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The Hunt 36 UD Carbon Spoke Wheelset is a mid-depth, lightweight, rim brake wheelset designed to go fast. The carbon spokes result in excellent stiffness and unlike some are replaceable in the event of a crash. The 36mm depth is perfectly usable even on windy days and makes the wheelset ideal for rolling road races. The wheelset is also available with steel bearings instead of these rather special CeramicSpeed ones, for a significant saving.
Pulling the wheels out the box, it's immediately noticeable just how light this wheelset is. On the road.cc Scales of Truth they came in at 1,320g which, considering we weighed them with the Hunt tubeless tape installed, seems consistent with Hunt's claim of 1,295g. For a 36mm wheelset that's extremely competitive, and although not the be all and end all, certainly helps them feel lively on the climbs.
The set on test have CeramicSpeed bearings, which bumps the price up by £320. If you're not racing, this could be a good area to save money – I've got on with Hunt's standard EZO steel bearings just fine, and really, the differences are marginal. If you are after the maximum possible performance, though, wow, these bearings appear to bend physics – they spin effortlessly right out of the box, are buttery smooth and, left untouched, seem to accelerate rather than slow down.
After a month of testing, I've managed to accumulate around 1,200km on the wheels, so any meaningful idea of how durable the bearings are is hard to ascertain, but they do feel box fresh even after being used in some pretty grim conditions.
Alongside the wheels themselves, with tubeless tape installed, you get a set of skewers and carbon brake pads in the box.
The skewers are light, made of decent materials such as brass cams and stainless steel springs, and they look pretty smart. My only gripe is that Hunt has chosen to include these in the box rather than a set of tubeless valves. Maybe it's just me who has lots of skewers lying around and a distinct lack of spare tubeless valves, but it would be a nice touch for Hunt to include a set of valves that are known to be the right length and have good compatibility with the rim. Many tubeless wheelsets, such as the Scribe Race-D, include them as part of the package – even at lower price points.
Of course, if you ask Hunt to supply and fit tyres then this will not be an issue, and you'll also get sealant included in the price, so it's worth considering. A further benefit of getting your tyres fitted is that you can avoid the potential hassle that arises from incorrectly installed rim tape, like on this set.
I opted to fit a set of 28mm Hutchinson Fusion 5 tyres. Starting with the rear, I popped the tyre onto the rim with relative ease, added sealant and inflated and seated the tyre with a track pump.
Hunt calls its rim bed design 'H-Lock', and from my experience I can vouch for the profile sealing and seating well, even on first installation.
Moving on to the front wheel and I noticed that the tape had a few air bubbles under it; this isn't uncommon and sometimes the air pressure from the first inflation can be enough to stick it down properly, so I set about fitting the tyre. Unfortunately, the tyre wasn't holding air, instead it was whistling out of the rim's water drainage hole near the spokes, showing that air was most definitely the wrong side of the tape.
After removing the tyre and closely inspecting the wheel it was clear to see why: the tape in places was up the side of the rim and had come unstuck in others. That's disappointing on a wheelset of any price, and the only option was retaping the rim.
With the wheel retaped, the tyre once again seated quickly and easily with no further issues.
Measuring 26mm externally and 19mm internally, the rim width is positively modern, if not as crazy wide as some of the newest disc brake wheels. This means the wheels should fit some slightly older frames with more limited clearance while pairing nicely with on-trend wider tyres. The 28mm tyres I used measured up exactly 28mm on the Hunts, with a nice profile, not 'ballooning' like they can on narrow rims.
As their name suggests, the 36 UDs are 36mm in depth, offering some aerodynamic advantage over classic box section rims while keeping weight to a minimum. A further positive is that rims of this depth can be used on windy days without the same fear of ending up in the gutter you can get with deeper designs; I've been out and about on some 'blustery' days and they handle well.
One area that sets the 36 UDs apart from much of the competition is the use of carbon spokes. Many manufacturers bond the spokes to either the rim or hub, making servicing the wheels extremely difficult, and can result in astronomical repair bills even in fairly minor crashes. Hunt has overcome this by using what it calls 'Taperlock' technology, which in simple terms means the carbon spokes have metal ends, or 'mandrils', mechanically attached during the curing process. It means they can be trued and replaced in the conventional manner, and that's a very good thing.
You might, however, notice that the carbon spokes do not appear in the replacements or spare parts section of Hunt's website. Hunt would rather sort out any problems itself, with workshop technicians trained in this area. The wheels are covered by Hunt's H_Care, whereby the first owner can benefit from free crash replacement, which could be particularly beneficial to racers and the accident-prone.
The main benefit of using carbon spokes is lateral stiffness, the annoying side-to-side movement of a wheel that makes it rub on your brake pads. Hunt claims that the use of carbon in this area has resulted in a 30.16% improvement when compared to its 36 Carbon Wide Aero wheels, which aren't exactly floppy AND have more spokes to boot.
