Review: Halo Vortex Wheelset

May 16, 2018
by Paul Aston  
Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - Title image

Halo had almost achieved cult status in the UK, being one of the original brands to get into the dirt jump scene along with Identity, another brand under the Ison Distribution umbrella in the UK that is also having a resurgence after a number of quiet years.

The Vortex marks a new direction for Halo, who have traditionally been focused on dirt, downhill and BMX components. The Vortex wheelset uses their own asymmetric alloy rims mated to sealed bearing hubs and their 120-point pick up Supadrive freehub system. The wheels are available in 27.5" and 29" diameters with a range of nearly all hub widths, drivers, and decals for £410 GBP (approx. $555 USD).

Starling Murmur Review Halo Vortex
Halo Vortex Details:

• 27.5” or 29” (29" tested)
• Boost or traditional spacing
• XD and HG drivers
• Asymmetric rim design
• 33mm inner width, 38mm outer width
• Tubeless ready- tape fitted
• 120 point engagement (3 Degree)
• Wheelset weight: 2243g (29” actual)
• Price: £410.00 GBP (approx. $555 USD).
halowheels.com



Construction and Installation

The 6061 T-10 heat treated aluminum Vortex rims are designed asymmetrically to equalize spoke tension, and the rim walls have different thicknesses so the longer side has a thinner wall for an even balance. The rims have an internal width of 33mm and an external width of 38mm. Halo also bulked up the rim bead to be able to take an impact and continue to be rideable. The spokes are double butted with a standard J-bend and an ED black anodized coating.

The hubs are fairly simple, using sealed bearings and push in adaptors for the front hub and a screw in rear axle which also retains the freehub body. The freehub system is more interesting, though, using the latest iteration of Halo's Supadrive system; Halo say they have increased stiffness and reduced flex
Halo Vortex Rim dimensions
by using a heat treated, hollow Cro-Mo steel axle to handle maximum power. The 120-point pick up uses a wedge pawl mechanism with 13 'micro-teeth' per pawl. There are six pawls in total, that work together in pairs and give 3º of pickup.


Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - SupaDrive freehub system
Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - SupaDrive freehub system
The SupaDrive freehub system uses three pairs of spring-loaded pawls each with 13 'micro teeth' and 120 points of engagement in the hub shell.

Installation was easy as the wheels came built with rim tape and tubeless valves installed. The rims easily accepted Maxxis Minion DHF tires in DH casing, Bontrager SE5 tires and then a CushCore/Schwalbe setup, all inflated using a booster track pump.

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Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - front wheel weight
Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - Rear wheel weight
My wheelset weighed in slightly under Halo's website number, at 2243g for the pair of 29" including rim tape.

Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - Front hub
Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - Rear Hub

Starling Murmur Review Halo Vortex


Performance

The Vortex wheelset took plenty of abuse during the Ligurian winter on normal mountain bikes and under the added weight and torque of an eMTB. The rear wheel received a number of dings, but no cracks and nothing big enough to lose any pressure, on trails that have caused numerous wheels to meet an untimely demise over the last two years. I also didn't get any pinch punctures to the tire sidewalls during testing.

The wheels stayed true, and spoke tensions stayed put; even with all that rocky abuse I never had to take a spoke key to them.
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After opening the hubs, there was still a layer of clean, factory-installed grease around the freehub, proving that sealing was keeping water and dirt at bay. The rear wheel bearings are starting to rumble very slightly, but spin freely and easily have a few hundred more kilometers in them.

The alloy freehub body had a hard time under the added load of the eMTB, and is scarred by the cassette biting into the allow splines. This is not an eMTB wheelset, but I believe the SupaDrive system would take the power without issue if there were steel inserts added to the freehub body.


Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - rear wheel ding
Halo Vortex Wheelset Review - rear wheel ding
The Vortex wheelset took a beating through the Ligurian winter, the rims received a number of dings, but none that managed to fold or crack the rim bead leading to air-loss.


Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesA tough, wide, and heay duty wheelset for riders looking for something that will last at a reasonable price. Paul Aston



