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Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheelset review

5 Nov 2021
Verdict:

Fast aero wheels with pro-team and wind-tunnel credentials at a price that's hard to beat

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Fast • Impressive cornering • Comfortable • Well-specced • Good value
Against 
Unexceptional weight

Hunt claims its 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheels are the fastest sub-50mm road bike wheels money can buy; they weigh 1,618g, are 48mm deep, 22.5mm wide internally, tubeless-ready, cost under £1,100, and this season (2021) the 48 Limitless were raced by Qhubeka-NextHash. Credentials indeed.

Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheelset unboxing

Out the box the 48 Limitless wheels come taped up ready for tubeless tyres (or clinchers too, but who's running clinchers, c'mon?), and are supplied with valves, nice little premade holes in the tape to fit said valves, spare spokes, and tools for installing spokes.  

Adapters for converting the Shimano Center Lock to a 6-bolt rotor mounting are available for an extra £20; freewheel options for Campagnolo and SRAM XD are free at the point of buying; and bearings can be upgraded from the steel EZO bearings to CeramicSpeed for £200 extra. Tested here are the EZO versions, for the record.

It's a thoughtful offering, and I like the spare spokes especially. I rarely, rarely break any spokes (and never have on Hunt wheels), but when I have it's a massive pain in the behind to source spares, particularly now there are so many different types of spoke on the market. It's nice Hunt has catered for you. Just put them somewhere safe for the next five years.

I also like Hunt's crash replacement policy, which is a free lifetime crash replacement on all wheels to the first owners. Can't say fairer than that, and I have heard of it being honoured without complaint by riding acquaintances.

However, you haven't come here for spoke and warranty chat, you want to know how fast these things will make you, so read on…

Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheelset aerodynamics

The most important bit here is that claim to speed headline, so what gives? If you like you can read the white paper on Hunt's website (which I must say I rather enjoyed), but if you don't have time, here are the headlines:

In the run up to making these wheels, Hunt’s research identified a NACA* rim profile with a truncated leading edge as being the fastest across a wide (ie, cycling applicable) range of yaw angles. It wind-tunnel-tested the 48 Limitless wheels in June 2019 against what Hunt's testing deemed the fastest wheels in the business, and with a 28mm Schwalbe Pro One tyre the Limitless was marginally faster (0.26 watts drag) than the second fastest Enve 3.4 SES wheel.

(Note Hunt is only talking sub-50mm deep wheels. A 60mm-deep Limitless version is available and reviewed here, albeit there is no published data.)

Of course information that surrounds 'fastest stuff' is hazier than a thirties speakeasy, so let's try and pick this apart.

You would be hard-pressed to distinguish the Limitless's rim profile from a slew of others; it is the wide, snub- or blunt-nosed profile that long ago was deemed faster than narrow triangulated profiles.

However, there are subtle differences, and the main one is Hunt's research showed the important thing for eking out speed gains is the tyre width needs to be 4mm narrower than the widest point of the rim, which itself needs to be just below the rim hook. The upshot is the Limitless wheel is 34.3mm at its widest.

You don't need to know this, but you do need to know that to make the 48 Limitless the fastest it can be it needs 28mm tyres, which splay out to just over 30mm to create that all important 4mm difference (why 4mm? It’s all about how air separates then flows back over the trailing edge, or something).

Thus while 25mm tyres can apply, the equivalent setup (a 25mm Schwalbe Pro One) is 0.71 watts slower than a 28mm-shod Limitless wheel.

It’s marginal, but I’d suggest you can see it – a 28mm tyre presents a near flush transition between tyre and rim, a 25mm tyre leaves a noticeable gap. And gaps are slow, probably, and psychologically damaging, definitely. I need to look fast.

Also, 28mm tyres, I’m becoming increasingly aware, are just better. Heavier, true – a claimed 35g per tyre for the Pro Ones – but the payoff is huge. So much research points to low pressures offering less rolling resistance and so presenting faster wheels, and experientially wider tyres are more comfortable and present significantly more grip. Win win win, I say.

So now you’ve understood the science, are these wheels fast?

Yes.

Riding the Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheelset

They say the best aero-bang-for-kit-buck is a skinsuit, but beyond that I'd say the one way to make your bike feel faster – to feel better – is wheels, and slotting these into the Bianchi Specialissima I had on test at the time, the feeling of extra speed was immediate over the stock Fulcrum Wind 40 DB (40mm deep).

Acceleration was similar in the early strokes, the weight of the wheels near identical at 1,620g (claimed) for the Fulcrums, but beyond 20kmh the Hunt 48 Limitless wheels seem to carry speed with relative ease, and I regularly held 38kmh + when going for efforts on the flat.

Everything else I can add here will be purely anecdotal – I didn't time climbs, I didn't race over and over like-for-like in a velodrome or visit my own wind-tunnel – but in most instances I'd wager I was, and certainly felt, faster.

That said, at 1,618g (claimed) these aren't particularly light wheels, and swapping back to a bike with some obscenely light clinchers in (a hair over 1,250g), I realised that a punch up steep climbs is lacking here. But all in, longer, shallow gradients should be faster on aero wheels, and all in the Limitless felt fast for most occasions.

And here's a little titbit: these wheels could be heavier, Hunt has used a lower density polymer instead of carbon fibre just under the outside edge of the bead, which saves 100g. Again, admirable dedication to the cause.

Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc Wheels vs. the competition

However, as much as I can sing the praises of the 48 Limitless's speed, I have found this before.

I've found palpably free speed in the Enve's Hunt tested, in Zipp 303s and in the latest Campagnolo Bora 50s, to name but three hoops. Then, if you want to pick apart Hunt's 'fastest under 50' claim, the test data came from June 2019 and various competing wheelsets have since been released, including new Zipp 303s.

Also, the final tests were only conducted on front wheels since Enve’s 3.4’s had only just been released in May 2019, leaving Hunt short on time. And then, all testing centred around Schwalbe Pro Ones, as Enve only recommended the use of Schwalbe Pro Ones as tubeless tyres for the 3.4s.

Testing was also conducted at 45kmh (faster than I ride) and using WAD – wind averaged drag, effectively an average of yaw angles. Other wheel brands test at different speeds and yaws.

Of those last points I'd say WAD is used in making many motor vehicles aero – it was instrumental in research leading to curved roofs on lorries, which reputedly makes huge savings in economy – so I say WAD FTW – and 45kmh for whatever reason is the going rate amongst the majority of brands looking to make aero arguments.

But that said, I bet Enve could go to a wind-tunnel, use a different set of protocols and show its wheels are fastest (the differences are less than one watt even in Hunt’s tests), and I bet Zipp could do the same with the 303s, DT Swiss with its ERC 1100s etc etc.

That’s what these guys do, and again I point you to the appearance of aero rims these days: they are all but identical to the naked eye, what more can you do with this blunt-nosed shape?

Yet the point remains, Hunt is trying its utmost to find even minute gains (it even found that Pillar Wing spokes are fastest, so it uses them), and there it has produced masses of data to prove the 48 Limitless’s claims.

To the consumer, though, I'd just say this: all of that is nice, but the main selling point is the experience the Limitless wheels offer, and that is the sensation of significant – and free – speed. And then… they only cost £1,100. That is incredible when stacked up against the other brands listed here, half as much, if not more.

Thus while we can argue the minutiae until the bovines return, the crux of it is I can’t think there are currently any faster wheels for the money.

(*NACA is the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which basically publishes tried and tested aerofoil shapes a bit like a tattoo artist has a catalogue of tatts.)

Price: 
£1,099

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