They're light, they feature Easton's latest hubs and they perform well, but there's a question mark over build quality
The updated Easton EA90 SL wheelset arrived complete with a huge number of promises: wider rim width, tubeless compatibility, increased robustness, increased durability, more spokes and a new rear hub.
With all the promises from Easton we were hoping for a truly outstanding upgrade option. But while the wheels perform well – spinning up fast, offering a decent amount of lateral stiffness under my 67kg and feeling like they roll remarkably well in comparison to rivals – what we ended up with is a mixed result.
Wheels are so often the first update of any bicycle, and it’s easy for us at RCUK to suggest that many an entry level machine can be improved with a little more of your hard earned going on a new set of wheels for your pride and joy. The Easton EA90 SL wheelset sits at the sort of level which will tempt many people to upgrade.
The good news is that the scales told us the 1,580g weight Easton quote for the wheels was beaten by our test set which came in at 1,549g for the pair, splitting into 683g at the front, and 866g at the rear. That’s a perfectly reasonable weight for a mid-priced alloy clincher, especially one which is tubeless compatible by virtue of the fact that the rim is sealed with a double wall construction which, with a tubeless valve inserted, isolates the air inflating the tire from the spoke bed.
A lighter alternative has always been to use tape to cover over the nipple heads. Hats off to Easton for going with the sealed rim, though, as it certainly builds into a robust and stiff rim. However, it’s complicated by the fact that the nipples are then difficult to access in the event of a replacement ever being required.
The spokes are fairly standard Sapim Lazers, a double-butted round section spoke which is perfectly serviceable. These are laced to the new Echo rear hub with 24 spokes – on the non-drive side this is in a single cross pattern, on the driveside you’ll see a double cross. At the front end 20 of the Sapim spokes hold on to the rim in radial fashion. Both front and rear are also laced with straight pull spokes, another slightly less practical approach if considering this wheelset as truly robust. However, thus far they’re comfortable, the spindly mid-section of the spoke certainly cushioning the rider from the road shock – definitely an advantage when the rim is so stiff.
The front hub has sat in the CAAD10 doing a sterling job, and has been trouble free. The onset of autumn – yep, autumn already – means I’m intrigued as to see how well the rear hub survives. What I can say is that the wider position of the bearings have made this new version considerably smoother rolling, and they feel faster than the predecessors.
I had a few reservations about the tensioning of the wheels when I first had them looked over by a wheel builder, and the rear was found to be out of tension on the non-driveside, but I haven’t had to touch them since- and thats after they’ve been under sustained abuse. However, the nipples demonstrate that there’s something amiss in terms of build quality as they should all be evenly exposed poking out of the holes within the spoke bed. In the case of the EA90s we found more than two millimeters of difference between nipples. This means that the spokes in some of the nipples haven’t been threaded in past the shoulder of the nipple.
The tubeless rims gripped on to my Schwalbe One tyres with a determination that was sufficiently good for them to remain inflated with no latex sealant inside. However, I haven’t been persuaded that these are part of the new school wide rim camp. While they’re = wider than rims of old, a 17.5mm internal width is still a little behind the curve as far as the widest road rims go.
All in all I have slightly mixed feelings about the Easton EA90 SL wheels. On the one hand they’re stiff, reasonably light and roll extremely well on the updated Echo hubs, on the other the slight issues with build quality we noticed mean that I wouldn’t necessarily want to ‘plug and play’ with an online order and not have the chance to see them before buying. It could just be our test set, but a trip to a local bicycle shop would solve that, and, performance-wise, these fair well as a set of upgrade alloy clinchers.
– Reasonably light
– Roll well
– Tubeless ready
– Make sure you check build quality
– Not wide enough to fully justify ‘wide rim’ claim
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