Going wide and deep, Hunt has created a set of fast, durable and light wheels in the 3650 Carbon Wide Aeros. As Hunt puts it: 'The ultimate mixed depth road racing wheelset. Ultra-wide, scary fast.' With a specification of high-end parts and great build quality, Hunt isn't trying to reinvent the wheel but it is certainly refining it to a level of performance unheard of on sub-£1,000 wheelsets. (Ours came with tyres fitted; 'bare', they cost £979.)
- Pros: Excellent value, quality components, quick wheels
- Cons: Noisy freewheel
We first took a look at the 3650s a few weeks ago when Hunt's Tom Marchment came in to give us a run-down on one of the brand's latest designs. Since then I've been out putting them through their paces on the local roads and I'm really rather impressed.
The name 3650 comes from how deep they are: 36mm at the front and 50mm at the rear. It's quite a common combination for many riders as it is so adaptable to various weather conditions and the topography of your chosen route.
The front gives you a slight aero advantage over a more standard box rim shape without getting battered around by crosswinds, and it also keeps the weight down for climbing.
The rear doesn't get affected so much by the breeze, so it can be run deeper, although the back wheel doesn't spend anywhere near as much time in the airflow so aero advantages are a lot smaller than the front. Every little helps though.
With the fashion of ever larger tyres finding themselves onto current road bikes, we've seen wheel manufacturers developing wider rims to smooth that transition between tyre wall and wheel for aerodynamics. Plus the wider rims change the profile of the rubber to a more rounded shape rather than the traditional 'lightbulb' of older wide tyre/skinny wheel combinations.
This gives you more tyre on the tarmac for more grip, and there have been plenty of studies reporting reductions in rolling resistance from using wider tyres at lower pressures. The 25mm tyres fitted here actually measure 27.5mm across, something worth bearing in mind if you are going to use the 3650s on a race bike with very tight clearances.
The rear uses a 24-spoke build, with a two-cross pattern on the drive side and the non-drive side being laced radially. You can really stamp on the pedals to fly over the crest of a power climb and you won't get even the slightest hint of flex.
Pair this with the 20 radially spoked front and you have a wheelset that is absolutely solid. I'm not suggesting you aim for potholes on purpose, but if you do happen to whack one you don't get that buttock clenching a few seconds afterwards, where you're wondering whether the bang is going to see the wheel scatter into a pile of splintered carbon.
The spoke tension feels taut and even though both front and rear were a tiny bit out of true from the start, they remained the same throughout the test period, which covered about 500 miles of crappy lanes and smooth A-roads.
The EZO bearings used in the hubs are smooth and there aren't any signs of creaking or water ingress from the hours of wet riding the 3650s encountered. For added durability Hunt has used straight-pull spokes, which a lot of wheel builders believe are stronger for not having a bend where they are laced into the hub. They're triple butted too, which adds material where it's needed at the high stress points and does away with it where it isn't, reducing weight. The aero theme is continued with the main body of the spoke being flat bladed. Personally, I'd prefer brass nipples rather than alloy, after seeing various degrees of corrosion on the latter over the years.
When it comes to the freehub, Hunt is using a new design on the 3650s. At the risk of teaching your granny... freehubs use spring-loaded pawls which engage with the grooves of a ratchet ring inside the hub to provide drive to the rear wheel when you apply pressure to the pedals. Manufacturers all use varying setups to create a balance of durability and quick engagement.
Hunt has gone with a 48-tooth ratchet ring which gives instant pick-up in the rear wheel the second you touch the pedals – great for acceleration, especially from a standing start. The downside with such fine teeth on the ratchet ring is that they can break or wear quickly, so Hunt has used pawls that have three teeth along their surface rather than just flat, so when they engage they pick up a total of three teeth each in the ratchet ring, spreading the load.
Hunt says, 'The HUNT Sprint freehub also features strong individual leaf pawl springs, which engage quicker still, owing to their higher rebound rate. The 3 individual springs also allow back-up redundancy compared to single spring systems.'
The only downside is that the freehub is loud when disengaged. Okay, it saves you having a bell, because everyone hears you roll up behind them, but it can be tedious, especially at really low speeds.
Aside from that, all this makes for an exceptional set of wheels when you're out on the road, especially when you consider that they also weigh a very respectable 1,477g. Not the lightest out there, but the perfect balance between performance and stiffness.
