The Halo Vortex wheelset is relatively robust, wider than the average, pretty cheap but also slightly hefty too. If you want a good platform for running more voluminous tyres and don’t mind a bit extra weight then the Vortex’s will be a good choice for a sturdy set of hoops for long travel machines.
All Halo wheels are designed and assembled in the UK and the Vortex wheels are no different. Halo say these are wheels are built to take on the trails of the Enduro World Series. They are a wide (33mm internal width), beefy set of rims with an asymmetrical spoke design and using the brand's 120-point pick up Supadrive hub.
Using an asymmetric design Halo say they have equalised spoke tensions which should lead to better reliability and increased stiffness. Of course, an asymmetrical design also means an asymmetrical rim shape and Halo say to compensate for the differences in wall length they have altered rim wall thicknesses proportionally to balance out impact forces equally. Halo say they have also cut down weight where it isn’t needed with wheels weighing a claimed 970g front and 1170g for the 27.5” model we have in for test.
The Vortexes are set apart from the Vapour wheels in the range by the asymmetrical spoke pattern and also the width. These are 3mm wider, with a 33mm internal rather than 30mm internal width compared to the more trail focused offerings. That’s pretty wide, with many brands settling on a 30mm internal diameter.
With the 38mm external width, these look visibly wider and it’s this width that produces a pleasing profile from 2.4” to 2.6” diameter tyres although they do accept 2.8” tyres happily too. I wouldn’t recommend using narrower or wider tyres with these rims and in my opinion 2.6” is the sweet spot, narrower tyres produce a squared off profile which is not conducive to maximising cornering grip.
The hubs used sealed bearing and annoyingly push on end caps which you’ll need to keep a beady eye on when taking wheels out of the bike to ensure they don’t scamper away from you. Halo say they have increased stiffness and reduced flex by the use of super wide spaced flanges and the use of a heat treated, hollow Cro-Mo Steel axle for maximum power transfer.
The freehub utilises a wedge pawl mechanism with 13 ‘micro-teeth' per pawl which produces, as has become synonymous with Halo freehubs, a super quick engagement via the 120-point pickup. The wheels have been in use since June this year and have had four months of pretty hard use; the rear hub has just started to feel a bit rough and in need of a service. That's not the longest life for a dry summer and slightly disappointing in terms of reliability. Halo says that after inspecting my test wheels they deduced that the bearings were not filled with enough grease from the factory. They say this is a highly unusual case and if a customer were to experience the same problem in a reasonable timeframe they would repair bearings as needed for free.
Last but not least, in terms of build the Vortex’s use 32 spokes front and rear, just regular J-bend spokes and are also tubeless taped and ready to go straight from the box. If stealth black rims aren’t your thing you can buy an extra decal kit in a choice of six colours for £20.
I’ve been running these wheels on my Cotic Rocket long-termer, where they are perfectly positioned for a 160mm enduro ripper with a quick pedalling pick up for flat out sprints and are tough enough to fend off some hard and unruly riding. The Vortexes are a little heavy but Halo upfront about the fact that these are wheels built for riding hard in all circumstances where a little bit of extra heft is the least of your worries.
I’ve barrelled into all sorts of tricky situations running low pressures of 18psi front and 22psi rear (I weigh 60kg with riding kit on for reference) and the rims have come out relatively unscathed.
I’ve managed to ding the rear rim but I was running my tyre pressure lower than 22psi that day and came across an unexpected man-made rock garden with an extremely sharp-edged rock at race pace. The ding happened on the shorter side of the asymmetrical rim which I believe to be the thinner side of the rim wall. I think that's maybe something for Halo to investigate in the future as most dings are confined to the bead area - an easy fix with a spanner - rather than extending into the wall of the rim, as in this case.
The rim didn’t lose any air or sealant despite being misshapen and it hasn’t been a problem seating tyres since. Halo says they use 6061-T10 alloy which has been heat treated and has high tolerance for impact forces, I’ve just suffered the one ding in months of riding so they have proven to be pretty tough, all told.
I’ll be sad to see the Halo Vortex wheelset depart the Cotic, the profile these rims give a larger volume 2.6" tyre is superb and a great for running lower pressures, minimising roll and maximising grip. I won’t be sorry to drop a few grams from the bike though and benefit from a bit less unsprung weight.
The wheelset is available in a range of hub widths and of course in 29” too. Ison Distribution tells me there is another load of wheels dropping on the 15th October 2018, go to www.halowheels.com/vortex. for more information and to order.
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