91 Comments

  • + 139
 2200 gram wheelset + big tires + Cushcore.
I may begin to understand the need for a motor on a mountain bike.
  • + 1
 Ehehehehe
  • + 21
 @nozes lmao what do your legs look like toothpicks or what stop skipping leg day. I come from the days of pedalling 45lb bikes around and your saying you need a motor to add a couple hundred grams to your 30lb bike lol
  • + 17
 What days are you referring to when you were pedaling around on a 45 lb. bike?
  • + 2
 @mhoshal: No motor for me or my bike,thank you.
And no 40lbs bike to pedal either,nor my terrain or my riding style justify it.
  • + 26
 I ride with dual monitors and macpro desktop mounted to my bars, doesn't everyone do that now,?
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: Of course everyone does that!
  • + 6
 @gtill9000: 2010ish. Santa Cruz VP Free with Marzocchi 888, (both coil) DH Casing/wire bead tires with HD tubes, thick wall aluminum wheels, and 3 rings. All that plus some gets you pretty close to 45ish lbs.
  • + 7
 @gtill9000: ever heard of Iron Horse? i used to pedal a dual crown, 3 ring, steel bead tired 7point 10 years ago. That ticked the box at 45 pounds.
  • + 5
 @gtill9000: IH Yakuza. The thing was a tank and the spinner fork was about 10lbs and did nothing. I rode it uphill both ways in the snow.

I do not miss that bike, but I still wonder how much it would have improved if I'd kept updating it. Halo spin doctor wheels, RS Domain fork with coil u-turn. Manitou metel rear shock. It was actually down to 39lbs by the time I sold it.
  • + 4
 @SeaJay: In around 2008 I had a Banshee Scream w/5th element & Jr T, FUN 48 Spoke wheels. That thing was a tank and a pig to pedal but you could plow through anything.

BTW these were AM bikes back then.
  • + 14
 well ok then everybody. That sounds terrible.
  • + 4
 Its a strange point of pride,how much bike you pedaled back in the 2000's. Things get better, lets enjoy that ,now
  • + 3
 @gtill9000: any real dh/fr bike in early 2000's
  • - 2
 @mhoshal: WoW, you are such a badass!!
  • + 17
 @mhoshal: I melted down Thor's Hammer Mjölnir into a DH frame w/ a KTM 1290 fork and Grave Digger's rear suspension, each of which I filled w/ molten lead and Nibbler's dark matter poops.

Since I'm not Worthy, the bike weighed just under 5x Wolf-Rayet Star R136a1 aka 1,322 Solar Units aka 2,650^1030 kg.

But my throbbing, throaty-girthed thighs could take it. That was when Mountain Biking Was Real. 2007, yo.
  • + 1
 @gtill9000: 2000's and Im still pedalling my 47lb RMX around lol although I prefer my 28lb reign but the RMX is a great leg workout
  • + 1
 @gtill9000: I had a 2001 Norco Shore, 47 pounds, rode it up Mount Fromme and Burke Mountain on a regular basis.
  • + 1
 @gtill9000: Oh my , young padawan...so clueless...or so young Big Grin
  • + 3
 @kurtz433: Aye. You tell that to kids these days and they wouldn't believe you.
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: lick road wit’ tongue...
  • + 53
 I bought a set of these and I’m not the kind of person to stand behind a purchase... if it’s bad, I’ll moan about it.

But these are genuinely just very good, reasonably priced wheels that take one hell of a hiding. I don’t know if that’s heavy for a set of wheels.. I certainly don’t notice it on the ride to, on or from the trails.

I’ve renamed my set Rob Shapiro.. as they’ve taken every case I’ve thrown at them and helped me (and OJ) get away with murder.
  • + 18
 I may sound like a legal geek here, but Shapiro didn't get O.J. off. Johnny Cochran did. Shapiro isn't a trial lawyer. He hired Cochran when it became apparent that O.J. was not going to take a plea deal.
  • + 8
 @Rubberelli: the more you know.
  • + 16
 @Rubberelli: ahh Johnny Cochran! That’s what I’ll name my shock. Thanks
  • + 2
 @Benji-man: lol you've inspired me you name my wheels Vincent LaGuardia Gambini accompanied by his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito.
  • + 15
 Then I think you should get a fat bike and name the wheels kardashians. Or maybe just the back wheel. . .
  • + 7
 People are complaining about the weight, but the rim itself is at a reasonable weight and on par with everything else on the market from alloy for such internal width and in this price range.
I've been looking for wider rims for a new wheelset myself and here are some manufacturer specs for 27.5 rims:

Halo Vortex: 33mm, 565g.
Dt ex511: 30mm, 535g.
Wtb async i35: 35mm, 570g.

