If you've got a rim brake road bike and you want some wheels that are pretty light and durable but aren't going to break the bank, what you need is something like the Hunt Race Aero Wide wheelset. It's a solid choice for everything up to racing, assuming you don't want the swoosh (and expense) of carbon.
First things first: although these are called 'aero', the 31mm alloy rim isn't one that Hunt has agonised over in the wind tunnel, and the company isn't making any specific aerodynamic claims for this wheelset.
They're a bit deeper than a standard alloy rim but not really any heavier, and this wheelset tipped the scales at 667g for the front wheel and 840g for the rear, nudging them just over the 1,500g mark. For the money, that's light.
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The rims are built into Hunt's Race hubs with straight-pull Pillar Spoke Re-enforcement XTRA spokes and alloy nipples. Spoking is radial at the front and two-cross at the back, with 18 spokes front and 21 rear, distributed 2:1 in favour of the drive side to even out spoke tensions.
The hub gets Hunt's H_CERAMIK freehub with a hardened coating to stop the cassette biting into it, and the 4-pawl freehub has a 10-degree engagement angle. The hubs run on EZO bearings that are easy to source and replace, either from Hunt itself or online. You'll need a bearing press to seat them properly, though, if you're replacing them.
The wheels come set up tubeless-ready, with good quality tape and a valve fitted. If you want, Hunt will supply them ready-shod with 25mm or 28mm Schwalbe Pro One tyres for another £99. I mostly used them with inner tubes and Pirelli P-Zero race tyres in a 28mm size; I did throw a tubeless setup on there to check everything went up okay, and I had no issues.
The Race Aero Wide rim measures 19mm internally. That's not super-wide these days, it's more like the new normal. Wheels like the Ksyrium S from Mavic are the same width, while others like the Campagnolo Zonda are still a 17mm internal, which in itself is a step out from the 15mm that you'd have expected some years back.
The extra width of the rim helps to flatten out the sidewalls of the tyre a bit and that can help to stabilise the tyre and also provide a better corner profile for when you're leaning the bike over. Some people will also tell you that rolling resistance is lower, although that doesn't seem to be borne out by independent testing.
Anyway, although you can fit some pretty big tyres on these rims, the sweet spot is probably 28mm, and there are lots of 28mm race tyres out there these days. You get a bit of extra comfort, the profile of the tyre works well with the rim width, and you can still squeeze them underneath your standard road calliper brakes.
So, how do they ride? Well, firstly I took them out to Andalucia and rode them up and down mountains in the sunshine, which I can recommend. It was the first time I'd ridden the wheels save for a short shakedown ride to make sure the bike was working, and I'd swapped out some old semi-deep Swiss Side Hadron wheels that had finally given up the ghost. Did I miss the Hadrons? Well, I missed their lovely thrum over the tarmac, because that's the sound of fast. But in terms of performance, I was really happy with the Hunts.
They're a bit lighter than the Hadrons, which were the original alloy/carbon construction, and although the spoke count is reasonably low and I'm a reasonably big rider (94kg), I didn't have any issues with them feeling vague or wandering from their line through any of the many, many hairpins. Without doing the same descent back to back on narrower and wider wheels with the same tyres you'd be hard pressed to say whether the extra width makes cornering better, but the Pirellis always felt planted and the wheels responsive.
When you're stamping on the pedals up a steep rise or sprinting for a sign, there's very little flex evident. I tend to set my rim brakes a bit further from the rim on my road bike than usual because extra weight and power through the frame and wheels can induce some brake rub, but I didn't get any with the Hunts even when I dialled them in a bit.
We had the opportunity to test out some pretty brutal headwinds and sidewinds during the week, which certainly made life interesting for Iwein at times on his aero Ribble Endurance SL Disc and Hunt 4050 carbon wheels. The Race Aero Wide wheelset wasn't unduly affected by even savage sidewinds. Probably that means that in less extreme conditions you're not getting much free speed from the rims when the wind's coming in at an angle, but they're light and they roll well.
Braking on alloy rims is objectively better than on carbon; these rims with the standard Shimano 105 brake pads never gave me any cause for concern. The machined surface works well in both wet and dry conditions, and there's a wear indicator indented into the surface to let you know when it's time for a new rim.
