Some of the fastest wheels you can get for the money — a proper upgrade for rim-brake bikes
- Noticeable speed increase
- Fast-engaging hub
- Reasonably light
- Great braking
- Freehub is super loud
- No wind-tunnel testing data to back up aero claims
If you want a solid set of aero carbon rims to upgrade your ride with, you could do a lot worse than the Hunt 50 Carbon Wide Aero Wheelset. Though Hunt offers these in a disc brake version, you can also get them in rim brake, for those of us still stuck ever so slightly in the past.
I’ve been testing these wheels for over a year now on my Condor Italia RC, which — believe it or not — I purposely specced up as a rim-brake bike, even though the disc option was available. Some of us still prefer the old-school way. When I started building up the bike at the start of 2020, I knew that, along with the NOS Dura-Ace 9000 groupset I picked up, it deserved nothing less than a fast wheelset, to match the raciness of the frame.
When it comes to upgrades, wheels are the most important part of the bike build, frame aside. I’m not a big spender, so the best road bike wheels for me would give me that feeling of speed that I crave on fast Sunday club rides, but not be too expensive to seem slightly ostentatious.
Hunt’s 50 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset certainly delivers the goods. The 50mm rim depth gives you a definite aerodynamic advantage, helping you to slice through the air with ease. Again, wheels play a big part in aero gains here, so it’s the first place to start (other than buying an aero frame) if you want to go faster.
Design and construction
Those gorgeous matte-carbon rims carry subtle opposing Hunt logos, and they’re constructed of Toray T700/T800 carbon fibre with a U-profile. They're tubeless-ready, though they also work with clincher tyres, and the brake track is Griptec basalt ceramic fibre (more on that later).
You get a choice of either black or swish Ti-Nitride Pillar PSR reinforced spokes and Hunt uses its Race Season Sprint hubs. At the rear, the freehub body has three multi-point pawls with 3 teeth each and a 48-tooth ratchet ring which offers just 7.5 degrees of engagement, which is very fast. You get quick-release skewers, carbon-specific pads and tubeless tape as standard, though you don’t get tubeless valves included, which seems a bit mean.
These wheels are at their best when you’re trying to maintain a good average pace, making the most of the free speed on offer. Gliding along at 20mph plus all day long on the flats is a piece of cake. Oddly, though Hunt boasts of the disc version’s wind-cheating abilities with wind tunnel testing data, there’s no such info with the rim version. So, we’ll take your word for it Hunt, this time.
The 1,537g claimed weight is pretty good for their size, but it’s definitely not the best either, and they won't be challenging the best lightweight wheels on the scales. These aren’t the wheels for you if you’re regularly climbing 10-per cent gradients, but they’re still decent enough, and their high level of stiffness means you can stand up and put the power down without flexing. It’s a good confidence boost for bigger, heavier riders like me.
Though they might be ideal for situations like a group ride where you’re covering many miles, and you want to keep up your speed, they’re not the most, let’s just say, ‘sociable’ of wheels. Translated: they’re incredibly noisy; it’s as if you’re being chased by 1,000 angry wasps every time you coast along. This tends to happen a lot since you’re often freewheeling with these wheels, though it’s a good incentive to keep pushing your speed to keep them quiet. The upside of the noise is you definitely don’t need a bicycle bell.
One of the most common complaints of deep-section rims on bikes is their ability to catch the wind at the most inopportune of moments, but I honestly didn’t find it that much of an issue with the Hunt 50 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset. Sure, in gusty winds you do get a bit of side-to-side action, but nothing scary, though I must admit I would probably take it easy on downhills on particularly windy days. It might help that I’m not the lightest of riders, so I’ve got a bit of extra weight pushing down on the tyres to keep me on the straight and narrow.
One definite surprise is the braking ability of these wheels — it's really top-notch. Hunt supplies the wheels with specific Hunt Brakco Griptec carbon-specific rim brake pads, and they’re clearly matched well to the Basalt ceramic fibre brake tracks. Hunt doesn’t actually recommend using other manufacturers of pads for its own carbon rims, claiming these are the best for the job.
In the dry, the braking is solid and confidence-inspiring, with only the smallest amount of lockup when you really brake hard, no doubt helped by the excellent Dura-Ace 9000 braking setup. In the wet, shock news: they’re not bad at all. Not brilliant, sure, but in my opinion pretty much as good as any set of rim brakes out there. Sure, disc brakes are better in the wet, but in the dry, there’s not much between them.
I’ve heard plenty of horror stories when it comes to carbon rim brakes, and although I tend to go easy on long descents, I’ve had no issues here either. Brake wear looks to be minimal, even after thousands of miles.
Speaking of wear, most of my riding has been on pothole-riddled roads, and I’ve even done the occasional bunny-hop to clear some evil ones. Despite this, the wheels are still as straight and true as they were when I got them, which is great news.
As its name suggests, the Hunt 50 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset comes in pretty wide, at 27mm on the outside, though the 19mm internal rim bed isn’t the widest you can get these days. That’s probably a good thing though, as rim brake bikes don’t have the luxury of the rim/tyre clearance that disc brake bikes do. That said, the disc version is identical in this regard.
Hunt recommends using 25mm or 28mm tyres, though you can go wider, if you can get them to fit inside your brake caliper. In the wind tunnel testing data from the virtually identical disc versions (at least in terms of the rims), Hunt found that a 25mm tyre is more aerodynamically optimal due to the 27mm rim width. That said, 28mm works really well too, with the small decrease in aero performance countered by an increase in comfort.
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I couldn’t notice a difference between Mavic Yksion Pro UST 25mm tyres and the Continental GP5000 28mm tyres I’m now running, though there’s no real lightbulb effect and the tyres seem to fit fairly flush to the rim. The 28mm tyre definitely offers more comfort at lower pressures, though.
Fitting either tyre was straightforward using a Bontrager TLR Flash Can tubeless charger, though the Continentals went on slightly easier. I also tried some Vittoria Corsa G 2.0 Control 28mm tyres, these were slightly trickier but still went on eventually without too many issues.
Putting the tech stuff to one side for just a moment, I wanted to mention that the wheels look spectacular; they’re a perfect match for the dark blue of my Condor frame. The combination gets many compliments on club runs. I’ve no doubt there are plenty of people adding these to their wish list, especially as I’m always singing their praises.
If you want to step up your performance, and you’re hanging onto your rim brake bike (or you’re one of those people who still buys rim brake bikes, even now), then Hunt offers a really amazing option with the 50 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset. They’re fast - if not the fastest - up hills, stiff and very durable — if my long-term results are anything to go by.
The only real downside to these wheels is that they’ve gone up in price since I got mine — at that time they were just £799, but now they’ve crept up to £869. Not a giant step in cost, and they’re still relatively well priced. There are other options out there, but not many for rim brakes.
One such alternative is the Scribe Aero Wide 50 wheels, which are only £1 more expensive but weigh in at just 1,434g, making them a lighter choice. The overall width is 26mm, making them slightly narrower than the Hunts, mind. As with the Hunts, there’s no wind tunnel testing data.
Hunt offers a three-year warranty on its wheels, which is pretty decent, and you can add the optional H Care warranty if you want lifetime crash replacement aftercare — that’s £69.
Tech specs: Hunt 50 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset
- RRP: £869.00 / $1,239.00
- Weight: 1,537g
- Depth: 50mm
- Internal width: 19mm
- External width: 27mm
- Spoke count: 18/24 (front/rear)
- Tyre format: Clincher/tubeless
- Brake: Rim
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