Carbon wheels are often the pinnacle of upgrading a mountain bike. They are usually lighter, stiffer, and transfer power more efficiently, which makes for a transformative experience switching from alloy hoops, especially a heavy, flexy OEM alloy wheelset. For years, the carbon mountain bike wheel space was dominated by a small handful of brands, and they were often unattainable for many because of their price. After already spending a few thousand bucks on a mountain bike, who wants to go drop two or three-thousand more on a wheelset?
But every year, we have seen more and more affordable wheels for the average everyday trail rider, to make their bike lighter and improve the ride quality. UK-based Hunt Bike Wheels has been around for a little while, but their wheel distribution is fairly new to the US. Last year when I was in Sun Valley, Idaho for an event, I was introduced to the folks behind Hunt, and they gave me a look at their new All Mountain Carbon H_Impact wheelset. Since then, they have been getting more and more wheels to the West, and are setting up a North American shop in Boulder, Colorado.
At the time, the new carbon wheelset was retailing for $800 (!) Hunt caught my attention. Since then, the price has dropped by $20. But, yes, $800 for a carbon wheelset, is generally what people pay when shopping used.
Why are they priced so low? The same reason bikes from Canyon or YT get a lower retail price.
“[W]e operate on a leaner business model than the cycling industry has traditionally featured,” says Ken Rodriguez-Clisham, brand manager of Hunt. “Without having to fuel a large marketing department/budget we are able to invest significantly more in components than we might otherwise be able to. Secondly, by selling directly to the rider, our products do not have to travel through many (price-inflating) layers of distribution, thus we’re able to offer wheels at fair prices whilst being able to sustain a business seeking only to serve more riders with the same.”
Last fall, Hunt sent a set of the wheels to try out. I got a few rides in on the H_Impacts last year before the snow came. This spring, with plenty of quarantine time on hand, I threw the wheels on a new bike I built, and have been riding them steadily since then and have only had more positive impressions.
About the Hunt All Mountain H_Impact Carbon wheels
The H_Impacts balance a lot of things in one wheelset. They are meant to be stiff yet compliant, lightweight, affordable, and durable. Hunt worked with a few gravity athletes to develop the wheels, as is usually the case for product development, and went through three different versions before landing on the right one. Finally on the fourth version, Hunt found a layup that worked.
The front and rear rims have independent layups. The rim weight on a 27.5 front is a claimed 460g, and the rear weighs 530g. Hunt saved weight on the front rim by using less material, and a 28 triple butted spoke count for better compliance.
In the rear, there is more dense carbon fiber layup with 32 spokes, for a tougher, more impact resistant rear wheel. Both rims have a hookless design, with an internal width of 28mm.
As for material, Hunt used unidirectional T24/30 with 3K weave reinforced spoke holes. The sidewalls are thicker for impact protection and the V:Absorb resin is said to reduce vibration. The resin cures at a lower temperature than other carbon fibers and should have a greater resistance to impact.
Hunt also makes their own hubs, and the RapidEngage hubs on the H_Impacts have a snappy 3° of engagement. They come in Boost spacing only and have double sealed cartridge bearings. On the inside, there are six individual MultiPawls, to get to that tight engagement number.
Hunt also paid close attention to the spokes and went with triple butted J-bend Pillar spokes, made from Sandvik T302 stainless steel. These have more material at the spoke head, before the bend, where J-bends often fail.
For an additional $260, Hunt is selling a 29er version of the wheelset with oil slick Ti-Nitride spokes (yes, please). The coating should also improve wear and corrosion resistance because of its micro hardness.
All said and done, my 29er H-Impact wheels weighed 1,850g, a few grams off of the claimed 1,878g, safe inside the ballpark of the carbon wheelset world.
It is important to note that there are weight limits on the Hunt H_Impact carbon wheels. Hunt says that if riders are over 240lbs, then a mechanic should check the wheels regularly, and it is a better idea to run tires at a max 40psi. The limit they recommend for riders is 264lbs, which may be a deal breaker for some.
There is one more thing to talk about when it comes to these wheels that sweetens the pot. The H_Impact carbon wheels come with three different levels of buyer protection.
First, they offer a 60-day guarantee on all of their wheels. If someone buys a pair and doesn’t like them, they can return them for a full refund within two months. Then, there is a three-year warranty on material and workmanship defects. If the wheels are faulty in any way, they can be replaced.
Finally, there is a lifetime crash replacement plan on wheels for original owners, and that goes for all the components, including spokes and hubs. If anything breaks as a result of riding, Hunt will fix it or replace it for free. There are a few exceptions, but they seem reasonable. For the H_Impact carbon, they cannot have been used on a downhill bike as that is outside of their intended use, or have been modified or installed incorrectly. It also only applies to the original owner, but Hunt also says that they will help second-hand owners when they can if a product breaks.
Last year, I mounted these wheels up on a GT Sensor that came in for testing. As I noted in that review, the ride quality changed tremendously when I put the Hunt wheels on. Stiffer and more responsive? Check. Lighter with quicker acceleration? Check. Not too harsh? Check, check, check.
The tape quality seemed fine on the rims. I didn’t have any problems off the bat when I set them up at first, but I was losing a lot of sealant through the tubeless valves. A few months later, when I mounted the H_Impacts on my own bike, I noticed the same thing. This was easy enough to fix, and I put a set of CushCore valves in the wheels, and they have been fine since.
After a few months hiatus, testing resumed seamlessly on the Hunt wheels. My first ride back on the wheels, I went to a local trail, consisting almost entirely of square-edged rocks. I kept the pressure in my tires low, inviting conflict between rock and rim. At 175-ish pounds of riding weight, I’m not the heaviest rider out there, but considering I’m coming off a winter full of beer and brownies, I’m not the lightest either.
I can’t say there have been any weird pops or pings from the spokes, nor has there been anything else weird to report from the wheels. They still strike an excellent ride quality that is compliant where they can be and not overly stiff, with decisive responsiveness, quick acceleration, and confident handling.
The RapidEngage hubs have been excellent throughout the test and haven’t skipped a beat – or pawl once. The freehub body, or bearings haven’t shown any signs of contamination or wear, and the quick-engaging hub is buzzing just fine. Surely, the hubs will need service eventually. Hunt makes this easier, by selling the bearings on the website. The wheels require two sealed cartridge bearings per hub, for a total of $24 in parts to make the swap, whenever that may occur.
There are a few things to consider when buying a carbon wheelset, and in the end, a careful risk-versus-reward calculation has to take place first. The reward is that usually, your bike will be lighter, more responsive, and more efficient to ride. The risk is that they are expensive, and who can guarantee that their rims won’t break?
For riders upgrading with a budget in mind, the Hunt All-Mountain H_Impact carbon wheels are hard to beat, if not impossible. They are a fraction of the cost of other carbon wheelsets, but don’t sacrifice the same amount of performance. The Hunt carbon wheels have a spot-on feel and quality to them and with a lifetime crash replacement program in place, the H_Impacts seem like an obvious choice for riders who want to up their wheel game.