Jul 28, 2023
Hunt Alloy SL Disc wheelset review
Excellent-value wheels that are lightweight to boot This competition is now
Excellent-value wheels that are lightweight to boot
This competition is now closed
By Oscar Huckle
Published: November 29, 2022 at 12:00 pm
Hunt's Alloy SL Disc wheelset is a lightweight aluminium offering that won't break the bank from the British brand.
The wheels have shallow, tubeless-ready rims and are predominantly designed for use on the road. They weigh in at 1,410g (without disc lockrings), with the front wheel 640g and the rear 770g.
And the result? Save for some installation and quality control quirks, this is an excellent, lightweight set of road bike wheels that will be a compelling choice for many riders.
Hunt says the Alloy SL Disc is its lightest aluminium disc brake wheelset to date, offering "a level of responsiveness and performance typically reserved for carbon wheels". That's quite a tall claim.
The rims used are constructed from heat-treated 6061-T6 alloy. They feature an asymmetric rim profile with a 25mm depth, 24mm external rim width and 19mm internal rim width.
The rim widths are on the narrower side for a road wheel, but are bang-on the current ETRTO standard, which means that most modern road bike tyres should measure true to their stated size.
Hunt says the rims are ideal for 25 to 28mm tyres but they will officially work with any tyre up to 45mm wide.
The 45mm maximum tyre width suggests the wheels can be used for gravel riding. Hunt says they can, but this is not what the wheels are natively designed for. Given this, it's likely worth choosing a set of the best gravel wheels, if off-road riding is your primary intention.
The rims are tubeless-ready and feature Hunt's H-LOCK bead for what the brand claims assists in "easy and secure tubeless installation".
The rim bead features up-kicks to the shoulders of the tubeless steps, which Hunt says results in an easier installation and a firmer seal for tubeless tyres.
Hunt's Black Shield tubeless tape is fitted to the rim bead out of the box, so all you need to do is add your preferred tubeless tyre, valve and sealant to set them up.
Alternatively, because the rims are hooked (as opposed to hookless), you can also use clincher tyres and inner tubes, if that's more your cup of tea.
Hunt is using its new Sprint SL straight-pull hub, which features a 15mm-diameter 6066-T6 body and axle, for high strength-to-weight ratio claims.
The hubs use three treble-tooth pawls and a 7.5-degree engagement. Because the body of the hub is narrower, Hunt says it has managed to shave 35g over the Hunt Sprint hubs.
There is a spacer fitted to stop the pawls falling on the floor when you remove the freehub, which can be a rather irritating trait on certain wheels.
Hunt continues to use Japanese steel EZO bearings and Hunt says the rear hub has been upgraded to faster-rolling, low-friction bearings.
The axles are easily adaptable from 12mm thru-axle to quick-release and Hunt has included adaptors for 135x12mm and 135x10mm formats.
Lacing the hubs to the rim in a two-cross pattern are Pillar aero-butted, straight-pull spokes.
The spokes are triple-butted with hard anodised alloy spoke nipples, which Hunt says are lightly threadlocked. I’d prefer to take a small penalty on the weight in exchange for brass nipples, because alloy ones can be prone to corrosion over time.
The wheels come with a 100kg rider weight limit and have an understated aesthetic, with just two graphics on either side of each rim, opposite the valve stem.
My test wheelset didn't have the hub logo aligned with the valve, which is a staple feature of wheel building. When I (half-jokingly) flagged this up with Hunt, the brand confirmed it would typically build a wheel in this way and this was just a case of the wheel falling through the QC cracks.
The test wheelset had a Shimano HG freehub fitted, but there are also options for SRAM XDR, Campagnolo N3W and Campagnolo 9- to 12-speed. You can buy a replacement freehub from Hunt if you’re changing groupsets, for £29.99.
I took some initial measurements of both wheels on a Park Tool TS-4 truing stand.
The lateral and radial trueness of the front wheel was very good – only out by about 0.3mm.
The rear didn't fare as well and was out by 1mm laterally on either side.
For reference, the tolerance according to British Standard BS 6102 is 4mm for a disc brake rim. Typically, though, I’d expect a well-built wheel to be comfortably within 0.5mm. For the Alloy SL Disc, Hunt says it aims for 0.35mm.
A wheel that isn't true won't handle well when riding, shortens the lifespan of its component parts and, on frames with tighter clearances, could cause the tyre to abrade into the stays or fork blades.
Hunt recommends a spoke tension in the region of 115 to 130kgf (kilograms-force) for the 297mm non-driveside spokes on the front wheel and 110 to 125kgf for the 289mm driveside spokes on the rear.
I checked the spoke tensions of the wheels out of the box using a Park Tool TM1 tensiometer and they were within expected tolerances.
Both wheels were dished perfectly (how centred the hub is in relation to the rim).
Before testing, I decided to improve their trueness and got both wheels down to just under 0.2mm laterally and radially.
If you’re not sure how to true a bike wheel, it's something all good bike shops can do, but it can also be done at home if you have the right tools and know-how.
I first installed the wheels on my BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc with Continental GP5000 clinchers – a known benchmark performance tyre.
