Easton have revamped their road wheel range for model year 2014, with the launch of the EC90 Aero 55 marking the arrival of the world’s first widely-available tubeless carbon clincher.
Shuffling in quietly beneath the fanfare of super-light/aero/disc-equipped road bikes, tubeless road tyres, and compatible wheelsets, have emerged as another growing trend in the past two years. We’ve noted that through the launched of tubeless tyres from Schwalbe, Bontrager and Hutchinson, among others.
And tubeless compatibility features widely across Easton’s new road range – but it’s the EC90 Aero 55 which caught our eye at the house show of the Californian brand’s UK distributor, Zyro.
While, strictly speaking, the Hutchinson RT1 was the first tubeless-ready carbon clincher to hit the market back in 2010, those wheels are increasingly rare and Easton’s offering will be the first to be made widely available.
The EC90 Aero 55 will be available in tubular and tubeless-ready clincher versions, weighing 1,330g and 1,580g, and costing £1,799.98 and £1,999.98 for the set respectively.
Both wheelsets are based around a new rim shape dubbed Fantom. The 55mm-deep rim is 21mm wide and follows the trend for fatter rims with a rounded leading edge. The EC90 Aero 55’s nose is noticeably blunter when lined up next to rival offerings from ZIpp and Enve. The Fantom’s round nose is also designed to increase stability in crosswinds, particularly compared to a traditional airfoil shape.
Easton say the EC90 Aero 55 is the fastest wheel in the 50-60mm category based on ‘Wind Averaged Drag’. This measurement is crucial, they say, as while a rival wheel may be faster at zero degrees yaw (a headwind), wind direction is rarely consistent and so WAD, which produces a single figure based on measurements taken from zero to 20 degrees yaw, is a more reliable indicator of aerodynamic performance.
Naturally Easton have tried to quantify that, so how much faster are they? Easton told us a rider using EC90 Aero 55 wheels will save 14 seconds over “next fastest aero wheelset” when riding a 40km time trial.
The clincher version of the EC90 Aero 55 is fully ‘Road Tubeless’ compatible – that means it’s ready to accept either a clincher or tubeless tyre out of the box, and doesn’t need to be converted with a rim strip to accept the latter.
Tubeless has been the standard for performance mountain bike wheels/tyres for some time, but is only beginning to gain prominence on the road, where the claimed benefits are reduced punctures (having no inner tube effectively eliminates the risk of pinch flats and by using a sealant small cuts in the tyre are filled before substantial pressure is lost) and, as a result, the ability to run the tyres at a lower pressure, improving grip and ride quality. We felt both benefits when reviewing the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Tubeless tyres.
Easton have borrowed the technology found on their Haven Carbon mountain bike wheels by using a threaded rivnut spokebed, which allows the spoke to be attached to the rim without penetrating the tyre bed, thereby eliminating the need for a rim strip.
That technology only applies to the clincher/tubeless wheelset, however, with the tubular hoops instead using internal spokes which will require the removal (ungluing) of the tyre to true the wheel. Easton say this design saves weight.
As well as a new rim design and tubeless compatibility, the EC90 Aero 55 hoops come with Easton’s all-new Echo hub, which also features on the aluminium clincher EC90 SLX and EC90 SL hoops.
The hub, Easton say, has been designed with durability at the top of the agenda. Easton have designed the hub from ground up, using an extra-wide bearing stance.
Why? As road bikes have adopted nine, ten and 11-speed drivetrains, hub drive bearings have got closer together, but this, Easton say, puts more stress on the bearings, thereby reducing durability. So Easton have moved the two main drive bearings as far apart as possible – 95mm, with Shimano’s Dura-Ace hub (oft-touted for its durability) the closest competitor at 90mm, and Zipp, Mavic and DT Swiss at 64.5mm, 60mm and 55mm respectively. As a result, the two freehub bearings have been moved between the two axle bearings.
Other key features of the hub include an inverted ratchet system where the pawls are attached to the hub shell and the drive ring is on the freehub body – again to improve durability – and the engagement angle has been improved from 12 to seven degrees over the existing R4 hub.
“The most durable carbon clinchers”
Aerodynamics, tubeless-compatibility and an improved hub are all very well, but the key concern, where carbon clinchers are concerned, is braking performance – or rather, reliability.
Easton have used a resin with a high Tg (glass transition, or melting point) on the brake track to reduce the likelihood of the resin melting and causing a catastrophic failure by blowing the tyre off the rim. The use of a high Tg resin is common in many modern carbon clinchers but Easton say their in-house test showed the EC90 Aero 55 to be the most durable on the market.
How so? Easton’s in-house test span a range of wheels through brake calipers at 600 watts for two miles, which they say saw most carbon clinchers fail within the first mile. Only Zipp’s 404 and, of course, Easton’s EC90 Aero 55 wheels made it through the first test, and then only Easton’s hoops were rideable after a second test. Like Easton’s aero claims, there’s no way to verify that, so we’ll have to take their word for it.
More tubeless across the range
As well as introducing the EC90 Aero 55, Easton have also revamped the rest of their road range, with three other tubeless wheels among the more affordable hoops: the EA90 SLX, EA90 SL and the EA90 XD.
Both the EA90 SLX and EA90 SL use the same Echo hub as the EC90 Aero 55, with low claimed weighs of 1,400g and 1,580g, and retail prices of £899.98 and £699.98.
Both wheels continue to have shallow, 25mm rims, but rim width has grown to 17.5mm, which Easton say results in improved handling.
The EA90 XD is the final tubeless-compatible wheel in the range but the design remains unchanged for model year 2014. It’s essentially a cyclo-cross wheel, with a rim which is 24.5mm deep and 17.5mm wide. The EA90 XD has six-bolt disc rotor mounts and uses Easton’s M1 hub.
New V5 hub for EC70 SL, EA70 SL and EA70
Easton have also introduced a second new hub, the V5, which is essentially a more affordable, pared-down version of the Echo. The new hub has sealed cartridge bearings, and an alloy freehub, and uses J-bend spokes.
Three road wheels use the V5 hub, starting with the EC70 SL, which pairs an aluminium braking track with a 42mm-deep carbon fairing. Internal rim width remains the same as 2013 at 15mm. Claimed weight is 1,630g, with the price set at £1,099.98.
Moving on and both the EA70SL and EA70 aluminium clinchers have an upgraded rim which is 17.5mm wide, resulting, Easton say, in improved handling by changing the tyre’s profile, as is the case further up the range.
Claimed weight for the EA70SL wheelset is 1,590g, with a retail price of £519.98, while the EA70 hoops are a little heavier at 1,650g but less expensive at £419.98.