Acceleration is great, whether from a standing start or little jumps in pace to keep up with traffic or other riders in the bunch. The 3650s just seem so easy to keep rolling too, especially on undulating terrain. Lumpy lanes with small rises and dips would see me carry the speed from the flat or descent straight into the next climb without feeling like I really needed to ask for any extra power.
Over the last few years we've seen a move away from V-shaped fairing style wheels as things have gone wider. Profiles have become rounder and the 3650s are a prime example with their stubby U-shaped trailing edge. Many manufacturers' wind tunnel data suggests that U-shape profiles suffer a lot less turbulence because air flows more smoothly over the rounded shape, especially in crosswinds.
Whatever data you believe, from riding these I can say that the 3650s certainly feel quick, especially once the speed gets above 20mph. We're not talking the same sort of benefits found on something 50mm-plus deep, but it's a small bonus.
Crosswinds definitely weren't an issue at all, as the wheels just shrugged everything off even when passing a gateway opening in a sheltering hedge.
Another issue with carbon fibre rims can be braking, or lack of, especially in the wet. Hunt's rim suppliers use High Tg (glass transition temperature) resin in the braking track to increase performance and resistance to heat, especially when paired with the Griptec brake pads by Brakco.
A little tip for you though: if you ever find yourself with a set of brand new 3650 wheels, get a wet ride in as soon you can to bed in the rims and pads together. Before that, stopping distances have to be seriously exaggerated as braking performance hangs around somewhere between downright scary and non-existent.
After an hour in the rain though, things were great – easily matching the braking power of aluminium rims even in the wet. And the best thing of all is that the braking is easily modulated, none of that 'nothing, nothing, grab' all-or-nothing style of stopping found on some carbon rims when you build up some heat.
Right from the start Hunt has focused on tubeless tyre technology, and if you've watched the First Look video above you'll hear Tom take you through the details of how Hunt has focused on the quality control to get the tyres to fit with the perfect seal and easily too.
Our wheels came with the optional extra of having a pair of Schwalbe Pro Ones fitted before dispatch, so I can't vouch for how easy they are to fit but I have seen plenty of videos on social media of other riders setting the Hunts up, and it looks a very smooth process.
Getting the tyres from Hunt costs an extra £99, which, when you take into account that includes fitting and sealant, is not a bad deal at all. You just need to add them to the basket at checkout.
I must admit, though, I wasn't massively impressed with the tyres, which I was surprised by as I'm usually a big fan of all things Schwalbe. I punctured the rear on my second ride – only my second visit from the fairy this year – and although the hole would seal, every time the pressure went above 80psi the sealant would blow out and I'd have to start again.
At the end of the test period both the front and rear had quite a few cuts on them as well, and the roads weren't even that bad coming out of the end of autumn.
Grip wasn't that impressive either. On slightly damp climbs they would wheelspin something chronic, and a few times on wet roads they'd just break traction with no warning, which really took away any remaining confidence I had in them if I was riding in less than ideal conditions.
They are an optional extra, though, so I haven't taken their performance into account in the overall scoring.
If the 3650s were priced at £1,500 or possibly even £1,800 I'd say they offer decent value for money. The fact that Hunt can get all of this attention to detail, performance and reliability into a set of full-carbon, deep-section rims for less than a grand makes them very impressive indeed. Just £979 secures a set of the 3650s.
Comparing them to the Fulcrum Speed 40T carbon wheelset I tested recently, the Hunts stack up very well indeed. Yes, the Fulcrums are lighter, but they are tubular so not having a tyre bead makes for a lighter wheel full stop, and yes, their performance is very good indeed, both stopping and going. But this is easily matched by the 3650s. The issue is that the Fulcrums are £2,199.
I also tested and was impressed with Cole's C40 Lites; they just nudge the Hunts on weight by a few grams for their £1,700, but their performance doesn't come close.
For your £979 you also get a two-year warranty with the 3650s, plus spoke keys, spare spokes, top quality quick releases and everything needed to set them up tubeless, like valves and so on.
On the whole, the Hunt 3650s are a really well-specced package for both the money and the performance.
An excellent wheelset with some expertly chosen parts, at a very good price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Hunt 3650 Carbon Wide Aero Road Wheelset (and tyres)
Size tested: 27mm outer, 19mm inner width, ideal for 23-45mm tyre widths
Tell us what the wheel is for
Hunt says, "This mixed depth wheelset offers it all. A true road-racer's choice. It's so fast that we're free-wheeling in the pack, whilst all others are pedalling, is it cheating? Fit these tubeless/clincher-ready wheels with tubeless tyres to make the package even faster and lighter.
