Review: Easton Vice XLT 27.5/650b Wheels

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I recently agonized over a new bike purchase, and chose the Santa Cruz Bronson with an X01 build. I dig the build kit, but I wanted better hoops.

At Interbike, there were quite a few wheel brands out there with great options on display, and Easton was one of them. Having ridden their wheels in the past, I was keen to check out some of their new hoops. I was stoked to have the Vice XLT wheels show up on my door step this winter!

Specs

The XLTs are a midrange-priced set of complete wheels. Designed around Easton’s new X4 hub, they’re laced with 24 Sapim straight-pull double-butted spokes mated to a UST-compatible EA90 aluminum rim, with everything tied together with traditional alloy nipples. The rim itself measures in at 26mm externally and 21mm internally. This rim width provides excellent volume on 2.1″ and larger tires.

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If you were to quickly compare the XLT to its bigger sibling the Haven, you could almost excuse yourself for seeing double. The devil is in the details. The difference between these two sets of similar wheels lies in the 24 standard nipples on the XLT versus the threaded nipples of the Haven. The Vice XLT skips the fancy machining that drives up the Haven’s cost.

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The Vice XLT’s new X4 hubset rolls on sealed cartridge bearings and is available in a variety of axle configurations. The new X4 uses a wider spacing for the bearings, which increases stiffness and better distributes loads. The rear hub is compatible with SRAM’s XD cassette body (sold separately).

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Installation

Installing a set of Hans Dampf UST tires wasn’t difficult, and with plenty of soapy water they pumped up easy enough.

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Out of the box, the XLTs came with the 10spd cassette body. I needed to order the XD unit, which is supplied with the adapters to convert things over. Surprisingly, it took just 5 minutes to convert the freehub to the XD driver. All I needed was a cone wrench to grapple the end cap and pry it away, followed by a set of chain whips like the park SR-11 and a cassette tool like the FR-5 locking ring tool. If you do this conversion, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a small amount of cassette body lube to keep things running smoothly.

Out on the Trail

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Once I got these bad boys out on the trail, I did get a bit of spoke pinging as they settled in. Other than that, they remained pretty true!

I was very impressed with the XLTs. I had no issues despite thrashing them through some gnarly rock gardens. When things got fast in the corners, I was pleased to realize that these wheels have excellent lateral stiffness. Again, the XLTs were doing their magic!

The 21mm inside width kept the Hans Dampf tires firmly in place and from rolling around.

Like all the other wheels that Easton produces, the XLTs provide buttery smooth wheel spin and a pleasantly quiet, and fairly quick-engaging cassette body.

I did have a slight bummer when it came time to remove the cassette for deep cleaning. The outermost bearing and cassette-side XD cap had to be tapped out using a soft dowel (a small annoyance if you’re into cleaning often). I do understand that spreading the bearings this far apart does increase stiffness, but this trade off can be slightly annoying.

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Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a decent set of all mountain wheels for your fancy new 27.5 rig, and you plan to mess around on almost every gnarly obstacle found on the trail, the Vice XLTs will keep you rollingĀ without forcing you to sell a kidney!

MSRP: $750 for the pair of wheels, $100 for the XD driver conversion kit.

A big thanks to the folks at Easton for sending down the Vice XLT wheels for review!

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