Review: Halo’s Vortex 29″ Wheelset is big, wide, tough and noisy

Ben has been hammering Halo’s enduro-proofed wheelset, the Vortex, over the summer months to see if they live up to the hype.

Riding images by Dave Price, studio snaps shot exclusively for Wideopen by Jacob Gibbins

Halo have come out with the strong claim that their Vortex wheels are designed to go the distance of a race season and come out the other side spinning smooth and true. Ben put that claim to the test.

Key Features:

  • 33mm internal width
  • 100 or 100mm Boost front
  • 135/142 or 148mm Boost rear
  • Sleeved, 32 hole rim
  • Shimano HG or SRAM XD drive
  • Supadrive Alloy freehub
  • £155.00-£265.00 RRP
  • 27.5 and 29″ available

Don’t call me Shirley

Designed to cope with all that the Enduro World Series can throw at them, the Vortex is the latest offering from UK brand, Halo Wheels. They were developed in house with the assistance of their team rider, James Shirley who apparently ran one set of wheels for an entire race season without any problems or failures. Impressive stuff.

At the heart of any wheelset is the hub, and Halo use their own MT and MT Supadrive hubs front and rear respectively. Both hubs offer wide flanges for increased wheel stiffness and they run on sealed bearings. The rear, Supadrive hub also features super-quick 120 point engagement on the freehub.

Numbers that add up

The Vortex rims feature a modern 33mm internal width and have an asymmetric construction, helping to balance out spoke tensions and make a more durable wheel. They come in a nice, low-key black finish with black decals. Brightly coloured decals are available aftermarket if that is your thing. They also come taped and ready for tubeless use, but no valves are included. All in, the 29” wheelset weighs a claimed 2270g and the 27.5” set weighs a claimed 2140g.

I tested a 29” set of wheels, both with boost spacing, although 27.5” are also available and they come in a variety of non-boost and even super-boost spacings, so they should fit pretty much any bike.

I bolted them onto an Intense Primer, which is a super capable trail bike with good angles and 130/140mm travel. Throughout the test I ran a Schwalbe Magic Mary, Snakeskin tyre up front and a Maxxis Forekaster in EXO casing at the back. At different times during the test I also ran tyre inserts including, Huck Norris and the new, Vittoria Airliner.

No dents, no flat spots or loss of spoke tension

These wheels have been ragged about on the uplift at Bike Park Wales, around a few baked-hard trail centres, over the jumps at my local spot and have just been smashed into a thousand wheel-breaking rocks at the ‘Ard Rock Enduro. After all of that, they are absolutely straight as an arrow.

I have not had to do a single twist of a spoke key the whole time and they are spinning fast and true, when other wheelsets have been left dented and pringled. Even after a puncture at the ‘Ard Rock meant that I rode a massive rocky chute on the rim, there was still nothing more than a scratch on the surface. No dents, flat spots or loss of spoke tension.

The wide rim profile helps to create a stable platform for running wide tyres at low pressures, giving you ample grip and compliance over rough ground. The Vortex wheels feel stiff and hold a line well without being harsh, and this is partly down to the relatively low spoke tensions.

Speaking to the guys at Halo, they said that in early testing with the wheels laced up at high tensions, they were just too stiff, skitting about on the trail, which is why the tensions are relatively low now.

Clicky and Buzzy

Under power the 120 point hub engagement basically feels instantaneous, giving you the ability to do single cranks or partial cranks through tricky sections. With burly tyres and inserts, this is no light weight wheelset and you can feel that a bit on long climbs or short sprints, but as soon as you point down hill, all is forgotten as they pick up speed and the sound of the rear hub kicks in.

The Halo Supadrive hub sounds like a mixture of a, ‘clicky’ Hope hub and a, ‘buzzy’ Chris King hub, and in my book it sounds wicked, especially on a quiet bike with just the noise of the tyres to accompany it. The noise it makes just feels fast, without making a racket and distracting you.

We love.

  • Bombproof construction
  • Super fast engagement
  • Wide rim allows low tyre pressures
  • Low spoke tension
  • The noise they make!

Could do better.

  • Not the lightest wheelset out there.

What we think.

The Halo Vortex wheels won’t be for everyone due to their weight and burly intentions, but if you’re a wheel wrecking racer or hard charging rider who values reliability over weight then these are great value and totally dependable.

As it happens, I don’t really care about weight, so this is exactly what I want in a tough, enduro type wheelset. I’m going to continue running them on my test bikes for the foreseeable future.

Massive thanks to Saddleback for lending me an Intense Primer for this wheel test.

You can check out the Vortex wheelset and all other Halo MTB wheels over on their website here.