- by Michael Bachman
- Published: 13 October 2015
A “lightweight, adaptable, year round road disc wheelset” that also happens to be fairly strong and quite keenly priced? Have we found the exception to Keith Bontrager’s wheelset rule: “Light, Strong, Cheap – pick two”? If Tom & Peter Marchant of Hunt Bike Wheels are to be believed, their 4Season Disc wheel is indeed exceptional.
What do you get for your money?
The Hunt Mason X 4 Season Disc wheels are a pretty sweet deal. Even though the Australian currency exchange rates are not playing nicely for overseas commodities, the UK pricing of £349, which includes shipping, comes out to around $765 Australian, which makes it quite attractive.
The wheelset is built around a pair of medium width tubeless ready disc specific rims – 23mm wide x 27mm deep (17mm across the bead seat), laced to Novatech hubs with 24 round black triple-butted Pillar stainless steel spokes.
The 11sp Shimano/SRAM & Campagnolo compatible hubs have an alloy freehub and recently the SRAM XD Driver availability was added. The spines of the freehub are protected by a steel Anti Bite Guard (ABG) to prevent the excessive damage from cassette teeth that is often seen on hubs with a (softer) alloy freebody.
The hubs are standard with centerlock disc mounts and come complete with adaptors for QR and 15mm Thru Axle adapters (12mm Thru axle adapters are available separately). If you’ve got 6 bolt discs like I do, these wheels also come supplied with the adapters that make this a non-issue.
The wheels are also supplied with 2 spare spokes (one each of the two different length spokes used on the wheelset), a pair of solid and tastefully pantographed QR skewers, a Pillar spoke tool, and a hand filled build card to show that these were built by a human.
You could argue that these extras are not needed and that they add to the cost, but as a smaller brand, Hunt need to rely on customer service and satisfaction to make their mark. As they point out, “We are all cyclists at heart and have been customers at some point in our lives and know there is nothing more frustrating than spending your hard earned money on a new set of wheels only to find it impossible to get hold of parts”.
Their simple black colour scheme with artfully designed, sized, and placed white lettered decals makes this a beautiful and classic looking wheelset that will look good on most bikes. They are not garish and won’t give innocent bystanders or fellow riders that seasick feeling. This is a classic and subtle look which I prefer for my bike, the Volagi Liscio.
The wheels weigh in at 1,585g, which is impressively light for current generation disc wheelsets at this price point. On my scales my set came in at 1,620g (752g front & 870g rear), but this also included the disc centerlock rings and pre-fitted rim tape. The listed weight by Hunt was confirmed as being without rim tape or lock ring, so it is fair to say that these are as specified. If 6 bolt discs are used, the adapters add another 32g at each end.
Other brands that have wheelsets in this weight range (or a bit lighter) will typically retail at USD$2,999, some 5 times more than the Hunt 4Season wheels, which means they stack up pretty well. This wheelset is sold with a 2 year warranty as well as a 60 day “ride & return” period and, to top it off, they also have a crash replacement discount should the worst happen.
To give you an idea of the Hunt wheel’s place in the market, I tabulated disc brake wheelsets at similar weights and prices.
|Brand/Model||Rim material||Weight (quoted)||RRP*|
Course 30 Disc
SES 3.4 Disc Clincher
Ardennes Plus SL Disc
Aksium One Disc
Kysrium Pro Disc All-Road
Kysrium Pro Carbon SL C Disc
Mason X 4Season Disc
|*RRP uses converted USD values for some wheelsets and shipping costs are additional|
In addition to the features already mentioned, the 4Season wheels have some pretty effective sealing built into the hubs. I did an internal inspection after 1,500km of Adelaide winter riding, and the freewheel pawls and axle were clean as a whistle with no grit, dirt or moisture. Each side of the rear axle is sealed differently, and each of the thru-axle adapters have an o-ring to protect against the elements.
Time to ride
The ride testing started with a new pair of Continental GrandPrix II 4000 25C tyres. The tyres went on quite easily and filled out the rim well. The pre-fitted rim tape is neat and unobtrusive, so there were no hassles in getting them ride ready. I hadn’t used center lock adaptors before, so it took a few seconds to work it out, but as a result I’m going to make sure that the next set of wheels I buy/build will be centerlock – the ease of use, despite the initial higher cost of the discs, make this a no-brainer and SRAM Centerline discs feel great. Only a minor caliper realignment was required to suit the wheelset alignment and I was ready to ride.
