Part two of the Easton Havoc line-up is the all new wheelset. Talk about an upgrade! Wow. Yup, they really went and listened to the demands from aggressive all mountain and freeride mountain bikers and the result is the new Havoc 26″ wheels.
To start things off, Easton made some major changes to the rims. The company added a full 1mm to the inside width, bringing it to 23mm (28mm outside) which makes these stronger than ever before. The new Havocs are also UST compatible so you can run those UST tires with no special rim strips! If you choose not to run UST tires you can simply remove the valve cores and run tubes.
Of course Easton didn’t stop there – the hubs were redesigned as well. With sealed cartridge bearings and a re-tooled hub design you’re looking at a wheel that is designed for abuse. No only that, the new dedicated 20mm front hub increases performance over the previous model. The rear hub comes in QR10x135 or 12×135 with 12x142mm spacers, making the Havoc wheels very adaptable to a wide range of bikes. What does carry over from previous models is the same great 3-pawl cassette body.
Weighing in at 1750 grams (about 150 grams lighter than the 2010 Havocs) these new wheels are much snappier on the trail. Speaking of snappy, 24 butted Sapim spokes laced three cross front and rear is what holds everything together and helps balance between a fast energy-transferring wheel with one that’s supple enough to take some harshness out of the trail. For those of you who are running Shimano Center Lock rotors, you will have to get a set of 6-bolt rotors as these wheels only come with that rotor interface.
Bling-wise you get fresh matching graphics like the ones on the bars and stems I reviewed earlier on. A new high-end water transferred graphic circumscribes the entire rim looks hot when riding, not to mention the bright orange anodized hub which is sure to catch a look or two on the trails. If orange isn’t your thing, Easton also offers a toned down grey finish. Either way they both look great.
Installing tires on the Havoc wheels was a snap. I wrapped mine in a set of Minions with 4oz of Stan’s for a satisfying dual snap of the beads locking everything firmly in place. Best of all, it only took 10 minutes. Just remember to generously apply soapy water on the sides of the tire and you’re golden. Installing and torquing down the rotors (4.5 – 6Nm) took another few minutes with no issues. The final step of tossing on a 9spd cassette burned less time that it took me to write this sentence.
I decided to install the Havocs on my Freeride bike instead of my AM/trail bike. Seeing that the Haven’s are doing such a great job in that area, and the Havoc’s come with the 12/135mm axle, I figured the freeride bike is the way to go. The first thing that came to mind is the fact that the Havocs are in direct competition with the Mavic Crossmax SX wheels. Both wheels are very similar, with weights that are grams away from one another (the Havocs are 5 grams lighter) and rim cross sections that are 2mm apart (Havoc 23mm / Mavic 21mm inside widths). Heck, both wheels are UST and have 24 spokes which adds to the similarities. It was definitely going to be interesting to see how the new Havocs stood up.
One of my biggest concerns with wheels is how well they engage when riding. Nothing spoils a ride more than not being able to put the power down or losing balance because you’re rocking the cranks too much to engage the freehub. As in previous models of Easton wheels, these Havocs feature the same welcomed and familiar engagement. At slow speeds or riding over a skinny I have no problem maintaining my cranks at 3 and 9 o’clock, allowing me to barely tap the cranks while still gaining forward movement. That’s a big, big plus here. With the three cam pawl engagement you need very little movement to get the freehub to catch. Now what I also picked up on while hitting trails is the quick acceleration you get due to the low mass (keep in mind the tires you choose). For what these wheels are, they are fast. I was really impressed with how fast they change direction – definitely not what most freeride wheels feel like.
As for strength I have had no issues so far with these wheels. Taking them to Kelso, Horseshoe Valley, and another few choice spots in and around Ontario I haven’t encountered any reliability issues; the wheels remain straight even after sailing over rock gardens (remember to keep up your momentum). Landing some pretty big doubles and step downs with smooth transitions is also no big deal. The over-sized bearings still spin like new, though I did have to adjust the front hub once during my test but it really is not a big deal. I also tweaked the rear wheel a touch (remember the momentum comment) but fixed it up with a truing key to keep the rim dead straight.
So what do I think of the new Easton Havoc wheels ($945 MSRP)? They are certainly on par with other brands as far as pricing so that is not an issue at all – the value is definitely there. For strength I would also say these can take a beating like Rocky Balboa and still come back. To recap. Strength – check. Performance – check. Value – check (although pricy). Good looks – check. UST compatible – check. Hmmm there’s a lot going on here isn’t there? Check out a set for yourself and you tell me what you think! Cheers.
Thanks to the folks at Easton for supplying the Havoc wheels for review.