I specifically waited to write my final review of the $750 Easton EA70 XCT wheels after my annual Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass ride. On this section of the Colorado Trail, the only time you get a break from tree roots is when you’re going over rocks, many of them sharp. It’s pretty much the most punishment you can dish out to a set of wheels in one day and still call it XC riding.
The weights and specs for these wheels are listed in my preview post. They carry an MSRP of $750 for the set at Easton’s website, but I have seen them as low as $600 at various online retailers.
These are UST wheels, so no rim strips are needed for tubeless use. I installed folding bead Geax Saguaro tires on them and they sealed up quickly and easily. The valves fit perfectly and seal tightly with the included collar and o-ring, but are also easy to remove for trailside flat repair. I have had one flat (cut sidewall) so I experienced this first-hand. Getting the valve out is super easy, just make sure you don’t lose the o-ring! I screwed the pieces back together and put them in a safe place in my pack until I was ready to go back to tubeless with a replacement tire.
On the Trail
I’m by no means a weight weenie, but the one place where I am not afraid to spend a few bucks is wheels. The Eastons are exactly one pound lighter than my OEM Giant wheels, with most of that being rotational weight. This drastic weight reduction was immediately noticeable on the very first climb, and I think even the most novice rider would be able to feel the improvement. These wheels are also decently stiff, which lends to crisp acceleration and predictable steering.
Even after half a summer of
abuse enjoyment, these wheels are as tight, stiff, and true as the day I mounted them up. I weigh 200 lbs, and I have made a point of pushing the EA70 XCTs into rock gardens, off ledges, down stairs, and over the aforementioned roots. I’ve intentionally remained on the saddle through fast, deep G-outs, putting extreme stress on the rear wheel, and I have not experienced any undue flex or spoke failure. I even took them to a one-day cyclocross camp where I rode them up the run-ups, exerting a TON of torque on the rear.
The Easton hubs are tight and spin freely and the rear hub still engages as securely as on day one. Through it all the wheels have held up amazingly well. The only issue I have had is a bent skewer from a night ride at Green Mountain. I dropped into a crevasse between some rocks, stuff went crunch, but it was dark so I couldn’t see, and it was in the middle of a tight switchback so I couldn’t stop. The wheel itself is totally fine, so I just swapped my original Giant skewer back in.
These are a great set of wheels at a price point that won’t totally break the bank. The Easton EA70 XCT wheels look great with their muted graphics, mount up easily, and provide a very noticeable improvement to the ride and handling of my bike. The durability has been excellent after some serious riding on Colorado Front Range trails and they still look great and feel as solid as the day they came out of the box.
My only gripe, and I’m really nitpicking here, is that the installed valves don’t have removable cores for adding more sealant as needed. I usually prefer to pop a bead and pour it in directly, but it would still be nice to have the option. Bottom line: there are some lighter wheels and there are some stiffer wheels, but these strike a good overall balance between the two while keeping the price out of the stratosphere. (By way of comparison, some ridiculously stiff and light Enve wheels I demo’ed at Outerbike retail for $2,600!)
I saw these wheels on two different bikes at Outerbike, and I expect them to pop up even more as the 2013 models continue to arrive. If you get these as an OEM wheel option, you’re good to go and that’s one less thing you’ll need to upgrade right away. If you’re a hardcore racer, these would be excellent as a backup / training wheelset. If you’re more of a recreational rider, these are also an excellent choice for everyday riding, while still suitable for the occasional race now and then.
Thanks to Easton and their very patient sales rep for sending the EA70 XCT wheelset for review!