Easton has long been known as a manufacturer of quality carbon bike parts, including this handlebar I recently reviewed, as well as highly-acclaimed wheelsets. To match my new carbon bar (or maybe it was the other way around? 😉 ) Easton sent over a set of their EC70 wheels for me to put through the wringer.
Weighing in at a claimed 1,345 grams, you might think these gorgeous carbon wheels are intended for mere XC race duty… but you’d be wrong. The Easton EC70 wheels are designed for trail riding, meaning that they’re more than happy blasting through the rocks and up and over mountains… but more on that below.
These hand-built, acoustically-tuned wheels feature a 20mm internal rim width, M1 hubs, Sapim stainless steel spokes, and a 6-bolt brake rotor mounting interface.
The front axle options include 9×100 QR and 15×100, and the rear can accommodate 10×135 QR, 12×135, or 12×142.
For Easton’s breakdown of the EC70 Carbon Trail wheel specs, check out this video:
Building Easton’s carbon wheels is a labor-intensive process, and takes about 7 hours on average from start to finish… per wheel!
The carbon laminate comes into the Easton factory on large rolls of unidirectional fiber, and the rolls are cut down into different segments and sheets. Next, a computer cuts out the various shapes required for the wheel. Then, the various pieces of carbon fiber are hand-pressed onto a form that will form half of the rim: one half male, and one half female.
After the individual halves are frozen and the mold is removed, the two halves are joined together and the bladder is threaded through the entire rim. Air pressure is then applied from the inside, and the rim is heated, allowing the resin to flow and mold.
The rim is then drilled in a two-stage process, and then is wet sanded, to be prepared for the decals. After the details are applied and baked, a light clear coat is applied to protect the decals.
For more information on how Easton builds their carbon rims, check out this video:
All of Easton’s wheels, from the lowest bargain-basement wheels to the most expensive carbon wonder hoops, are hand-built at their factory. They begin by tensioning the drive side of the wheel first, to make sure the spokes that receive the most strain are as evenly tensioned as possible. Then, they go on to tension the rest of the wheel.
When checking to make sure the spokes are tensioned properly, the builders pluck the spokes like a guitar string, to hear how they sounds–thus the “acoustically-tuned” descriptor above. Using the tone of the spokes to determine how tight they are provides a very accurate measure of how much tension is each spoke. Easton claims this “makes a stronger wheel with more even drive side spoke tension.”
The wheels are built with standard straight-pull strokes, which are easy to replace and make the wheels easy to true. The bearings in the hubs are standard bearings, which mean they’re also easy to replace if and when they wear out. These wheels are intended for long-term use!
Out on the Trail
It’s no secret: I’m hard on bikes. My local bike shop back in Dahlonega nicknamed me “Greg Breaks Bikes” (after my original MTB blog, Greg Rides Trails) since I walked into the shop so often with one broken bike part (or bike frame, for that matter) or another.
I love riding my Airborne Goblin hardtail 29er, but after blowing up at least two different front wheels, I was more than fed up with heavy, cheap wheels that couldn’t handle my awesomeness… or my poor line choice, one of the two. So, I went searching for some fly-weight wheels that could handle plenty of abuse at the same time, and Syd recommended the Easton EC70 hoops.
I took the wheels in and got my new LBS, Absolute Bikes, to mount the prototype Kenda Nevegal X Pro tires on them, making for a relatively light, yet burly, setup. The rims didn’t come pre-taped, but thankfully rim tape and sealant are easy to come by.
My main testing zones for these wheels consisted of rocky high-desert trails in Salida and Canon City, Colorado, most notably the Arkansas Hills, Methodist Mountain Trail System, Oil Well Flats, and Section 13 trails. While there were a few smooth, flowing sections that allowed me to get my speed up, there’s one thing that these trails have in common: rocks, and lots of them.
In the smooth, rolling areas, the acceleration of the EC70s was incredible! Despite being burly enough for trail duty, these wheels spool up and get rolling incredibly fast. If you’re coming off a smaller wheel size, this is great since 29ers are, on average, slower to accelerate (one of their very few downsides). So if you are switching sizes and don’t want to sacrifice that acceleration, or if you’re fed up with your 29er’s currently slow acceleration, these hoops are perfect!
When the going got rocky, the Eastons didn’t balk. I’ve pinned this wheelset through chundery rock gardens, up and over big square-edged rocks, on steep, slanted slickrock slabs, and on trails that I wouldn’t have minded having a lot more rear suspension… meaning any rear suspension. Despite plenty of use and abuse on challenging rocks over the course of hundreds of miles of testing, I didn’t hear a single complaint out of my new rollers.
The maneuverability of the EC70s was quite noticeable in the rock gardens. The low weight made low-speed direction changes, and even track stands while picking out a line, nearly effortless. Also, thanks to the incredible lateral rigidity, abrupt line changes up and over rocks were precise and flawless. When riding North Backbone, the EC70s tracked perfectly true even when traversing over rippled slickrock and charging up and over ledges.
One last item of note: the rear freewheel engages extremely quickly, and is crazy-quiet. Some people like loud hornets’ nest freewheels and other people prefer peace and quiet out on the trail. The Easton M1 hub is one of the quietest I’ve used, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. For some people, the quietness might be a big selling point, or it might be a downside: you decide.
The Easton EC70 Trail wheels are carbon fiber wonder hoops. Crazy-light weight, extreme durability, and sheer carbon beauty combine to create a wheelset that provides XC weight and speed with AM durability. These rank up there with the best wheels on the market.
MSRP: $850 front wheel, $972 rear wheel.
Thanks to Easton for providing the EC70 wheels for review!