Review: Easton’s unassuming EA70 XCT wheelset
Standing out by not standing out. By keeping their graphics and freehub sound subtle, Easton have managed to set their new EA70 XCT wheelset apart from the large number of excellent tubeless or tubeless ready disc wheelsets on the market. After several months on Easton’s latest, have they drawn any negative attention to themselves? Roll on bast the break to find out.
A handsome wheelset, the EA70 XCTs sport stealthy gray-on-black graphics- a welcome change from the shouty look currently in vogue. The 19mm (inside width) rims are a true UST design, with an unbroken inner wall, and so don’t require either tape or sealant to hold air. The handful of tubeless-ready and UST tires that we’ve tried have mounted without a struggle and seated just fine- even some that have given us fits on non-standard rims.
All 48 hand-laced spokes are the same length and run $7.76 for a bag of 5. Despite the low spoke count, the Eastons are noticeably stiffer than most sub-$1,000/sub-1,600g wheelsets and (mid-width rim aside) feel more like a trail wheelset than anything geared towards racers. When the time comes, the dual-threaded nipples are adjusted with a standard spoke wrench- but ours haven’t needed any attention at all.
While the Schwalbe tires we’ve been using certainly deserve some credit, I am constantly surprised by how well the Eastons roll, even when coming off lighter and more expensive wheels. Their sound (really the lack of if) is a revelation. The louder hubs get, the nicer it is to come across a quiet example and revel in its ability to somehow make every trail feel flowier. Early on, we had had some popping from uneven pawl engagement (usually a sign of axle flex)- but that has largely quieted down and there haven’t been any engagement or durability issues as a result.
When we swapped our 142x12mm rear hub for a 135mm QR version (the rear hub is dedicated to one standard or the other and cannot be converted), we were surprised to find the QR hub to be a full 90g heavier than the thru axle version. Undoubtedly due to the larger bearings that a smaller axle can accommodate, the weight gain was still a surprise and took our 26in set to 1,696g (plus 62g for the included skewer). Even though the weight gain is in the hub (where it will take the least toll), that’s 76g heavier than advertised and will undoubtedly take the EA70 XCTs out of contention for many QR users.
Unfortunately for Easton, being the quietest isn’t something that many riders seek out. There are any number of wheelsets on the market that are cheaper, lighter, or wider than the EA70 XCTs. That said, their near-silent freehub, freedom from rim tape (which we still see fail from time to time), and low-key graphics are all extremely welcome. Even though I’d still love to see them come in closer to their advertised weight (or be a bit less expensive for at their current weight) and compatible with both QRs and thru axles, the fact that Easton haven’t gone all-out to be the est in any category, makes the EA70s excellent all-around wheels. “Excellent all-around wheels” isn’t the sexiest thing that can be said about a wheelset- but more often than not it’s exactly what’s needed on the trail. A 29er version is also available for another $25 and is advertised at 1.745g.