Hunt’s range of very affordable yet top-performing alloy-rimmed MTB wheels have been a game-changing success. Its H_Impact wheels look set to do the same for composites if you’re after serious strength and control on a slim budget.
The sub £800 price tag is the obvious attention grabber here but don’t let that undersell the amount of tech in these wheels. The rims use an extra-thick sidewall which gives a 28mm internal width to work best with 2.3-2.5in tyres, but can go wider or narrower without worry. The broad walls are hookless while the base gets a slight ramp and gutter profile for easy seal catch and then a secure ‘bang’ into place. That can make removing tyres hard. Valves are supplied with the wheels (as well as spare spokes and a spoke wrench) and Hunt will even pre-fit tyres from a range of discounted Maxxis and Schwalbe options if you want an easy life.
Hunt has spent several years playing around with different composite lay-ups before committing to production. It finally arrived at a weave of unidirectional 24 and 30K carbon with a specific ‘V-Absorb’ resin used to cut down on buzz and resonance in the rim. The spoke holes are further reinforced with 3K cross-ply patches and they’re built with 28 spokes in the front and 32 in the rear. If you want to maximise the offset front to rear feel, Hunt will even supply a 29er front, 27.5er rear mullet set up if you ask nicely.
The spokes themselves are triple-butted Sandvik stainless steel Pillar pieces with a traditional ‘J-bend’ hooked design for easy replacement wherever you are in the world. The hubs are the same proven units as Hunt’s Enduro Wide wheels with slightly oversized shells and axles. They’re only available in Boost but you can specify RockShox Torque Cap end spacers for extra fork connection. The super fast-reacting (3-degree engagement) free hubs are available in SRAM XD, traditional Shimano/SRAM and with Shimano’s new Microspline format due as of February 2020.
The first thing to say is that if you’re looking to carbon wheels to save weight then the Hunt’s aren’t the way to go. At 1920g they’re the same weight as Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels but 130g heavier than Santa Cruz Reserve 27s and nearly 250g heavier than Sixth Element Pro and Reynolds TR209 wheels. They’re 120g heavier Hunt’s own alloy Trail Wide wheels and DT Swiss’s EX1501 wheels too. Most of that weight is in the rear where it’s most obvious through the pedals.
The almost instant reaction from the freehub can also cause more clatter and square edge catch on suspension systems where there’s a lot of chain growth/anti-squat. Thankfully that same reactivity offsets the weight in terms of acceleration, especially when you’re snatching pedal strokes between features. The tight 32-spoke build means there’s no power loss between however hard you’re cranking either. The front wheel is comparatively much lighter too (it’s actually a match to the Reynolds and Sixth Element listed above) so lift and steering twitch to re-grab traction are light and immediate. That makes it a great match for the latest short offset forks and micro stems.
Where the H_Impacts really stand out from most carbon wheels - and certainly any that we’ve tried of a similarly low price - is in their dynamic ride character. As well as being very light and easy to pop or twitch around to catch traction, the front wheel is built deliberately compliant. That gives it license to ‘look for’ and hook into the smoothest Iines, increasing traction and reducing arm pump in the process. While it’s noticeably stiffer, the lay-up of the rear wheel also sucks a lot of sting out of the trail, blunting the edges of sharp impacts, flattering suspension compression and keeping feet more comfortable on longer, rougher descents. That’s the same approach that Crankbrothers Synthesis (£2150) and Zipp 3 Zero Moto (£1850) have taken with their latest carbon wheels and the noticeably alive, control-boosting ride feel of all three sets is very similar, despite the Hunts being a fraction of the price. The thick walls also reduce the chance of tyre damage so you can run lighter tyres to amp up acceleration or run lower pressures for more connection and grip.
While the wheels are relatively fresh to us, we know some savage riders who’ve been riding them since launch with no rim or build issues, however hard they’ve hit edges or cased jumps. If something does give, then original owners are covered by a lifetime replace and rebuild warranty as long as they stick with single crown fork use (IE no DH bikes).
They’re not the lightest carbon wheel option, but Hunt’s H_Impact wheelset has instant pedal connection and steering responsiveness underlined with a warmly dynamic high traction feel. Add serious rock bottoming strength and survivability at a rock bottom price plus an excellent warranty and they set a new benchmark for mid-price/high-performance Trail/Enduro wheels.
Tech Specs: Hunt All-Mountain Carbon H_Impact wheelset
- Price: £789.99
- Weight: 1920g (820g front, 1100g rear) 29er
- Spokes: 28 front, 32 rear triple-butted Pillar stainless steel
- Freehubs: Shimano/SRAM splined, SRAM XD, Shimano Microspline
- Axles: Boost 15x110mm and 12x148mm only. RockShox Torque Caps available