Hunt Proven Carbon Race XC wheel review – lighter, stronger, faster, cheaper

Has Hunt hit the XC/Trail Holy Grail with their new Proven Carbon Race XC wheels?

Hunt Proven Carbon Race XC wheels by a river
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Versatile, high velocity but sweet riding lifetime warrantied race/trail wheels at a carbon fibre competitive weight but a premium alloy price

Pros

  • +

    Race light, trail tough

  • +

    Top value pricing

  • +

    Bouyant, responsive ride feel

  • +

    Lifetime warranty

  • +

    Tire fattening/supporting width

Cons

  • -

    29er Boost sizing only

  • -

    Not quite as light as Hunt's claim

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Hunt’s new Proven range is race tested and developed to deliver competition performance at a more than competitive price. They didn't disappoint either as these new Race XC wheels will be going straight into our best mountain bike wheels guide among the top XC wheels around.

HUNT Proven Carbon Race XC rim

The 30mm internal, 22mm deep rim comes taped and valved ready to go (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and build

Hunt started their carbon wheel journey a few years back with their feature laden All Mountain Carbon (AMC) H_Impact enduro hoops. These have since proved seriously tough but didn’t really offer a weight advantage over the best alloy wheels on the trail. The rim and material innovations Hunt had used clearly had the potential to be developed in more specific directions though and Proven became the project name for that work. The following story involves several years of lab and trail testing, lay-up refining to put material exactly where it was needed and remove it where it wasn’t. Then re-testing with a savage panel of top athletes and limit-pushing riders/racers the new Proven Carbon Race XC and Carbon Race Enduro wheels are ready. You know, the kind of thing that would be a montage in a hero movie.

The Carbon Race XC tested here differs from the original AMC and new Carbon Race Enduro wheels by using the same rim front and rear. It’s 29mm wide internally at the bead lip (30mm at the base) with a depth of 22mm. They’re strung up with 28 Pillar TB1420 triple-butted and bladed straight pull spokes set into low flange Hunt hubs. These have dual sealed Revo bearings front and rear and SRAM XD, Shimano HG, and Shimano MicroSpline free hub options all giving a 5-degree maximum engagement lag.

The wheels come taped ready to run tubeless and the valves (with Hunt logo core remover caps) are already in place. You also get spare spokes and nipples in the box with them. They’re only available in 29er with Boost axle widths, but then that’s what the vast majority of racers use so it’s not a big deal. 

HUNT Proven Carbon Race XC

28 triple butted Pillar aero spokes lace up each wheel and the hubs get dual sealed Revo bearings  (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Ride, handling and performance

While plenty of people seem to get through their riding life fine without realizing the transformative powers of a really good set of wheels. On top of that, how you perceive the performance of these Prove Carbon Race XC wheels will be different depending on your current wheelset. 

If you’re coming off a set of alloy or even carbon trail wheels the big difference is in how quickly 350g (Hunt's own Trail Wide V2) to 600g (a lot of the wheels we heave off complete builds to weigh) less mass will accelerate. Especially if you’re used to a bigger hang time before the free hub picks up. And while the proportional physics difference might not be much, emotionally we’re talking about a gift of an extra gear or two and a significant change in how much more often you sprint or attack a summit. 

If you’re used to a skinnier rim you’ll appreciate how much fatter a given tire looks and then how much more stable it will feel at slower pressures. The easy inflating profile of the Proven rims is also hands-on resolutely however hard you’re trying to rip even 600g tires sideways off them. We had no problems with burping even when riding hard at 15-17psi and rimming out the wheels repeatedly on rock steps didn’t damage them either. The extra rim breadth means more volume to slide an insert in if you want extra protection, which is becoming increasingly common for XC racers. Even without a noodle in, knowing you’ve got a lifetime warranty on the rim also reduces the trauma of every rock garden entry.

A broader tire that can be safely run at lower pressures means more traction, but that can sometimes be what exposes the twang and lack of directional muscle of a lightweight wheel. Hunt has strung up the triple-butted aero spokes to give a great balance though. There’s no yaw or ‘has my front axle come under’ vagueness under braking and they don’t slew off sideways like a drunk if you cross thread the rear wheel on an off-camber. They’re still precise enough to feel the knob-by-knob feedback through your brakes, but not so stiff they’ll fire off every rock and root at random and make you think you left your lockout on. 

They’re just a great blend of calmingly controlled when you’re losing it but still bright and sharply responsive enough when you want to lose everyone behind you. And if you’ve not got a number on they are a great wheel just for playing around on. While Hunt put 120mm full suspension bikes as their Twitter preference, they’re versatile enough to put comfort into a harsh hardtail or lighten up a trail bike without feeling like the weak link when things get wild. 

While it’s early days for the testing process we’ve had no sign of anything untoward with unpleasant noises, creaking or pinging spokes, loss of tension, or rough bearings either. That backs up our overall experience with a whole raft of Hunt wheels over the past few years too, although we will of course update with longer-term feedback when we’ve got more miles on. 

HUNT Proven Carbon Race XC rear hub

The rear hub has a 5º engagement freehub available in all three cassette standards (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

And the best way to sum up this review is to say that isn’t going to take long. Not just because these Hunt Proven Carbon Race XC wheels are going to be faster than most other wheels we could use. Either through their lower weight, increased traction, better accuracy, or our confidence in hitting stuff harder. It’s also because they’re versatile enough that they aren’t just special occasions race hysterics but seemingly durable daily drivers that’ll work on a wide range of bikes. In fact, the only potential criticism we have is that calling them Race XC might put off a lot of non-racing riders who these lightweight, tough, and flat-out fun to ride wheels might be perfect for. Especially as Hunt will be launching something even, ah no, I don’t think I’m allowed to say that yet. 

Given the price and the fact it includes a lifetime warranty, we’re not going to let Hunt's wheel name calling get in the way of a five out of five score though.

Wheels will be available for pre-order from Huntbikewheels.com at launch and will be in stock by the end of October.

Tech specs: Hunt Proven Carbon Race XC wheels

  • Price: $1,099 / £899 / €1,169
  • Sizes: 29er Boost only
  • Weight: 690g front, 840g rear, 1530g for both

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg