price: $1159 / £899 / €1199
- Sizes: 700c only
- Options Axles: Front - QR or bolt thru 12/9mm, Rear - QR, Bolt thru 12x142, 12x135, 10x135. Freehubs = SRAM/Shimano, SRAM XDR, or Campagnolo N3W
- Weight: 649g front, 754g rear = 1403g a set including tubeless valves