Long Term Review: Easton EA90 SLX Alloy Road Wheels

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

Last summer, Easton completely revamped their wheels with the all-new Echo hubs and RoadTubeless rims. The news led with their carbon versions, but the EA90 SLX was the sleeper of the bunch. It packed all the new tech into a svelte, strong and light wheelset that could go from training ride to crit to ‘cross with ease.

After about four months of use in all manner of weather, I’m happy to say the wheels work as good on the road as they look on paper. With road tubeless compatibility outta the box (no rim strips!) and smooth rolling, durable hubs all on tap, that’s saying a lot. The 1,400g claimed weight ain’t too shabby either, and the entire test was done under my 6’2″ / 188lb person. Check out the details, actual weights and tech notes below…

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set actual weights

With valve stems installed, actual weights are 809g rear, 631g front and 141g for the skewers. That puts them at 1,440g with the valve stems, close enough to the claimed weight considering that’s probably without the stems.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

What makes that weight even nicer is that no rim strips will add to it. The sealed alloy rims make tubeless set up foolproof. That’s possible thanks to Easton’s dual threaded nipples, which thread into the rim insert while also threading onto the spoke. They’re the only proprietary part of the system, though they true and service like normal. Spokes are standard Sapim straight pull, double butted pieces and bearings are standard, too.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

The inside profile doesn’t hurt either, with a nicely rounded center channel and bead socket grooves to hold the tires in place once inflated.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

Claimed measurements are 17.5mm internal/22mm external. My test set came in closer to 18mm/23mm, which is a welcome bonus. Height is 25mm with a rounded-to-flat semi-aero design.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

Front hub has 16 radially laced spokes. On both front and rear, the spoke head is trapped under the shell with a silver ring, and they’re pushed about as far out as you can take them without affecting frame or drivetrain clearance.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

The rear hubs have 20 spokes laced radially 1-cross on the non-drive side and 2-cross on drive side. The freehub body

Check out this post for details on bearing placement and internals. Essentially, the Echo hubs use much, much wider load bearing placement than standard hubs, pushing the drive side one almost 2/3 of the way out the freehub body. The idea is to give them a more stable platform and reduce the leverage drivetrain forces have over the bearings, which can degrade longevity.

The freehub has machined holes and slanted, truncated slides to catch the cassette. Not only does it look good, but it’s also held up to a Shimano cassette better than most:

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

Note the minimal scarring on the face of the grooves. Also note the slanted face on most of the grooves, helping save a few grams.

The gray rubber seal hides the teeth and pawls, the latter being installed into the hubshell. That’s reverse of most hub’s designs, and it’s what allows them to push the load bearing out into the freehub. One caveat: tug the freehub body too hard and it’ll pop out. It’ll also wiggle in/out a bit with the cassette on there until you get it clamped into a frame.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

Features and weight are all good, so how ’bout performance?

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

In short, it’s very good. They roll smooth, are reasonably quiet and are surprisingly stiff for a lightweight wheel. In fact, I could just say they’re remarkably stiff. Period. No lightweight qualifier necessary. Beyond hitting high speed turns, sharp maneuvers and all-out standing sprints, an easy way to test wheel stiffness is to lean the bike to the side as much as possible. Yes, that’s what’s going on in the picture on the left, and yes that’s what it looks like when you lean the bike as far to the side as you can. It seems way more precarious on the bike, I’m quite disappointed in how it really looks. It’s the equivalent of the camera adding 10 pounds. Except in this case, I feel like it’s losing 10 degrees of lean.

Regardless, it’s a good test, and the EA90 SLXs passed with flying colors. Virtually no brake rub at the biggest lean angles I could muster. That’s mirrored in more practical applications like cornering, or high speed transitions from one pitch to another (think coming down a mountain road and turning onto a flat cross road. After plenty of whipping around, running off the road and slinging through corners with a few bunny hops thrown in, the wheels are remarkably true. Not 100% true, but very, very close. Close enough that I had to dial the brakes in and spin the wheels to notice…it wasn’t perceptible on the bike.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

When they arrived, the weather was still warm and sunny. Since then, we’ve had plenty of freezing cold and wet, sometimes simultaneously. The hubs have held up very well through it all and show no signs of needing maintenance.