Unfortunately, I came across an issue in installation. When I tightened the rear Shimano RT800 disc rotor using Hunt's supplied Center Lock-compatible lockring, I found the axle would start to bind (preventing the axle from turning freely in the hub) when the lockring was barely tight, let alone torqued to the recommended 40Nm.
Slightly perplexed, I spoke to Hunt and was told, "This issue is something we have indeed seen in a few cases but mainly when using SRAM rotors, as they are short-bodied to avoid patent infringement on Shimano's Center Lock patent".
The brand subsequently recommended that I use a Shimano lockring, which fixed the issue.
If you don't have any spare lockrings at home, Hunt says you could also use a second silver shim (in addition to the single shim supplied with virtually all Center Lock lockrings) to space the original Hunt lockring out slightly, which should also alleviate the issue.
After the glorious UK summer, I then switched to Pirelli Cinturato Velo tubeless tyres, one of my favourite winter road bike tyres.
Setting the Cinturato Velo tyres up tubeless was reasonably straightforward, using the brand's own P-Zero sealant. The tyre was easy to install on the rim and didn't require the use of a tyre lever.
On both wheels, air escaped out of the join of the rim. After giving the wheels a thorough shake to coat the sealant everywhere, it eventually plugged the area.
On the rear wheel, the sealant-filled tyre lost air overnight, but after adding some more sealant and taking it out for a proper spin, it proved problem-free for the duration of the test.
The Alloy SLs were subject to a plethora of different rides, ranging from short and sharp pacelines and Sunday club runs through to a 115-mile/184km epic.
The wheels accelerated adeptly on flat and rolling terrain, and handled particularly snappily for an aluminium wheelset, although not quite to the extent of a carbon wheel.
They stick to their line with conviction and the rims seemingly have a perfect blend of stiffness and comfort with the two tyres used in testing.
Some cheaper wheelsets can give you the sensation that your fillings are rattling out, whereas others lack stiffness when pushed. But the Alloy SLs were unflustered in every scenario I put them through.
An early ride with the wheelset took in Streatley Hill, a UK top 100 climb in Berkshire in the south east of England that was used for the 2020 National Hill Climb Championship.
While a relatively short 1.2km, the Streatley Hill climb gets progressively steeper. Despite the steepening gradients, the wheels felt sprightly, with the advantages of low weight coming to the fore. They also spin up to speed quickly and I appreciated the quick freehub engagement.
That said, they don't climb with quite the urgency of a shallow carbon wheel of an equivalent weight, which Hunt itself compares them to. They are expectedly more flexible and don't offer quite the muted quality of their carbon brethren. At this price, though, it's hard to complain.
Descending, the wheelset feels assured and the shallow rim offers plenty of confidence because you don't need to worry about the wind trying to send you off-line.
The decision to go for a 25mm rim depth is a welcome one for this reason, although that means there's little to no sense of added aerodynamic efficiency when powering along the flats.
It's tricky to provide all three qualities of light, aero and cheap in an alloy wheelset, however, so that's the trade-off here.
While I didn't venture onto gravel, there's no shortage of rough, pothole-laden roads in the UK, which proved an ample opportunity to test the wheels’ compliance over wanting surfaces. They don't silence vibrations as well as a carbon offering, but they handled potholes and debris-filled roads with confidence, with the natural flex offering solid damping.
As is typical of Hunt wheels, the freehub is rather noisy, bordering on tinny, and my presence was certainly noted on Sunday club runs when freewheeling. You can easily quieten it down with some lithium grease though, if you wish.
To date, the wheels have covered just over 800 miles / 1,287 kilometres and have held up well, as you would expect.
At £429, these wheels represent excellent value for money and the performance is up there, too.
They would be a great option for anyone – sportive riders will appreciate the easy handling and low weight when the gradient heads up, and they’re light enough to race on without feeling anxious about the cost of a replacement if you break them.
They’d also make a great winter wheel option for when you want to hang up the carbon wheels – if you’re lucky enough to own a pair.
Other than some unfortunate installation and QC quirks, I can't fault these Hunt wheels.
At the end of testing, I checked them on the truing stand again and the front had remained at roughly 0.2mm, while the rear was out by 0.3mm. That's still pretty good and they’ve been subject to some pothole-laden UK roads.
The Alloy SLs are an excellent lightweight aluminium option from the British brand and their versatility makes them a compelling option for many riders.
Oscar Huckle is a technical writer at BikeRadar. He has been an avid cyclist since his teenage years, initially catching the road cycling bug and riding for a local club. He's since been indoctrinated into gravel riding and more recently has taken to the dark art of mountain biking. His favourite rides are epic road or gravel routes, and he has also caught the bikepacking bug hard after completing the King Alfred's Way and West Kernow Way. Oscar has a BA degree in English Literature and Film Studies and has close to a decade of cycling industry experience, initially working in a variety of roles at Evans Cycles before joining Carbon Bike Repair. He is particularly fond of workshop tool exotica and is a proponent of Campagnolo groupsets. Oscar prefers lightweight road and gravel frames with simple tube shapes, rather than the latest trend for aerodynamics and full integration. He is obsessed with keeping up to date with all the latest tech, is fixated with the smallest details and is known for his unique opinions.❚