Review: Easton’s EA90 SL Tubeless Race Wheels on My Geekhouse Cross

For me, nothing beats a 32h 3x wheelset for my cross bike but after talking with the guys at Easton about their new EA90 SLX tubeless race wheels, I was willing to try a set out.

While these can be used for road or cross, I have no desire to run them as road wheels. Tubeless rules for off-road riding, especially if you live in an area with a lot of rocks, roots and thorns. Why? There’s no pinch-flatting. The latex sealant also keeps trail debris from flatting your tires. Around this time of year in Austin, the thorns get blown and washed onto the trails, leaving you with at least one flat per ride if you’re not careful.

I don’t have this issue on my 29’r but my cross bike…

Check out more of my Initial Reaction to Easton’s EA90 SL tubeless race wheels below and more photos in the Gallery of my dialed-in Geekhouse Mudville, race-ready (for all who have asked).

Aside from the obvious benefits of a tubeless system used for trail riding, there are some other notable benefits, first of which being the ability to lower your PSI considerably. I race at 30/35 PSI on clinchers and have rolled beads before. With tubeless, I can go to 20/25 easily. Some people will comment about “burping” or popping the bead when running that low. I’ve yet to have that issue, mostly because of the profile of these rims and the tires. They corner incredibly fast and stable and with a tubeless-compatible tire, I can’t imagine actually burping anything…

Now for some review information:

Misconceptions: The ECHO hub and straight pull spokes are proprietary. False. These are normal Sapim straight pull spokes laced to Easton’s newest in hub technology. In fact, the only proprietary component in the wheels are the dual-threaded spoke nipples. These are serviced just like standard nipples with no special tools necessary. If you strip or break one, your local Easton dealer should have them in stock.

Concerns: The 17.5mm interior / 22mm exterior width is a little narrow for my taste. In fact, popping those 32mm Kendas on the bike made the bike feel dainty, compared to my HED Belgium rims (23mm wide). You wouldn’t think 1mm in rim width would make that much of a difference, but it does. I even put my Grifos on the wheels when I first got them in and measured the tire width. Reduction is a few mm’s.

Tubeless is easy to set up, in fact, these Kenda tires set up with a floor pump but it’s messy to swap tires. When I travel with my cross bike, I bring two sets of tires (33mm touring / road and knobby cross). These wheels would make me stick to one or the other while traveling. They’re not practical for how I’ve been using my bike.

Price. They’re not cheap, but they come in under $1,000 for a wheelset. Keep in mind though, at that price you could get a set of hand-laced wheels, easily but they might not be as light.

Conclusion: In short, I really love these wheels. The EA90 SLX wheels are incredibly durable, serviceable and the Echo hubs are quite nice. They’re much lighter than my current setup with tires and a cassette on and while I don’t like radially-laced front for cross bikes, there are benefits for racing.

Even though it’s tough for me to get out and race with all my traveling, I can’t wait to put them to the test in those conditions. So far, on trails and gravel, they rule. I was planning on taking them to Australia with me and put them through one of our big fire road rides, but the thought of having to swap out the tubeless cross tires for traditional tube and a touring tire seemed like too much of a hassle.]

I still think that tubeless will replace tubular in cross. Maybe not now, but I look at what’s happened in the MTB industry. Even with tubular wheels, you can still flat from punctures. Tubeless, you can’t. Assuming you have enough fluid in your wheels.

After I put in some more racing on these, I’ll give them a proper review. Right now I will say that they have impressed me more than I thought they would!

See more information at Easton.

  • kuotient

    Could you expand just a little bit about why you wouldn’t run them as road wheels?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I never flat on my road bike, so I don’t see the need for a messy, on the road, flat fix.

      • chris campbell

        You may have just jinxed yourself :)!

  • EffOhEff

    Bike looks rad, that last shot is so dope. Interested in trying some more Easton stuff. Got the EA70 stem after I crack my Thomson faceplate, and I don’t think I’m going back!

  • btdubs

    I have EA90SLs (non-tubeless) on my road bike, and they’ve been pretty great wheels. Not mind-blowing, but solid, reliable, raceable wheels. Rims could be wider, mainly, but overall wheel stiffness is great. I totally agree with the notion that a tiny difference in rim width changes the ride of the bike dramatically, and that’s why I wouldn’t run em for ‘cross.

    Tubeless for cyclocross *training* and everyday riding is great, I have some converted Ksyriums for that… But tubulars only for racing. No other option in my opinion. Burped too many tires flat in races to make tubeless a reliable enough option, and tubulars are just way, way faster and smoother, you can run lower pressures, blah blah blah

  • misterha

    John, any burping issues with the rim and tire setup? Also are you using any rubber rim strip to make a tighter seal?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Did you read the review? hah.

      You don’t need a rim strip because there are no spoke holes….

      • misterha

        my b, my eyes are attracted to bold words. Stan’s provides a rubber rim strip that makes the bead hook smaller in results tighter but I guess it doesn’t require it. Thanks for the write up though!

