Bicycle road racing hinges on aerodynamics, and the recent efforts of brands to cater to the need for speed on gravel are evident. Carbon gravel frames with aero tubing shapes now tease dirt road warriors with promises of “free” speed, so the advent of aero gravel wheelsets isn’t surprising.
HUNT Bike Wheels was early to the party, launching the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Disc in late 2020, and I’ve been hammering on them for a year straight. I have not been kind or careful.
In short: The HUNT Limitless 42 Gravel Disc wheels have proven worthy regardless of aerodynamics. They have withstood harsh terrain and conditions without a whimper. Although they are not as vertically compliant as some carbon gravel wheels, they never felt harsh. The aerodynamic advantages, apparent in certain situations, were icing on the cake of a solid gravel wheelset.
HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Disc Aero Wheelset
- Internal width 24.5 mm
- External width 36 mm
- Depth 42 mm
- Bead Hooked
- Hubs HUNT forged and CNC'd 6061-T6 anodized aluminum alloy
- Spokes Butted, stainless steel, airfoil profile by Sandvik
- Aerodynamic advantage
- Laterally stiff
- Lifetime crash replacement policy
- Reasonably lightweight
- CeramicSpeed coated bearing upgrade available
- Relatively good pricing
- CeramicSpeed front wheel bearings got loose
- Not as vertically compliant as other carbon gravel wheels
How Are the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Wheels Aero?
With a 42mm deep profile, the HUNT wheels do look the part compared to other carbon gravel wheels. The 25mm internal width and hooked sidewalls play well with current tires and air pressure trends. But what sets the Limitless 42s apart is the fat external width of 36 mm, which is 4 mm wider than most.
Road and gravel tires have expanded, and HUNT’s relatively generous external width is the secret sauce for aerodynamics. Generally, the rim should be wider than the tire (by at least 5%) to slip through the air easily. But most gravel rims are remarkably shy of this requirement. HUNT aims to meet or at least get much closer to the tire width for gravel grinders in search of speed.
The British brand doesn’t boast massive gains over other, narrower aero wheels used for gravel. For example, HUNT claims only a 0.05W advantage over the ENVE SES 3.4 AR and a 0.11W gain over the Zipp 353NSW in the same conditions. But the asserted improvements over non-aero wheels are significant at 16.8W.
Another aerodynamic strategy is the visibly apparent truncated spoke bed. Instead of the rim coming to a taller, narrower ridge at the spoke bed, the Limitless 42 Gravel Disc rim has a broad flat surface across that aspect of the rim. This flatter profile keeps the airflow attached longer before separating, reducing drag.
But Don’t Wider Rims Mean Heavier Wheels?
Adding to the external width typically means adding more carbon fiber layers, concurrently adding weight. HUNT wasn’t satisfied with the status quo and exercised a different approach to expand the rim width.
Instead of solid carbon fiber filling the space between the internal and external sidewalls, HUNT uses a low-density expanding polymer (foam) to fill the gap, sparing the weight of added carbon fiber layers. The brand’s out-of-the-box solution lends the strength necessary for punishing gravel without adding much weight. HUNT labels this patented method as “Limitless Technology.”
Other HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Aero Wheel Components
My test set of HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel wheels came with optional, uber-premium CeramicSpeed coated hybrid ceramic bearings inside HUNT-branded, forged, and CNC’d 6061-T6 heat-treated aluminum alloy hubs. The $400 upcharge for the lauded bearings seems high, but buying them from CeramicSpeed empties the wallet by about $900. So, relatively, HUNT is an excellent deal for those chasing every potential marginal gain and the promise of greater longevity.
The freehub body is machined 7075 T-6, as are the axles. The freehub body has steel inserts to protect them from gouging from the cassette sprockets, which is common with aluminum freehubs. Three pawls engage with 48 teeth on the ratchet ring, producing a 7.5-degree engagement angle. HUNT offers freehub bodies for SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo cassettes.
Everything is tied together with butted Sandvik/Pillar Wing airfoil profile stainless steel spokes and aluminum nipples. Twenty-four spokes on both front and rear wheels are laced in a two-cross pattern.
HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel: Ride Impressions
On the first hardpacked flat section in calm conditions, I felt the HUNT Limitless 42 aero effect. The wheels held speeds in the 20s with less effort than the non-aero wheels I usually used. It wasn’t a monumental difference, but it was palpable.
On a blustery day on a downhill that crosses a dry creek bed at the bottom, I stiffened up for the blast of air from the side that usually funnels through the creek’s canyon. I was surprised at the limited response of the bike and confirmed it with another lap. The stability was also perceptibly better than my non-aero gravel wheels during the scary period of swirling and unpredictable winds that come with a tornado watch in Texas. Yes, I am aloof enough to get caught out in those conditions.
The wide rim profile did equate to lateral stiffness. When picking my way through rock gardens, the front wheel was very resistant to twisting about the steering axis, and I never felt I had to compensate for lateral flex when leaned over hard in faster turns. The downside was that the wheels were less vertically compliant than my non-aero gravel hoops. I wouldn’t say they were harsh, but they felt less plush in small to medium chatter than my “softest” wheels.
The freehub engaged quickly, bolstering my confidence when I picked my way through rocky sections or powering the front wheel over obstacles. And I appreciated the steel inserts on the freehub body when I swapped cog sets; they did protect the aluminum freehub body against gouges.
I punished the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Aero wheelset for a solid year; they were daily drivers for jaunts around my neighborhood’s hardpacked, rocky, and dusty dirt roads. I never washed them, pampered them, and rode them as if they were indestructible. The HUNT components emerged with nothing but a thick layer of dust and dirt. The rims were as true at the end of the year as they were when I unboxed them.
But, I did have an issue with the CeramicSpeed front wheel bearings.
What About Those Bearings?
I can’t say my butt dyno could measure speed gains due to the CeramicSpeed-coated hybrid ceramic bearings. I can say that spinning the axles in my fingers did elicit verbal “ooohs and ahhs.” They felt buttery smooth.
Marginal wattage gains aside, I did have a significant gripe about the front hub bearings. About a month into testing, the bearings developed play that I could feel at the bars. It wasn’t enough to create disc rub or interfere with my riding. I just didn’t like that I could feel it.
I’ve heard that bearings that are slightly loose are potentially faster, but it felt “cheap” to me, and they are far from that. And I don’t think most others would appreciate it, even if they are marginally faster.
Final Thoughts on the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Aero Wheelset
HUNT Bike Wheels provided white papers on the aerodynamics of its 42 Limitless Gravel wheels, and I did feel that they were faster when barreling down hardpacked straights. And they proved stable in crosswinds and unpredictable, swirling winds. The wheels were laterally stiff, which was great when I had to wrestle the bike through obstacles or lean hard in fast, wide-radius turns. But they were less vertically compliant than other carbon gravel wheels, making them a little less comfortable on longer rides in rough terrain.
There are definitely lighter, more compliant carbon gravel wheelsets, but many of them are not aero. And relative to others, the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel wheelset is a good deal.
The MSRP of my test set, with CeramicSpeed-coated hybrid ceramic bearings, is $1,799. With steel bearings, the price drops to $1,399. A set of ENVE G23s starts at $2,550. The HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel wheelset, with SRAM driver body and rim tape, weighs 680 g for the front wheel and 822 g for the rear. The G23s are 200+ g lighter per set but not aero.
The HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel Aero wheels proved durable, and the brand also supplies a lifetime crash replacement policy. The original owners receive HUNT-branded replacement parts and labor at a local bike shop free of charge. HUNT sends a replacement wheel if a repair cannot be executed. The wheels have a 3-year warranty, while CeramicSpeed bearings have a lifetime warranty.
If I were to do this all over again with my own money, and my riding mainly was on dirt roads (not trails), I would likely opt for the steel-bearing version of the HUNT 42 Limitless Gravel over the ENVE G23. I would prioritize aero gains over absolute weight and pocket the extra $1,151 (at least). That’s enough green to start funding another bike or cycling-related travel.