"We all want to go fast; that was the brief. The latest breed of tubeless tyres give up nothing in weight to their clincher counterparts and the Schwalbe Pro One, that you can have fitted by us prior to delivery, weighs only 250g for a 25mm tyre (290 grams including 40 millilitres of sealant, while the Continental GP4000SII tyre with tubes weighs 320 grams). The tyre rolling resistance of the new Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless is reduced by 9.5% over their clincher version according to Schwalbe's own tests! Hence tubeless was essential. Going deep is obvious for aero gains, wide rims with a U-profile provide great handling and reduce drag across multiple wind yaw-angles. The freehub body on the HUNT Sprint hubs used for the 3650Carbon Wide Aero is also upgraded, with 48 teeth on the ratchet ring and treble-tooth pawls, providing super-fast 7.5 degree engagement for when the hammer goes down and you need to accelerate now! The strong individual leaf-sprung pawls are louder than circular spring set-ups, but we think that is the right decision to make for this type of wheelset. Also, stiffness = speed... so we specced large 15mm diameter hub axles for sprinting and out-of-saddle climbing. Ease into them, your mates won't know it's the wheels!. Float up the climbs too, thanks to a sub 1500g bench-mark weight, is this even fair?"
I found the Carbon Wide Aeros a very stiff wheelset and great to ride in any conditions, while against the opposition they offer excellent value for money.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Tubeless-ready – designed to work excellently with normal clincher tyres and tubes or tubeless tyres.
Two layers of Hunt Bronze Shield tubeless rim tape fitted.
Toray T700/T800 unidirectional and 3K weave carbon-fibre with 3K weave bed and spoke areas.
27mm outer and 19mm inner width ideal for 23-45mm tyre widths
36/50mm mixed-depth, with wide rounded aero section
Griptec basalt ceramic fibre brake-track
Matt black base finished with gloss black and white contrasting graphics.
Maximum tyre pressure for this rim is 120psi when used with an inner tube and 100psi when running the wheel set-up tubeless. Please do not exceed the maximum pressure stated on your tyre.
Front: 20 spokes laced radially - Aero triple-butted profile
Butted 2.0-2.0/0.95-2.0 then PSR section is 2.2.
Rear: 24 spokes laced 2 cross drive-side and radially non-drive side.
Butted 2.0-2.0/0.95-2.0 then PSR section is 2.2.
Straight-pull for excellent torsional strength and direct power transfer
Cold drawn from high grade T302 (18/10) stainless steel wire by Sandvik Sweden
Patented Pillar Spoke Re-enforcement, butted again just before the spoke head providing more durability in high stress area.
Black stainless treatment
Alloy square body for external adjustment and square head for easy internal adjustment/tensioning. square spoke key included.
16mm length with washer for a strong connection to the spoke added durability.
Black anodized finish
Forged and CNC'd 6061-T6 heat treated aluminium alloy body
7075-T6 aluminium alloy axles
Black finish with laser graphics
Circular machined dropout interface steps for added stiffness
7075-T6 heat-treated aluminium alloy freehub body
3x treble-tooth pawl engagement for instant acceleration
Choice of freehubs:
Shimano/SRAM 8/9/10/11 speed. Freehub with Steel Spline Insert freehub body re-enforcement provide excellent durability against cassette sprocket damage to the freehub often seen on standard alloy freehub bodies
Campagnolo 9/10/11 speed. No Steel Spline Insert required as Campagnolo design has deeper grooves
High-grade by EZO Japan
Sealed cartridge replaceable units
Upgraded to low-friction seals to further reduce rolling resistance
Hunt Super-light Race Season design, only 33g front and 37g rear
7075-T6 heat-treated alloy lever, head and nut
Brass cam plate actuation
1000kgf tested high-strength cro-moly spindles
Corrosion resistant stainless steel springs
Black finish with laser graphics
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Both wheels were a tiny bit out of true when they arrived, but they remained the same throughout the test period and I never once winced when I hit a rough section of road.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
The tubeless tyres came already fitted as part of the package.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The quick releases held the wheels firm with a solid grip, plus you get spare spokes, spoke key and stickers (everyone loves stickers!) in the pack.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A real all-rounder set of wheels with nothing in the way of compromise.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Solid construction at a great price.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
That is one noisy freewheel.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Definitely
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Absolutely
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Hunt Carbon Wide wheels are very well made from an excellent selection of components and each of those details has paid off. It's the attention to detail that reflects in the overall performance, and all of this comes at a very competitive price.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.