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Hunt Race XC Wide wheelset review

Can you still make a competitive XC race wheel out of metal for under £400? Hunt reckons you can but what does our test editor Guy Kesteven think after a couple of months hard work?

Hunt Race XC Wide
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Super responsive, very light, bike and fitness flattering Race/XC wheels that’ll still survive chunky or clumsy riding without breaking the bank either

For

  • World Cup carbon weight at affordable alloy cost
  • Fluid shock shrugging without diminished drive
  • Immediate hub engagement
  • Super easy tubeless setup
  • 60 day return and crash replacement offers
  • Pre-installed tyre option

Against

  • Twangy if pushed really hard
  • There’s often a waiting list
  • Slight wobble after we properly walloped them
  • 29er Boost only

Hunt’s XC Wide was already a popular wheel with fast and light trail/XC fans but the Race XC Wide strips another 150g out of the package for an even lighter and more responsive but forgivingly smooth wheel. Add excellent pricing and user-friendly support and these wheels go straight to the front of the performance for price pack.

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Construction 

The XC Race Wide’s use a 24mm wide rim that’s optimised for 2.1-2.3in tyres but we’ve run 2.4in rubber on them fine. 6069-T6 alloy is claimed to offer far greater strength than typical 6061-T6 and a shot-peened matt finish removes stress risers from the metal. Laser-etched graphics are totally permanent too. They’re supplied taped with valves ready to add and the H-lock ramped base makes for fast and easy engagement and inflation. You can even have your wheels pre-fitted with a selection of tyres for a discount price too. 

Further weight is saved over the XC Wides by using 28 straight pull triple-butted Pillar spokes laced 2 cross front and rear. The nipples are hard anodised too, and while care still needs to be taken when tweaking just in case the long cylinder style spoke key (included) reduces the chance of damage. 

The hubs use asymmetric flanges to even out tension between drive and braking sides and the oversized axles run on large diameter double sealed cartridge bearings. Old school upgraders will be disappointed they’re Boost only, but you can get Boost QR inserts when ordering if your bike needs them. 

The freehub body comes in standard Shimano or SRAM XD with Shimano’s new Microspline available soon. It gets an ‘H_CERAMIK’ reinforcing coating to reduce spline scarring and the four-pawl, 36 tooth RapidEngage mechanism means a lag of 5-degree at most. Rotor fitment is a six-bolt pattern, but Hunt can provide Centerlock adaptors.

Hunt Race XC Wide

The wheels are boost only and the rear hub features a 4 pawl, 36 tooth RapidEngage mechanism (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance 

At just over 1,500g the Race XC Wide is comparable to carbon race wheels many times the price and significantly lighter than most of the peg alloy opposition up to double the price. That dramatically increases acceleration over most stock 2000g+ metal wheelsets and also makes your bike feel far more agile and clickable, too. 

Despite only 28, two-cross spokes the rear wheel drives surprisingly directly with no sense of lost power or ‘wind up’ from the taut build. The freehub engagement is effectively instant too, so as soon as you press the pedals the wheels start driving. There is some sideways distortion and softness if you cross thread ruts or try and carve hard across off cambers. The front can skip or twang off line if you’re really hard on the brakes and/or turning very aggressively and the rear is the same if you’re really cranking the watts down.  If you’re okay with occasionally approximate lines and sidestep moments the lateral compliance actually adds significant grip and connection as well as shimmying through ugly rock sections that other wheels would ricochet off dangerously. The forgiving, flowing ride feel adds comfort and reduces fatigue on hardtails or suspension bikes with aggressive low-speed compression damping. While the smoothness might feel slower on the trail timed comparisons show the opposite is true, especially on rougher surfaces. As long as you’re not going gonzo with a super tacky compound the rim is still broad and secure enough to allow teen pressures in 2.35in tyres to extend that advantage more.

The enhanced control and smoothness need treating with respect though as it downplays the danger/impact levels of trails as well as hiding your actual speed. That’s certainly what happened when we properly slammed the rear into a rock garden well beyond the usual comfort zone of a super lightweight XC wheel. That resulted in a very slight wobble in the rear wheel (which trued out easily) but there was no damage to the rim or edge and the 600g tyre we had fitted at the time didn’t split on the rim wall either. 

The wheels are sold with a 60 day returns policy, three-year defect warranty and 40%per cent price reduction if you wreck them in a crash. The bearings last okay and while we’ve heard of some issues where the wrong replacements were sent out, the mistake was quickly resolved. The whole wheelset costs appreciably less than most single carbon rims too, so you won’t be tip-toeing down technical sections thinking more about your wallet than winning. There is a 120kg weight limit though and if you’re a regular rim wrecker we’d suggest you look at Hunts’ Trail Wide (1,823g. £369) or even the 2064g Enduro Wide which uses thick wall rims to protect tyres and the hoops themselves. 

Hunt Race XC Wide

While not the stiffest or direct wheelset, the Race XC Wide's offer a smooth grippy ride (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Lightweight wheels make a huge difference to the dynamic ride feel of your bike, boosting acceleration and agility as well as reducing the grip of gravity on climbs. Those advantages are very obvious as soon as you fit the Race XC Wides and the instant freewheel engagement and tight drive feel enhance the performance advantage even further. They’re not invincible if you overstep the mark, big or aggressive riders will get them to flex a lot and fit options are limited, set up, back up and warranties are very user friendly and the price is an absolute steal for the performance. Potentially the only big problem is that you’ll often have to wait for Hunt to restock, but if you’re after fast, lively reduced fatigue riding it’s worth being patient.  

Tech Specs: Hunt Race XC Wide wheelset

  • Weight: 1523g 
  • Wheel size: 29in Boost
  • Width (internal): 24mm
  • Price: £399