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.