Easton EA90 SLX alloy road bike wheel set review

I’ve tested them with both Hutchinson Intensive and IRC Formula Lite tubeless tires, both using Cafe Latex sealant. Both mounted up easily without a compressor and have held air respectably well…good for several rides before needing a little top off.

My only complaint is the braking surface. It’s a machined surface, but it’s pretty smooth. I’d like to see them have more bite. There’s a subtle but detectable drop in stopping power going from Shimano’s wheels to these with the same brakes and pads.

Normally, I’m not very excited about alloy wheels. It’s carbon for me, baby. But these are exciting. Weight’s comparable to similarly sized carbon clinchers, but price is just $1,200 for the set. Not super cheap, but that’s $500 less than their heavier EC70 carbon/alloy wheels. They’ve made a great all purpose set of wheels that are light enough for racing. And Easton says they’re tough enough for cyclocross, too (we plan on testing that next). In other words, they could be the only wheelset you’ll need.

EastonCycling.com

Comments

NASH - 02/03/14 - 4:14pm

We need more pictures of you leaning on a bike, really cheered me up that photos did.

NASH - 02/03/14 - 4:14pm

We need more pictures of you leaning on a bike, really cheered me up that photo did.

DBordewisch - 02/03/14 - 4:38pm

So you are not disappointed that you are not disappointed it is a good test? Use “regardless” in writing. Your speech is your choice.
How do you know the wheel is staying true or “stiff” and your frame is not flexing? If one or the other or both flex the rim will rub on the brake pad.

filibuster cash - 02/03/14 - 4:47pm

Also, the non-drive looks to be one cross, not radial, since we’re picking nits. Good looking wheels, just the same.

Mattbyke - 02/03/14 - 5:28pm

My nuevations have been fantastic. Similar wheel. 500$

Steve @ G4G - 02/03/14 - 6:34pm

@ Mattbyke – Neuvation is closed.

b$ - 02/03/14 - 7:14pm

kings built to stans alpha 340 24f 28r, lighter cheaper better, pick 3

Jdog - 02/03/14 - 7:51pm

I swore off Easton this season when I was told THREE MONTHS for a warranty service or a wheel service of any kind. I love tubeless road wheels and their new EC90 55 Tubeless wheel looks promising, but until they fix this issue I can’t even think about it.

All wheels (from any company) can break, fail or fall apart. A team needs to be in place to handle legitimate warranty in a reasonable term.

As for this wheel, it is close to the Dura-Ace Wheel that offers a Carbon/Alloy hybrid for similar money. That makes it a hard sell for me.

Raul - 02/03/14 - 8:05pm

I had a previous version of the exact same model. After ~1/2 year of use, they proved to be either defective or a part of a lousy project. They started to make a crack sound while riding. After having bought them from BikeTiresDirect I found out that the vast majority of people who had these wheels got the same problem. When I aproached Easton they asked me to do some silly adjustments, which I did to no success whatsoever… In short, they were trying hard to create barriers and annoyances, in the hope that I would eventually dropout the case – as I did. Will never more buy any Easton wheels, at any proce point. Take care.

Fatso - 02/03/14 - 8:16pm

Personally I’d be more interested in a review on that IRC Formula Light tire. I’ve been using them for awhile and they beat almost all other tubeless road tires hands down. Lighter, easier to install, much more supple, and the same price (if not less) than its competitors.

Your comment:

“My only complaint is the braking surface. It’s a machined surface, but it’s pretty smooth. I’d like to see them have more bite. There’s a subtle but detectable drop in stopping power going from Shimano’s wheels to these with the same brakes and pads.”

