It’s not often that you make a groundbreaking change in your equipment, a new level or complete turnaround in your perception but I have found these wheels to be just that. My search for an “Ultimate” set of wheels was set in motion after the Cape Pioneer Trek MTB race laid claim to my third freehub body replacement in as many races, well, technically the second one blew in training, but shattering pawls became a second hobby, the noise from the rear hub became instantly recognizable to me and I could even tell how bad the extent (how much it was going to cost me) the replacement parts I would need would be. I simply could not afford to train for a stage race, pay the astronomical entry fees, travel to secluded destinations only to be frantically running around desolate water-points and tech zones looking for assistance or loan wheels… there had to be a complete change.

During the Pioneer I had sought help from the Easton agents in SA: Omnico, who happened to be providing tech backup at the race. They had a spare pair of wheels in the form of the Easton EA90XC, a bullet proof set that I could borrow to see me through the rest of the race. Awesome service! I got to “Test Drive” the rear wheel (I didn’t need the front) through some of the most unkind territory this side of the equator, the Karoo, the same place that had literally our shredded tires for three days. It held up flawlessly and provided a stiff platform to race to some higher placings too.

I began looking at the EA90’s but the weight weenie in me made me hold off, the budget rose and I became interested in carbon offerings by Ritchey, Crankbrothers and Enve. Then came Easton…

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The Eastons checked all the boxes and more:

  • Reliability and ease of backup – Having the supplier local to me meant fast friendly service and a fast collection point to get spares.
  • Prolific – There are so many of these wheels and hubs in the market that the chances of getting spares in a remote area or race was high.
  • Weight – 1416g for a seriously strong set of wheels is a magic weight point, my road wheels weigh more and I don’t subject them to the thrashing the EC90’s will see.
  • Reliability – The Easton brand has proven itself to the market and to me personally, it was a name I could trust to do the job.

The hand laced, audio tuned spokes and ballistic carbon layup in the rims clinched it, add to that the sealed rims didn’t need any rim tape, which meant adding weight, and I was sold. Luckily for me a used set came up for sale, very little use and half the price. Money changed hands I soon had the carbon beauties fitted. The rims are a fairly easy/loose fit for tires, you can manipulate tubeless tires onto the rims without tire levers (except the Vredestein Spotted Cats!) so mounting tires without scuffing the rim beads is a synch. The ease of fitment made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to seat the tires without an air compressor, but they seated and beaded up with a floor pump without a hitch. The availability of adapters for the M1 hubs is also great allowing you to keep your wheels and adapt them to fit different frame and fork axle technologies. Easton provide easy to follow videos on youtube so you can do your own handywork too. The fact that they are fundamentally exclusive because of the price tag was another draw card for me.

The Ride

Fitting these wheels dropped a few grams so I could feel  a bit more eagerness from the wheels to spin up and change direction over my last set, but the stiffness was immediately apparent. I will stress this point: These wheels are so stiff laterally that you need to inflate your tires more than usual. The lateral flex of aluminum wheels takes some of the heat off the tire sidewall, but with the EC90’s the sidewall must do more work even in this 29er set. You can feel the tire wallow at lower pressure/same old pressures so I run about 5 psi more in the rear and 2-3psi more in front to counteract it. Don’t worry about your ride compliance being compromised as the carbon technology eases the feedback from the gravel essentially; the buzz-kill effect of carbon is still there… Once you ride carbon you can never go back.

I bought carbon wheels for another primary reason: I kept having to re-true my AmClassic /Crest Wheelset… replace dinged rims and squared off flat spots after jumps, drops and rock hits. I’m heavy for a racer and I ride hard, and had been through 3 Crest rims in a year plus trued them 4-5 times in between. On the EC90’s the rim cannot bend or flat spot, and that would alleviate the spoke de-tensioning syndrome I had experienced up until now too. The strength of the wheels is enormous, head on connections with trees barely knocked them out of true and in normal riding without “tree-incidents” they have been faultless.

Yes the price tag is high, but if you add up the savings over the long run, they are worth every penny.

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