It seems like everyone is jumping on the carbon wheel wagon these days. Most wheel manufacturers are coming out with a carbon wheelset and, presumably spurred on by the likes of Enve, Reserve and other big names, are coming out with solid wheelsets usually backed by a lifetime warranty. It wasn’t long ago that people had reservations toward carbon as a wheel material, but that thinking has certainly changed with carbon becoming synonymous with wheels that are almost indestructible.
Hunt is a British company that cut their teeth producing and selling wheelsets at an affordable price, with carbon rims coming a little later on. These Proven wheels are not their first attempt at carbon, rather they’re a refinement of their initial All-Mountain Carbon wheelset.
The Proven wheels are aimed at a slightly more premium market than their aluminum offerings. Priced at $1,099 USD they’re not cheap as far as mountain bike wheels go, but they’re relatively inexpensive for carbon. The Proven line is available in their tougher Enduro Race spec (tested) with a claimed weight of 1929g (29/29). There’s also a lighter-weight Proven XC Race spec with a claimed weight of 1469g.
The Hunt Proven Carbon Race Enduro wheelset is available in 27.5″, mullet, and 29″ (tested) pairs, and come in either Boost or Super-Boost spacing with a choice of Shimano HG, Microspline, or SRAM XD Freehub bodies on 6-bolt hubs. The rims measure a fully modern 30mm wide internally which is perfect for most enduro applications and tire widths.
Hunt says they’ve tuned the Proven wheelset to provide ride quality as well as strength. The wheels use a different carbon layup in the front and rear rims, and while both use the same 28 spoke count, the front wheel uses lightweight, triple butted spokes with a 1.6mm center section, with wider 1.8mm center section spokes on the rear. All of this allows Hunt to tune the front wheel for comfort and the rear for strength.
The Proven rims are laced to Hunt’s own large-body CNC’d hubs which presumably aid stiffness and house decent sized bearings. The fact that they use a 6-bolt rotor mount and regular J-bend spoke flanges promises ease of serviceability and sourcing spare parts down the road (Hunt also includes a few spare spokes with the wheels). The freehub body uses a six-pawl mechanism with five degrees of engagement that may not be crazy high like some ultra-high engagement hubs, but it’s definitely up there and is a step up from most three-pawl systems.
The wheels are nicely understated with a matte black finish to the rims, black spokes, and nipples and a gloss black anodized finish to the hubs. Overall the wheels look clean and the logos are subtle while the chunky hubs add a nice aesthetic making them look purposeful and tough. I have found that some carbon rims tend to lose their finish and chip easily, but that hasn’t been the case with these; they’ve held up remarkably well to stone chips and damage. The cherry on the cake is the nice anodized black tubeless valves that Hunt supplies with the wheels. The valves are topped by an aluminum valve cap/valve core remover that looks and works great thanks to the knurled finish that makes it easy to remove. Small details matter.
Another great reason to buy carbon wheels is for strength and the lifetime warranty that most manufacturers now offer, and these are covered by Hunt’s lifetime free crash replacement policy.
On the trail
The selling point of the Hunt Proven Carbon Race Enduro wheels is really the combination of strength and compliance, with the price and warranty being big bonuses. It can sometimes be difficult to perceive minute differences in stiffness from one wheel, frame, fork etc. to the next, and things like tire pressure, suspension setup, and trail conditions heavily influence the way the bike feels and reacts. To give myself a good baseline I tested the Hunt Proven wheels with familiar tires: a set of Continental Kryptotal tires front and rear with DH casings, as well as Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR II tires front and rear respectively, both with EXO+ casing and no inserts, running my usual pressures of 18-22psi depending on trail conditions.
On trail the wheels definitely feel like there is some added compliance that makes the ride just a bit more pleasant. Under heavy impacts such as drops-to-flat or large, square-edged hits, the feedback is more of a dull thud compared to the jarring “clang” I might usually expect as the tire bottoms out on the rim. That damped feeling definitely makes the ride more pleasant with fewer bone-shaking moments and made for an overall smoother ride.