Out of the box, these wheels were smooth and ‘felt’ fast. I didn’t measure a speed increase or notice any new KOMs, but they really felt good. There is nothing like making a new purchase and being immediately pleased with the result. The 4Seasons hubs additional sealing apparently adds some drag but this didn’t detract. The Hunt website mention that the wheels have high quality EZO bearings; it’s not something I could notice, but maybe they are better than regular bearings.
I’m not a small bloke (~ 93kg), so while I wasn’t over the max weight limit of 100kg, Hunt still caution that if the rider is over 85kg, the wheels should be “regularly checked by an experienced bike mechanic and use no smaller than a 23mm tyre at max 120psi to reduce fatigue”. This wasn’t holding me back from testing them thoroughly, though.
I took them up, over and down steep inclines, some with constant braking. They tackled typical suburban roads in the dark with hidden sewer and drainage ‘cut-ins’ in the road surface which are prone to give you snakebite punctures when you least want them. They travelled over crappy road surfaces which threaten you with Paris-Roubaix cobble-stone style conditions. They raced through dips, wallows and potholes which frighten you on dark and cold winter nights. They did all this for about 1,500km, and by the end of it the wheels looked like they had seen a winter of solid riding!
Despite my best efforts, there was nothing wrong with these wheels; they were as round, true and running as well as day one, despite me offering them no mercy. “Impressed” is the word I have to use to describe how I felt.
Really? Nothing wrong?
Well, to be truthful, there was a minor issue. Thinking back on it, it was actually quite funny, if not embarrassing. I was doing my best effort to make it up the steep section of Sheaoak Road (it only lasts about 550m with an average gradient of a shade over 15%, but has a pitch of 22-25% that lasts for 150m) in my 34/28 gearing and struggling (to put it mildly) to maintain about 5km/hr, when there is a faint but distinct squeaking coming from somewhere on the bike. I managed to work out that it was the seal of the QR adaptor in the rear hub, but after a bit of spanner-work and a bit of grease, it was all good.
While the hubs were apart to address the squeak, I was able to take a good look at the solid 4 pawl/28 tooth ratchet system. The pawls showed no wear and tear and they looked like a robust setup; they provide the best indications that they’ll last a while. Hunt recommend using a quick spray of Teflon lube to solve this issue, though they noted that the batches of wheels now heading to customers are fully greased prior to dispatch.
Apart from that, there really was nothing to complain about. The wheels were very comfortable and took hard braking, fast cornering (on rough and smooth surfaces), and descending at high speeds with ease.
For interest, I measured the tyres on the Hunt 4Seasons against my own carbon 29er rims that have a 19mm bead width (some 2mm more than the 4Season). The Continental GrandPrix 25C’s that I used during the test measured up at 26.4mm on the 4Season and 27.3 on my 29er rims. As a comparison, some GP4000S in 25C also showed the same width difference between the 4Season and the 29er, but at 27.4 & 28.3mm wide respectively. The bead seat width on the 4Season is 17mm which is on the narrow side of the wide rim bandwagon at the moment, but this does not seem to pose any issues with the use of 25C tyres, and would easily accommodate 28C tyres with equal aplomb.
So would I buy the Hunt 4Seasons?
If I owned a disc brake road bike with a lower end disc wheelset, the answer is a resounding yes. Similarly, if I wanted a spare set for commuter duties to save the carbon fiber 29er rims that I own for more “serious” pursuits, it would be a yes again.
From the comparison table above, there are no wheelsets that can match the weight of the 4Season discs and compete on price at the same time. For the few that can get close to the weight of the 4Seasons (i.e. within 100g), the cost is almost twice as much.
These wheels are well suited to cyclists with mid-range to high-end road bikes who need to upgrade their ‘basic’ wheels or want a second pair of hardy wheels which will last through winter without the weight penalty. Similarly, they are a nice second set of wheels for a cyclo-cross rider who wants their bike to double as a commuter bike.
So are they light, strong, and cheap? In my judgement, they pass the strength test but are still not what I class as one of the lighter wheelsets (for comparison, my 29er carbon wheels are 1,421g w/out rim tape). For $765 delivered, the Hunts are within reach for entry level riders looking to take their riding up a notch.
I have enough confidence in the quality of these wheels to take them on my next European cycling trip to the Dolomites and Alps and I’m sure they’ll serve me well up, and down, the Passo Stelvio, Col Du Galibier, Mortirolo and Maratona Dolomites. Head over to huntbikewheels.com and take a look at them for yourself.
Hunt Mason 4Seasons Disc Wheels (RRP $ 765)