Trail Today, Race Tomorrow: Easton’s Carbon Fiber EC70 Trail Wheelset Review

Easton EC70 rim label

Though some may question the logic of using carbon fiber for mountain bike wheels, the latest generation of plastic wheels combine light weight, stiffness, and durability in a way that aluminum wheels simply can’t.  The but, however, comes at the cash register: carbon fiber wheels are pricey.  Easily twice the price of their alloy-rim’d stablemates, the cost has been awfully hard for most riders to justify.

In order to bring the experience gained from building the all-mountain Haven Carbon wheelset to a wider audience, for 2013 Easton have released the EC70 Trail model.  Forgoing the UST compatibility provided by the Haven’s solid inner wall and turnbuckle nipples has reduced the EC70s’ cost, while the updated M1 hubs promise to have left earlier versions’ bearing and freehub durability issues behind.  Armored Ballistic Composite has been replaced with EC70-level carbon fiber, reducing impact resistance somewhat, and the rims have narrowed somewhat.

What’s left is a 1,355g wheelset (1,420g once taped) designed for both race and trail use.  The price?  A still-dear $1,800- about 30% less than the Havens.  But are they any better than a 1,400g alloy wheelset?  Hit the jump to find out!

In a word, yes.  We’d like to preempt any but I could build a 1,350g Stan’s wheelset for $X… comments by saying that there’s no way that any aluminum-rim’d wheel in this weight range would be holding up as well as the EC70s have been.  SONY DSCWe too would love to believe that we could build a flyweight aluminum wheelset, slap it on a 6in trail bike, and ride that bike as intended.  In fact, we’ve tried.  And the results haven’t been pretty.  Dented rims, wobbly wheels, unacceptable flex, or all of the above have all been the results.  For an XC race bike in kinder environments, sure.  But despite a head start measured in decades aluminum wheels in this weight range simply can’t take the abuse of day in, day out trail or all-mountain use.

The EA70s, on the other hand, are holding up just fine.  Mounted to our 150mm BMC Trailfox, the hand built and acoustically trued Eastons have spent 6 months on New Mexico’s rock-strewn trails, mowed down nearly 70 miles of Arizona’s Black Canyon singletrack, and rolled and dropped the best that Grand Junction and Fruita have to offer.  There hasn’t been a peep or a wiggle from the hubs and the rims are as true as they come.  Easton EC70 handbuilt labelIn fact, the bearings were so smooth after 5 months that we couldn’t being ourselves to knock them out to install the recent (free) upgrade kit.

The EC70s arrive with all of the necessary adapters to run the front wheel as a 15mm thru axle or quick release and the back as a 135mm QR, 135x12mm thru axle, or 142x12mm thru axle.  Over the past month, $93 XX1-compatible freehubs have also become available and their installation is quick and easy.  As mentioned above, our hubs have been smooth and trouble-free.  As a bonus, they’re pleasantly quiet: somewhere between American Classic and DT Swiss or Stan’s on the low end of racket scale.

What does not come in the box is anything to make the wheels tubeless.  This seems like a major oversight on Easton’s part as few riders in this price range have any interest in running tubes.  A bit of experimenting found 2 layers of Gorilla Tape (as used by Enve and others) and Stan’s universal  valve stems to be the ticket.  Once seated, they’re fine- but we can’t help but think that a bead seat tweak would help to make installing tires on the EC70 Trails as easy as it is on most other wheels.  SONY DSCAs they stand, an air compressor really is needed to get everything in place.

So who are the EC70s for?  Their combination of light weight and solidity makes them a great match for the Trailfox: a 6in bike that can be ridden on anything from a lift-assisted descending day to a backcountry epic.  The 20mm rims are a bit narrower than many riders prefer- but by tucking the sidewalls in a bit seem to have spared us from some of our usual sidewall cuts.  Again, we’d love to see the bead seat further developed- but once installed we haven’t had any issues that weren’t caused by operator error.  Beyond trail riders, bigger racers would be a natural fit for the EC70s- benefitting from the wheels’ combination of light weight and solidity.