Pulling the cassette off the freehub after about 1,000km revealed some very minor notching of the body, but nothing that stopped the cassette from coming off easily. In my experience the hardened coating that Hunt uses isn't quite as effective as the steel insert that other brands use, and it's certainly not as fuss-free as a steel freehub body like you'd get with a Mavic or Shimano wheel, but there is a weight penalty there. Albeit not a big one.
Pulling the hubs apart showed very little water or muck inside, suggesting the sealing is doing its job, although the bike hadn't had that many wet miles during testing.
Both wheels stayed true during testing. If you need to tweak them then you can attack them with a standard spoke key from the outside without pulling the tyre off, or there's a hex head inside the rim which gives a better interface for more involved work. The nipples are alloy, so this isn't the ideal wheelset for all year round; Hunt's 4-season Aero wheelset has brass nipples, better sealed hubs and a higher spoke count if you want a bit more winter longevity. It's only about 80g heavier, so if you're looking for a year-round training wheelset then it's probably a better bet. If your rim brake race bike comes out on nice days and you're riding the paceline on it or doing the odd crit race, then these Race Aero Wides are the ones to go for.
Value and conclusion
We've tested plenty of alloy rim brake wheels. These Hunt wheels are probably closest in performance to the Scribe Race wheelset that Stu tested. Weight is very similar even though the rim on the Hunt wheels is a bit deeper. The Scribes are £410 and probably edge it at the hubs with a ratchet drive with quicker engagement, and an anti-bite freehub body.
You can go lighter at this kind of price: the Pacenti Forzas (£389.99) are almost 100g less than the Hunts and are marketed more as a climbing wheelset, with a 25mm rim. The £390 JRA Lark Light wheels are worth mentioning too for their light weight and comfort, although their slightly flexy nature makes them better for lighter riders.
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All of those wheels are worth looking at as a reasonably inexpensive upgrade to stock alloy wheels, and you should add these Hunts to the mix too, because they're excellent. They're well built, they're stiff, and they're light. Carbon wheels look great, and they sound nice, and most people don't need them. Save yourself some cash and get a great alloy wheelset instead.
Excellent alloy wheel upgrade for your rim-brake road bike
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Make and model: Hunt Race Aero Wide wheelset
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, "Stretch the gaps and burn the legs of your riding compatriots with incredible fast riding performance. You will take the corners faster and tighter than ever before due to the 24mm rim width opening out your tyre profile and providing incredible grip.
"The wide rim, working with a 25 or 28mm tyre, will eat up rough roads allowing you to hold your line and carry your speed. The upgraded straight pull hubs and spokes reduce weight, add strength and respond instantly to your accelerations."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rims | Our HFR Alloy+ rims are constructed using a heat treatment process, delivering far higher fatigue resistance than 6061-T6. High-polished aluminium finish. 31mm deep. 19mm internal and 24mm external width, creating an excellent tyre profile for wide road tyres and cross tyres up to 45mm.
Tyres | Designed with a wide 19mm rim bed to create a wider tyre profile. Great with 700x23mm tyres but ideal for 25, 28 and cross tyres. Also works excellently with clincher tyres and tubes.
Hubs | HUNT Race Straight-Pull with 10° RapidEngage 4-pawl freehub, with H_CERAMIK coating for enhanced durability.
QR | Hunt Race Season super-light with heat-treated alloy/brass cam plate actuation and stainless steel springs.
Weight | 1496g
Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Rate the wheel for performance:
Rate the wheel for durability:
Rate the wheel for weight
Rate the wheel for value:
In the same ballpark as the likes of Pacenti and Scribe, a bit to a lot cheaper than comparable wheels from Miche/Mavic/Campagnolo/Fulcrum.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues during testing.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Didn't have any issues with the two tyres I tried.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Skewers are good, although I'm still a sucker for a Shimano quick release. The tape is good quality and comes fitted.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They're excellent as an upgrade over stock wheels.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Nicely built, reasonably light, durable, wider section works well with 28mm tyres.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Not really aero, in spite of the name.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The cheapest lightweight alloy wheels are slightly cheaper, but the Hunts are good value.
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
These are excellent wheels: they perform well, they're nicely built, and they're light.
Age: 49 Height: 189cm Weight: 92kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 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, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
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