        • brennan

          The Stan’s tubeless kit that contains the rubber rim strip is to convert a non-tubeless rim to tubeless ready. Most tubeless specific rims will have a manufacturer rim tape or solid second wall rim construction (which is what Easton, Shimano and most UST Mavic wheels utilize). It is worth noting there is a difference between UST and tubeless ready.

  • Jimi

    G’day, how do you find the cantis for road riding? I’m considering
    pairing back my bikes to 1 and can’t decide on a brake type.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I’ve done the biggest rides of my life on Paul touring cantis with no issues…

  • Max Long

    Impressively low tire pressure even for racing. You must be a smooth rider to pull that off especially with tubes. 20-25 psi in a 32mm clincher seems crazy low even for tubeless use but definitely comparable to what people are running tubular tires at.

    What do you think of the slant 6’s in that size? I’ve run them in the 29er variety and like the tread pattern. I’ve been considering getting the smaller version for cross.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      30/35 with tubes, 20/25 tubeless has worked for me..

      Never tried the Slant 6’s….

      • Bruno Moreno

        Aren´t you running slant 6´s in the pictures?

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Ah, you’re right. Misread that.

          • Max Long

            Sorry, should have clarified. Slant 6’s in the 700×32 size. Love the bike!

  • schue113

    I’m interested to hear if you have any issues with bearing longevity in the new Easton wheels. My shop has been building DT Swiss hubs/Velocity A23 builds down to or very close the same weight as these wheels.

  • John Trusky

    You really oughta try them as a road tubeless set up. I went tubeless with another company’s rims on my road bike and won’t look back. Cornering traction for days due to the low pressure (80psi). Serious, never had the bike stable enough to lay it low enough to clip a pedal in a turn until I got rid of the tubes. Same tire, same wheel, just the omission of a tube. The tire can deform more allowing the contact patch to remain firmly in contact with the pavement. And then there’s the ride quality. I don’t run high end or uber high end stuff as I still gotta pay for it. Running tubeless damps out so much road vibration, comparable to some high end carbon bikes I’ve spent time on. So traction, ride quality, and as of yet a year and 6k on them not a single flat. Totally. Worth. It.

    • Sean Curran

      I hope your not saying your using no tubeless tires for a road tubeless setup. I havent had any experience but I have heard this is a really bad idea. Its not like MTB or cross tires.

      • John Trusky

        Actually I am. T Servs as a matter of fact. Lots of rubber, tight bead socket. Works a peach.I’d wager if I was going to bump into any headaches, they woulda happened a good spot of time ago.

        • Sean Curran

          I mean, I guess there could be a lot worse of tires to be doing it with and 80 PSI isn’t bad either. I still wouldn’t trust it, but each to his own.

  • Joshua Robot

    I love these wheels. They came stock on my Kona Red Zone and I’ve ridden the hell out of them on all sorts of rocks and roots, road bike and CX bike, using Challenge Roubaix, Strada Bianca, Continental CX Speed and Continental tubless 25c tires, with tubes and without. Much stronger than the A23 or Major Toms, as much as I love Velocity, these are better wheels. . . though I had no idea of the MSRP. Yikes!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Yeah, my A23s fell apart after the first true… :-

  • Ken Neville

    Why are these pictures of the EA90 SL wheelset, and not the SLX?

    • Ken Neville

      Portions of this article have since been corrected, which now makes things read even more awkwardly.

      I have the SLX wheelset on a road bike, and for that, the width is very nice – a 25c GP2000 measures just over 27mm wide. Cornering is predictable and stable even at low pressures. I do understand the desire for a slightly wider profile for `cross tires, but these seem more than wide-enough for road use.

      At ~1600g for the SLs, I am sure there are plenty of competitive, traditionally-spoked handbuilt wheelsets. The ~1400g SLX simply feels fast going uphill, or under any kind of acceleration, and have been durable over 1,000 miles so far (150lb rider).

      • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

        Yeah, I make mistakes. Apologies for the confusion.

  • Alex Spishakoff

    By any chance have you raced cross with tubulars to note the comparison between tubeless and tubular or have you heard any reviews that you found helpful?

  • CX Racer

    I got these wheels in Sep 2013 for CX. My impression of the hub: NOT GOOD, stay away from it! After the first hilly CX race the freehub body teethes are stripped (6 of them -2 in the each 120 deg dir). I cannot find a replacement shimano freehub body anywhere on the web. On the top of it I am finding it impossible to pull the body out. The steel ring on the hub edge holding the spokes tension back came off and I did not find any possible way to press it back on. Wheels stayed true in 5 hard races. Easton customer service is non existent. I called them up and some lady started telling me to look on the website. Well the website does not even have any pdfs related to the Echo service.

  • schue113

    Prolly,

    Just built up a set of DT Swiss 350 28h hubs to Velocity A23 rims, 2x for a customer at my shop. Weight is 1620 with no rimstrips, cost $752 after MN taxes. Wheelsmith DB spokes, alloy nipples.