Seems a bit vague. Was this post riding in the water? Did you clean the rim or brake pads? Did you ride the same route?

These wheels look interesting. Personally I’ll stick with my American Classic Argent wheels. :)

Mattbyke - 02/03/14 - 8:45pm

Steve. I just looked into that . Too bad. I’ve had great luck with Neuvations sourced product.

larsv - 02/04/14 - 7:13am

@jdog:

Agreed, the DA-9000-24-TL are really nice wheels, for what i’ve read. But they are 100grs heavier (claimed), the rim’s are narrower and they look “less aero” than the Eastons.

The Eastons look really good to me! They even included proper Shimano-like closed cam QR’s, instead of the crappy open cam QR’s you see on many other wheels. :-)

Steven - 02/04/14 - 9:02am

“The rear hubs have 20 spokes laced radially on the non-drive side and 2-cross on drive side.” Are the pictures of some other wheels than are being reviewed? The photos show wheels that are crossed on both sides.

Tyler (Editor) - 02/04/14 - 10:38am

Fatso – tire review will come. The braking performance was in wet or dry conditions with both DA9000 and eeBrakes calipers, both excellent models, both with the stock DA pads. The rims were cleaned after the wet rides along with the rest of the bike. It’s not that the braking performance was bad, just not as good as some other rims with the same brakes.

Steven – good eye, the spec is indeed 1x. Post has been updated.

Larsv – we’ve got a review of the Shimano wheels coming, too.

All – forgot to mention, the Easton skewers are nice, but I eventually swapped them out for some lighter third party ones I have, which are shown in some of the pics.

Alex - 02/05/14 - 10:18pm

The previous model was so bad. 6 guys in my club had that wheelset and every one had rim cracks and 2/3 had broken spokes. Skinny guys too, so nobody rides easton wheels anymore in my club.

For $100 less than this Easton wheelset you can get a custom built wheelset with better rims, hubs, and a sub 1400 weight. One example would be a Pacenti SL23 build with tune or alchemy hubs.

Johan - 07/31/14 - 10:11am

I had a set of SLX90 wheels. This was the worst set of wheels I have ever owned. After several ruined rides because of broken front spokes, this wheel set has been deposited where it belongs – in the trash. So i am echoing the experience of Raul and Alex.

John F - 08/11/14 - 8:58pm

After years of very hard use including much cyclocross, these wheels are amazing. Reliable and responsive and no issues. I would guess they have 4000 miles on them. I’m going to replace them because the brake tracks are looking worn from all the dirt while cyclocrossing. I’ll most likely get another set. (I also have a set of Ksyrium SL’s that are also very high quality but are noticeably flexible when cornering and not nearly as responsive when climbing. Good-not thrilling)
All these terribly dramatic issues posted here sound like fantasy, based on my experience with these wheels.

willy - 09/26/14 - 10:58am

Horrible value! I am a light weight rider (130lbs) and after 6 months of solid use the eyelets started to pull out and cracks in the rim were appearing. A buddy who also got the wheels around the same time had the same problem and more cracks and broken spokes. On a $1200 wheelset should last more than 1 season with average riders. Bearing wore out quick but that’s not as major as the rim/ spokes failing.
When we went to warranty easton was quick to get the warranty process but once they arrived my local shop told me it would take 6-8 weeks for the wheel service!! Not only is it taking forever but to me warranty means a replacement, 6 months old should be a fast, easton sends new wheel out with return label and I send the broken one back. Not im out of a wheel for 6-8 weeks because all of their wheels break and everyone needs them serviced.

I guess you can say that these wheels are not of value, and so is the company EASTON! FAIL FAIL FAIL

Shane - 09/27/14 - 8:54am

I also bought the same set of Easton’s. Was wary given the bad press, but must say I find them fast, light and dare i say tough. I was 85kgs when i bought them and a bit less now, my club races are on very bumpy and broken roads, but they go great

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