New for 2013, Easton has introduced a lower price carbon wheelset, the EC70 Trail 29. They are categorized as an XC wheel but, as the name states, are a Trail wheel, not just a purpose built XC race wheelset. This is the category most enthusiast riders - riders who want to do a little bit of everything - fall under. The EC70s are a combination of lightweight but also sturdy enough for daily use.
The EC70 wheels boast a carbon fiber rim. Of course, along with carbon fiber comes expense. The set retails for $1,850. I will not try to justify the price. In truth, as far as carbon fiber wheels, they are priced on the lower side of average for this style of wheel. Is it too much for a wheelset ? That depends on how deep your wallet goes and how much value you place on the ultimate in performance. The price range for mainstream, name brand carbon goes from as low as $1,200 to over $3,000. In addition, there are more generic, factory direct, Chinese made carbon rims that may be cheaper. This puts The Easton wheels at a pretty competetive price range comparatively speaking. You may be thinking there is no way you would spend this much on a wheelset. In truth, if that is the case it won’t hurt our feelings if you stop reading. When it comes to carbon wheels, you have to pay to play. I have wrestled with the merits of carbon wheels and I have ridden ENVE, Specialized, and now Easton. In the end, I am sold on carbon wheels, despite the hard to swallow price tag. It’s hard to deny the performance benefits after you have spent time on a set. Hopefully we can provide some insights that will help you decide if these benefits are worth the price of entry. If you are already a believer, we’ll try to show how these wheels stack up.
The Easton EC70 wheel has a 20 mm inner rim width and a 25.5 outer. This is wide enough for use with a 2.3 or under tire. If you want to run 2.4 rubber, look at the Easton Haven set instead. . Most 29er riders who ride XC/Trail will find that a 2.2 tire offers an excellent all around tire size for most conditions. That is not to say it is not possible to run bigger tires, just not ideal.
The rim is a 24 hole rim that will require rim tape. Easton has no issue using an aftermarket tubeless kit. It is worth noting, if you need to access the spokes, you will need to remove the tape or rim strip. This is, by far, the most common approach. However, Easton’s other carbon wheels do not use any tape and are completely sealed and the only reason the distinction was made.
You may be wondering if 24 spokes is enough. I am a big advocate of 32 spoke 3 cross lacing for its overall reliability and proven overall attributes. Not surprisingly then, I questioned Easton’s use of 24 spokes as well. However, combined with the super stiff Carbon rim, flex is not an issue. In fact, I would go beyond that and say these are as stiff as any wheel I have ridden. It definitely makes me wonder about the Haven carbon wheelset. The EC70 wheels truly separate themselves far beyond any aluminium 29er wheel set I have used. As in, not even close. The steering precision is excellent. Power transfer is very crisp. I get no noticeable deflection, even when leaning the bike and pumping it through a corner. When the rear tire breaks loose, it is more evident as the tire tries to bite into the ground, causing the rear wheel to chatter over terrain. It heightens the feel of the terrain. In an unusual way, the rims still manage to absorb high frequency vibration, minimizing the twinge you feel from vibration through the bars into the hands and wrist. This is the hardest part of a carbon rim to explain. It feels connected, stiff and precise, while still adding comfort. It is noteworthy that I am using aluminium bars, as opposed to the carbon ones I usually use.
Tubeless: We used 1 wrap of stans tubeless tape, 2 scoops of sealant and an air compressor. The bead seated perfectly using Schwable Nobby Nics, Specialized Fast Track 2.0 and Bontrager 29-4 tires in a 2.3 width. All tires held air and none burped despite enough side loads to take the wheel about an ⅛ of an inch out of true. In addition, the wheels were taken through rock gardens under the weight of a 210 pound rider with no issues. Tubeless has been excellent.
Hubs: Front hub is flawless. I notice the rear hub had a slight bit of flex. I really only notice it when taking the wheels to the edge of what a trail wheel should be taken too. It is minor, but present if you pay attention. This is using a standard drop out on our Giant Trance and the 142x12 axle of the Trek Rumblefish we have been reviewing. Every now and then I hear a pop. It is singular and occasional. There doesn't seem to be any negative as far as riding the bike, but with only testing for a month and a half it won't be long enough to to definitively say yes or no to the rear hubs reliability. On the plus side, the free hub is quiet and smooth. They feel fast and roll with no discernible drag. The feel of the hubs is smooth, and something I appreciate very much.
Compared to others: I have ridden ENVE, and Roval wheels, and now the EC70 wheels. The Easton wheels are equally as good as the other wheels as far as tubeless setup. All three wheels require tape to be able to seal the rim to run tubeless. With the Eastons, it is easy to access the spoke nipples, a real plus compared to an ENVE set-up. The Eastons use a simple lacing pattern. Specialized uses a radial lace front drive side. This makes the front end very vertically stiff, which is not harsh but it isn’t as comfortable as the Easton EC70 set up. I also feel that the easton EC70 wheels dampen a little more than the ENVE XC setup laced 28 hole cross 3. The down side is that the Easton don’t feel as laterally rigid as the ENVEs do. Hub engagement is a little slow compared to that of the Roval and close to the same as a stock DT engagement on the ENVE wheels I rode. The Easton hubs set themselves above the Roval and ENVE/DT setups by rolling super smooth and quiet.
Overall : I am sure a select few people will not like the feel of carbon fiber wheels, I'm positive many people will not be able to stomach the cost. For those people all I can say is, I wish I was one of you; this love of mine is getting expensive! For me, Jamie, Al, Zoe, and Calvin there is no denying the performance benefits and superb feeling of Easton’s carbon wheels. If you don't gauge value by crunching the ratio of grams to cost and you appreciate that the ultimate in performance comes at a price, the Easton EC70 wheels are an option to explore. They cost less than EC90 wheels and they span a broader use parameter. They are less expensive than the Havens and, for all but the most rugged trails and aggressive riders, will easily suit the needs of trail riders and racers. If your goal is to get the ultimate experience on a bike, to eke out every little bit of ride quality, and savor every second of that experience, as far as ride quality, Easton EC70 wheels deliver the goods.
If you are still having doubts, I’ll share an experience. Zoe was testing the Giant Trance X 29. She was loving the bike but wouldn't race it at the level she races at. Just for the sake of experimenting, I asked to meet her and try the Easton EC70 wheels to get the Trance to liven up for her. When I met her she was having a crappy day on the bike. She just wasn't feeling it. After a mile on the EC70 wheels she was smiling and killing me on the ride. She was amazed at how much faster and agile the bike felt. Most important to me is that she was having fun despite a terrible start to her ride. Carbon wheels make a huge difference in the performance of a bike. Maybe you can buy happiness after all ? Maybe not, but at least you can buy a better ride experience.
Easton EC70 Wheels