I chose to run these wheels without inserts mainly to test how strong they are. In theory more wheel compliance should mean tires are less likely to puncture, though I did puncture an EXO+ Minion DHR on the rear. This isn’t hugely surprising after several months of hard riding on janky North Shore trails, and it did not lead to any damage to the rim. Aside from that single puncture, these wheels required zero maintenance during testing.
While the Proven wheels are notably more compliant than other carbon rims on the market, they aren’t overly flexy. While cornering they feel plenty stiff with no problem tracking where I point them. In that regard they feel extremely familiar to another set of notably stiff carbon wheels I rode previously.
Lastly the five-degree engagement on the rear hub is nice to ride with. While high engagement isn’t the be all and end all, it is nice to have, and it’s good to see manufacturers bringing more high-engagement hubs to the table. It does make those tricky sections easier to clean when you need a short pedal stroke, particularly here on the North Shore where pinch climbs with surprise features are plentiful. The ratchet mechanism on these hubs is almost silent, and despite cleaning the hub and using a light oil on the internals, it’s stayed that way, something I’ve come to appreciate. There’s something nice about silently attacking the trails stealth-bomber style.
Let’s talk a little about maintenance; if carbon wheels are to be wheels for life, they’re going to need some maintenance from time to time. As I mentioned earlier, these wheels needed basically zero maintenance while I had them on my bike. From the get-go they set up really easily, going on tubeless with a track pump at home. While the wheels can’t exactly be blamed for the flat tire I experienced, the profile of the rim wall at the bead is a little narrow which makes it them more liable to punctures than a rim with a wider bead wall.
I rode the wheels for about three months through the nastiest of the PNW’s winter through slop, snow, ice, and the occasional hero dirt, and they held up strong. I didn’t get a hint of a grumble from any bearings, which is not something I can say for other wheels over a similar test period. I did strip the rear hub down to check the condition of the internals and found that the freehub seal had popped out. While it’s easy enough to pop back in, obviously the seal is not doing a great job of sealing the hub off when it’s not in place. Thankfully the grease didn’t look too dirty and nothing was damaged. I simply re-greased and reassembled.
Disassembly of the rear hub requires a 12mm hex wrench and a 17mm open-ended wrench. The end cap threads off the drive side of the hub axle and allows the freehub body to slide off. While it’s not terribly difficult to disassemble, not everyone has a 12mm hex wrench in their tool arsenal and I find that hubs with end caps that thread on tend to cause more headaches when it comes to bearing preload than hubs that simply press together.
Tossing the wheels in the truing stand was similarly pleasant — the rims ran straight as an arrow with me barely needing to turn a nipple. Spoke tensions were even and correct all the way around and that was that. I couldn’t find the recommended spoke tensions on Hunt’s website, however a quick email exchange yielded the information I needed. Hunt’s website also has most common spare parts available including spokes, bearings, and freehubs at a fair price. Easy.
Overall the Hunt Proven Race Enduro wheels are a strong contender, particularly for the money. While not light, they’re in line with most enduro-type carbon wheelsets out there, and in my time on them have proven strong and more comfortable than some stiffer competitors. More time on the wheels will give a better idea of their long-term longevity but thus far things are looking good. With a lifetime warranty and easily available parts, the Hunt Proven Carbon Race Enduro wheels are a smart purchase for those wanting to spend good but not crazy money on a set of wheels that will last.
- Price: $1,099
- Buy from Hunt.
- Takes the sting off big/sharp hits
- Lifetime warranty
Pros and cons of the Hunt Proven Carbon Race Enduro wheels.
- Narrow bead wall
- Thread-together rear hub could cause problems
Cool to hear that the Proven models are a solid too. That Banshee looks mint.
The Banshee has been a favourite for sure! A few spec tweaks and it can become a totally different bike.
These are actually an amazing deal, given that it’s less than a pair of just rims from Reserve or Stan’s.
“In that regard they feel extremely familiar to another set of notably stiff carbon wheels I rode previously.”
Well tell us which ones, man!
My personal wheels are a set of Reserve 30s