So if you're looking at custom wheels, depending on what hub and spokes you want to use, these aren't a bad option at all. I run a set of Chaos currently and if their strength is anything to go by, I wouldn't hesitate picking up the Vortex.
  • + 2
 I've had the halo 35 and if they are anything to go by these should be great for full on rough stuff. Weight looks appropriate for use.
  • + 1
 For how wide they are that's a great weight. I'm trying these out if my Kore Realms are too lightweight for DH.
  • + 1
 Agreed.
Also, @paulaston are you a fan of the Bonty SE5 Tire? It's my favorite front tire for everything other than a pure DH rig, Hoping they start making it in a 2.5 WT version for both 29 & 27.5.
  • + 6
 There is no information on the number, brand or gauge of spokes in the review. Pretty important information, don't you think?
  • + 1
 Hey @ak-77! These wheels use our own double butted 14/15, ED coated spokes with black ED coated brass nipples. Cheers!
  • + 5
 "The rear wheel bearings are starting to rumble very slightly"
So how many miles/hours did these wheels get tested?
  • + 5
 Light Strong Cheap Pick two
  • + 2
 Where are the other 3 pawls? I only see 3 on the freehub, the article lists 6 pawls. Do they give you 3 extra to replace the others when they strip?
  • + 2
 Was wondering the same..
  • + 2
 They're side by side. 3 pairs, you can see them in the picture.
  • + 1
 @Mayzei: I thought that was just the slot for the retaining clip?
  • + 1
 Hey guys! We use pawls with micro teeth. We hope this helps!
  • + 1
 Sorry, it should have read- 'Hey guys! We use 3 pawls with micro teeth. We hope this helps!' Doh!
  • + 2
 Wheelset reviews seem to only have 3 possible outcomes:
Amazing
Pretty average
Terrible

I don't really see what else you can say.
These seem to be the middle one
  • + 88
 Wheelset reviews seem to only have 4 possible outcomes:
Amazing
Pretty average
Terrible
&
CrankBros
  • + 1
 @watchmen: And read between the lines, we may sound like we love them but look carefully...
  • + 2
 @watchmen: I remember reading a while back about a bunch of money being invested in CrankBros, in order to turn the brand around and how they were working on the reputation. I just thought to myself, why? Why would you invest anything in a company with the reputation of CrankBros?

Easton hubs were pretty craptacular too, especially the OEM junk.
  • + 4
 Once you get used to 120 points of engagement, it's difficult to go back
  • + 0
 Id go back any day. These120 point hubs are (I think) made by Chosen for Halo. Pile of sh1t in my opinion as I have got them fitted to a set of pro built 26" wheels. Hardly used them, the free hub jammed and wrecked the paws. New free hub and so far so good. But the 120 point engagement is not worth a penny, may as well be 16 point as due to the way the free hub works (wedge engagement unlike a normal hub) there is more like 20 deg NOT the 3 before you engage the hub drive. This also gives you a kind of soft delayed feel to the peddles, a Hope 44t engagement is quicker and more reliable.
  • + 1
 @ballardski: I'm guessing it depends on the hub, but my Dartmoor Reel Pro 102 hub works very well and I feel no delay in engagement. "Regular", low engagement hubs feel pretty clunky to me now. But I probably would switch to Hope just for the build quality alone.
  • + 7
 @nhp890: and then you try onyx and realize anything else just feels broken.
  • + 4
 @adrennan: hahahah yeah man! onyx are amazing!
  • + 1
 @nhp890: My hope hub runs like shit...
  • + 4
 @MoonboyMTB: hope is the gateway drug into high end hubs. onyx and I9 are both far superior.
  • + 1
 @nhp890: Yes, it will be down to that particular build hub and the way it engages. Its the wedge style paws.
  • + 0
 @adrennan: Not got the money yet to try them, only get paid pennies! But its the good old adage
.........Light, Strong, cheep......you can only choose two. That Halo is light and cheep, far from strong
  • + 0
 @ballardski: The hubs are an off the shelf design from Chosen, Raleigh use them as well. The freehubs aren't known for their great longevity.
  • + 1
 @ballardski: I guess you are one of those people that gets something broken and moans about it for the rest of your life, taken care of it; wouln't break ?
Never had a problem with this hub and they work smoothly, Dartmoor reel pro 102 engagment worked as smoothly (No difference in feel) also you could count deemax 48engagment as high, that works great works smoothly.
Hope is good, but you are so wrong. The engagment is avrage, but obviously a night and day difference when you compare the feel.
For someone who says a 16 point engagment is usable, well; just do your thing and slip off your pedals every jump you take Smile
  • + 0
 @adrennan: I would take Cris King or DT 240s over an I9 any and every day.
I9s really aren’t that great at all. Constantly have bearing and free hub issues.
The 54t star ratchet system for the DT 240/350 hubs are simple and easy to maintain.
King’s can easily last 10years.
  • + 1
 @dchill: I apologize for not listing every option. Dt Swiss are rad, but they are in the same league when it comes to engagement. If I could afford onyx on every bike, I would have them on every bike
  • + 0
 That my friend is fake news @dchill:
  • + 2
 Hello all, to confirm we do not use an 'off the shelf' design from Chosen despite sharing some similarities. We have worked on the Supadrive system for nearing 10 years and this is our most adapted and reliable design to date. Our warranty rate on the Supadrive system since launch is less than 0.2% which is something we are extremely proud of. We also would like to point out the difference of weight of our standard MT Supadrive hub vs the Onyx, which is 160g (give or take). Hopefully that helps you all, in some way or other! Smile
  • + 1
 @halo-wheels: i know onyx is heavy. but when the instant drive and silent coasting is truly an amazing feeling. i do have a supadrive hub on my slopestyle bike and that is a great application for it. dj bikes should have loud hubs.
  • + 3
 Is there anyway you can get these in Australia? And how much? Genuinely very interested
  • + 4
 You can buy them direct from www.halowheels.com
  • + 3
 halo make excellent wheels
  • + 1
 Thank you Smile
  • - 1
 Rear spacing & rider kilograms??? Cant believe unneccessity of truing...
I got 107kg 28 holes 142rear dt e512 (25mm) 29er 200mm rotor 4 piston
And have to true it once a week......