On the road and it's apparent that this isn't just marketing talk. I've set up my brakes within millimetres of the rim to try to make them rub, but even the hardest out-of-the-saddle sprints I can muster result in no discernible flexing. This could be the stiffest wheelset I've used, which makes the 1,295g weight even more impressive. Often, an issue with particularly stiff wheels is discomfort on bumpy roads, but the Hunts do not feel unduly harsh, especially when paired with 28mm tubeless tyres.
Carbon braking surfaces have come a long way over the last decade, and here the braking is consistent without any surprise 'snatching', although as with all carbon wheelsets it does take a rotation or two to clear off water when conditions are wet.
The 16 radially laced spokes at the front and 21 spokes at the rear laced two-cross on the drive side and radially on the non-drive side are paired to Hunt's aluminium alloy hubs.
The rear features engagement every 7.5 degrees which is positively snappy and great for twisty races with slow speed corners, where acceleration feels instantaneous. To save weight the freehub body is also aluminium but I was glad to see a steel spline insert to prevent the harder cassette from chewing it up.
At £1,469 the 36 UDs are by no means cheap, but they do make carbon-spoked wheelsets not only more attainable but also usable.
Perhaps the closest competition comes from Giant-owned Cadex with its 42 Tubeless wheels. Like the Hunts, these feature carbon spokes which can be trued and replaced, but are significantly more expensive at £2,500 for the pair.
Opting for steel bearings rather than CeramicSpeed will reduce the price of the 36 UDs to £1,149, bringing them closer to wheelsets such as the Vision SC 40 (£969.90) or Hunt's own 36 Carbon Wides (£799). For the extra £350ish (without CeramicSpeed bearings), the 36 UDs' carbon spokes result in next level stiffness, but perhaps more importantly for racers, come with Hunt's H_Care for full crash replacement, giving peace of mind whether thrashing round a crit circuit or dancing up climbs.
Overall, the 36 UDs feel like they're part of a new generation of rim brake wheels optimised for wider tyres, with tubeless compatibility, a discernible increase in stiffness while remaining incredibly lightweight and avoiding many of the negatives associated with carbon spokes.
The price seems fair for a wheelset of this calibre, though I'd have to have a long, hard think about forking out the extra £320 for CeramicSpeed bearings, good as they are. Personally, I'd love to see a set of tubeless valves thrown in, considering the price, and a rim tape quality control check added. Despite this they're a joy to ride, especially when faced with hilly terrain.
Please note: these are only available to order, with delivery in September for the steel bearings option, December for the CeramicSpeed.
No compromise, stiff and lightweight wheels that are a joy to ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Hunt 36 UD Carbon Spoke Wheelset
Size tested: 36 deep, 26 wide
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Hunt says: "With up to a 30.16% reduction in lateral flex over equivalent steel spoked wheelsets, the 36 UD Carbon Spoke wheels have been engineered to provide you a significant increase in stiffness as well an impressively low sub 1300g weight." This makes them great for climbers and road racers looking to get the edge over their competition. The wheelset is very quick, light and climbs like a goat, and help to reduce the negatives usually associated with carbon spokes, making them not only more attainable but also usable.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
36 mm deep
19mm internal diameter
26mm external diameter
Front: 16 spokes laced radially - aero profile
Rear: 21 spokes laced 2 cross drive-side and radially non-drive side
109kg weight limit
Skewers, brake blocks and rim tape included
7.5 degree engagement hub
30.16% laterally stiffer than equivalent steel spoked wheel
Sooooo good! Stiffness is amazing, most likely the stiffest wheelset I've used, including from the likes of ENVE, Zipp, Roval and others. The 7.5 degree freehub engagement only adds to the engagement and sense of instantaneous acceleration.
The steel spline insert should prevent premature freehub wear, the carbon spokes can be replaced, and the wheelset also has Hunt's crash replacement included. The only negative is that for a spoke replacement they would have to go back to Hunt, potentially increasing wheel down time over conventional steel spokes.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues, still true.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Once the rim tape was replaced, tyres went on easily and seated first time with just a track pump, so very good.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Skewers are high quality, but the tape didn't seem sticky enough and was fitted poorly. I would also like to see tubeless valves included. Brake blocks included and performed well.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, an all-round brilliant set of wheels that are great for all sorts of racing. I've found them to be at home on rolling road races and good enough on the flats to use for criteriums as well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The light weight and stiffness on the climbs is phenomenal.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Having to retape a wheel to use it tubeless.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
We haven't tested a whole heap of rim brake wheels recently, and especially not ones with carbon spokes. Compared to similar products on the market as stated in the review, these are probably closest to the Cadex 42, which are about £1,000 more expensive.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Excellent performance and incredible stiffness while keeping weight low. Very few of the usual drawbacks when considering carbon spokes, such as servicing and maintenance. Not including tubeless valves is a very minor niggle but I would expect the tubeless tape on any wheelset to be applied correctly, especially at this price. Overall I've loved testing the wheelset, they're absolutely rapid on the climbs and hold their own on the flats.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,