Despite their mid-level EC70 tag, their price tag makes the Eastons a premium product.  In the sub-$2K range, the EC70 Trails are stouter than Roval’s Control Trail SL ($1,650 / 1,280g) and their 29er version is lighter than either Reynolds’ 29er Carbon ($1,990 / 1,555g) or Roval’s Control Carbon 29 ($1,200 / 1,590g).  For those who can both afford and justify the cost and are patient with initial setup, the EC70 Trails would be a great choice for a lightweight ‘quiver killer.’

marc

www.eastoncycling.com

Comments

Dave - 05/25/13 - 10:01am

While the new Easton wheels are slightly lighter and slightly less expensive than the Reynolds 29er carbon wheels, the Reynolds 29er wheels are tubeless. If you look at the Reynolds bead seat it is quite amazing the way that they hold the tire on the rim without putting much outward pressure on the sidewall. Hubs are extremely smooth. I have been running the Reynolds 29er carbon wheels for 6 months and 1500 miles and they have been nothing short of amazing.

don - 05/25/13 - 11:49am

I’ve been reluctant to use anything but stans rims due to burping issues I had on every other rim I tried tubeless. I agree the Crest/Stans are a hair on the flexy side and need to be in the truing stand a bit more than desired. Even when I’ve dented the sidewalls from running really low presure a quick channel-lock non-finesse adjustment brings them right back.

On the easton’s have you had any issue with burping and how low can you run them presure wise without? I have a few friends running light carbon and almost all of them have to run much higher pressure to not burp.

Thx,
don

Seraph - 05/25/13 - 3:36pm

Somehow I doubt that the Roval wheels are actually 1280g. That’s lighter than the Campagnolo Hyperon Ultra tubulars!

Tyler Benedict - 05/25/13 - 6:35pm

Seraph – Actually, we did put it on the scale. Sorry there’s no photo to prove it, but we weigh everything we review on our own scales unless otherwise noted.

ambrose - 05/25/13 - 11:46pm

“Though some may question the logic of using carbon fiber for mountain bike wheels, the latest generation of plastic wheels combine light weight, stiffness, and durability in a way that aluminum wheels simply can’t.”

Uhm. “plastic” wheels?

JimmyZ - 05/26/13 - 4:55am

no 20mm front hub why oh why, and if not you, then who?

Jacob - 05/26/13 - 11:32am

Seraph’s comments and Tyler’s response makes me wonder why mountain bike wheels manage to be lighter than road wheels even though they are built to take so much more abuse. Why do Zipp 202 clinchers weigh 1395g when the Rovals are 100g lighter and they can take more abuse. If they can build a Roval for MTB use at 1280g they should be able to build a road wheelset at 1180g clincher. I am missing something?

Jon - 05/26/13 - 2:56pm

Jacob-

Brake tracks, my friend. Brake tracks.

Marc Basiliere - 05/26/13 - 5:48pm

Ambrose,

Uhm, yes.

Marc Basiliere - 05/26/13 - 5:49pm

Don,

I’ve been running these at 26-29psi with burping or rolling. Anything less than that in these parts means too many tire-destroying rim strikes- which get expensive.

marc

Fredrick - 05/26/13 - 11:45pm

@seraph
They are talking about the 26 Roval Control Trail SL not a 29er, so it is much less material which is what makes it so light.
Though it is not stated very clearly in the article at anywhere, they are talking about 26in wheels since they put these wheels onto a BMC trail fox, which is a 26in platform.
For 29er wheels from Easton and Roval we are talking about 1450-ish grams.

@jon
no that is not true, if we look at the Reynolds wheels, the top end carbon XC wheelset (29er) weights in at 1555g and the Reynold ThirtyTwo, a top end road wheels about the same depth, is about 1330g in a clincher. Where is all the weight in the brake track?

copycat - 05/28/13 - 2:54pm

“The EA70s, on the other hand, are holding up just fine.”

EC70s, right?

Gaz - 12/01/14 - 4:15pm

I’ve just bought 2 pairs for £300 per set. They look the business, hopefully they’ll ride as good as they look.

Patrick - 12/07/14 - 8:42pm

I bought a pair at £275 (2013). I also bought a pair of EC90 2014 at £330 last week. I am interested in how they outperform wheels with aluminum rim.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.