No problems with 27.5 157mm dh also built by myself (3 years working with very occasional retruing....
  • + 2
 You lost me at 28h. 32 minimum for 75kg and under, 36h above that. Linseed oil on 14g DT spoke threads, brass nipples, min 25psi on a 2.4 cross section tire reinforced 1.5 ply tire and the wheel should last until a new standard comes along.
  • + 2
 Yeah 28h is a bad idea. I weigh 65kg with my riding gear on, and within 3 rides on a new 28h AM wheelset, the rest was out of true. Every ride after that, out of true.
Was tearing my hair out until I tacoed the rear the other day which gave me an excuse to replace it ????
  • + 1
 ...
Ummmm...
That’s a lot of weight for 28 spokes on a 29 rim.
  • + 1
 Why would you get these over hope wheel sets?
  • + 1
 Looks like Sun MTX wheels, looks like they ding in the same manner. hmph.
  • + 1
 But they forgot about the dirt jump roots and left off the 26
  • + 1
 It is rubbish that there's no new school wide and light rims coming out in 26"
  • + 6
 @ctd07: Hope makes wide rims for 26
  • + 1
 @ctd07: Get a Flow 26 - 29mm - but good luck finding fatter 26" tyres anywhere
  • + 6
 They are still selling 30mm SAS in 26''!
  • + 2
 NS bikes makes decent 26 wheels and there is still a lot of tiers in 26 to chose from
  • + 1
 @jamesbriancrilly: the weigh about 800g each though, i can buy mavic ex729 as well, but its hard to find anything around 30mm under 500g for 26"
  • + 1
 @ctd07: We are talking in respects to dirt jumping as per weebleswobbles comment.
  • + 2
 @ctd07: stans does, barons are 35mm internal, and majors are 38mm internal, just put a pair of the 26" barons on my chromag, running 2.8 wtb rangers, great set up!
  • + 1
 @headshot: wtb rangers, maxxis makes tons of 26" still. 559 is not ded!
  • + 1
 We still love and ride 26" on lots of our bikes here. Sadly there isn't a big demand for 26" Enduro wheels. We still make and push lots of dirt jump and general use 26" wheels, including our famed Chaos.
  • + 1
 Nice, I would send it on a set of those
  • + 0
 Hope pro4 on mavic ex729, oh and 26" on my dh, I run this setup on both my bikes, killer wheel set for about £400
  • - 3
 2200 grams?' i'm not a weight weenie by any means, but this seems excessive. even for a "heavy duty" wheelset.
  • + 9
 well what do you expect if you want a sturd 29" wide profile rim? You can go lighter but if you stick to 6061-T6 alloy you will be sacrifying the strenght and longevity. Or you know, get a 650b in a reasonable 25mm inner width to go with reasonable 2.35" tires and easily save a pound or two on a complete wheelset.

Or get a bloody electric motor and then you won't care.
  • + 13
 I think for a wide, tough, 29", wheelset the weight is acceptable, the Stan's Flow S1 wheelset I reviewed earlier this year was 2134g.

For a 33mm internal width rim that is built to take some abuse it will be hard to get lighter in the future. The Vortex rim is designed from the ground up, where many wide rims on the market are simply stretched out versions of the narrower models which leads to very thin wall thickness and thus easier to damage. In the last 18 months, I have written off very thin walled 29" rear wheels from American Classic and Fun Works on their first descent, let's not talk about carbon wheels either...
  • + 2
 @paulaston: maybe don’t go so wide. Rude just won on ex471s again. Hart seems to do well on them too
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