review

Easton EA90 XD 25mm Clincher Wheels

7
£819.98

VERDICT:

7
10
Solid, bombproof and futureproof cross/adventure or wider tyred road wheels; rear bearings are the only let-down
Weight: 
1,654g

Easton touts its EA90 XD wheels as having one thing in mind, and that's cyclo-cross. To clarify that a little, it's probably better to say cyclo-cross with a disc brake-specific bike. And that's not to say you couldn't put them on your disc road bike or adventure bike or whatever 700C rotor-brake based shenanigans you had in mind. These were slotted into a cyclo-cross bike, as suggested, one that did a bit of everything – some racing, a lot of mucking about on inappropriate trails and a few long, long days in the saddle over a mix of dirt and tarmac – so they got a comprehensive seeing-to. And they've stood up well.

Instead of repurposing a road or 29er mountain bike wheel, Easton says it has designed the XD from the ground up "specifically for the needs of the emerging generation of disc-enabled 'cross riders". It's nice to be enabled, eh?

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The EA90 XD wheels use Easton's proprietary tubeless rim design that, it says, "holds certified tubeless road and cyclo-cross tires securely at impressively low tire pressures". The rim is wider too, at 17.5mm, so it "matches bigger volume cross tires perfectly" – which is especially handy if you like to venture into rubber bigger than race legal widths, as is the gnarmac trend these days. Fatter road tyres too, if that's your genre.

The hubs on the EA90 XD have standard six-bolt disc rotor mounts and roll on Easton's M1 sealed cartridge bearings. Spokes are Sapim stainless steel straight-pull spokes threaded into Easton's alloy tubeless nipples, so they're easy to maintain and service.

The pre-load on those bearings is also adjustable via a large external collar; this only needed to be nipped up once, and only on the rear wheel after a couple of rides where the smallest amount of bearing play started to occur, after which it was fine.

The EA90 XDs come supplied with quick-release axles but are made future-proof as they can be converted to run thru-axles, 15x100 for the front hub and 12x135 or 12x142 for the rear. Swapping the axles over takes less than 10 minutes, all you need are some Allen keys and cone-spanners (you do still have some cone-spanners, yes?) so you're not going to be obsoleted when you get that new bells-and-whistles frame with bolt-thru wheel fixings. This is a definite plus in today's 'What's going on?' frame and wheel compatibility world.

The wheels are made tubeless compatible with a deeply hooked rim and a rim track with no spoke holes, so no need for faffing with rim strips or the like, just screw a tubeless valve in there and away you go.

Setting up was trouble-free, with a pair of tubeless CX tyres popping the bead first time, but the tyres had to be run at a higher pressure than I would have liked as they burped alarmingly easily at lower pressures – although that could have been down to the tyre (33mm Bontrager CX3 Team Issue TLRs – when Dave tested them he had burping issues too). With tubes in, the EA90s managed tyres from 32mm to 41mm without any issue, and the wider tyres liking the wider rim width made for less ballooning and therefore less squirm.

Because they're a tubeless rim, fitting rubber to them can be a tight squeeze – a bonus when you need your tubeless setup to make a tight seal, but a grunt with some rubber if running tubes. Pack a pair of good tyre levers.

First impressions of the EA90 XDs were that they're stiff, quite noticeably stiff, despite only having a 20/24 front/rear spoke count. The deep box-section rim is probably to blame here. They're solid to the point of initially having to correct bar input to stop over-steering until I'd acclimatised to the directness, and familiar off-road paths felt noticeably bumpier on the arms than with any previous wheels.

As with most things, though, the body gets used to such matters, but if your preference is to spend all day venturing many miles off-road on your cyclo-cross/adventure/gnarmac bike then these might end up a bit too rigid for your needs. Great for the thrust and parry of racing, though, where laser-guided steering accuracy is a bonus.

Despite not being the lightest wheels in the shed they didn't feel noticeably sluggish spinning up to speed, their rigidity helping towards that feeling maybe. And for their intended rufty-tufty use, reliability over weight is probably best.

The same process that makes the hubs easy to convert in terms of the axles makes them easy to take apart and maintain, which comes in handy. The freehub could get sticky if the bike was left for a while and the rear bearings started to make that dry and empty noise after some time, although that's not a complaint exclusive to these wheels at all. The former issue was easily remedied in a few minutes as the freehub can be removed by hand. The pawls – there are only three of them so it's not the fastest pick-up in the world – are kept in place with a simple C-ring, and a clean with an oily rag and a bit of a re-lube had the freehub running and engaging happily again.

The longevity of the actual bearings is more of an issue, though, especially as the wheels are likely to be on a bike that gets dragged through the wet and mud again and again or taken to the middle of nowhere. But to be fair they're no worse than many other cartridge bearing rear hubs subjected to a hard life. The bearings on the front wheel have been fine.

> Thinking about going tubeless? Here's everything you need to know

And these Easton EA90 XD wheels have certainly been given a hard life: a long tour of duty on the Do Everything bike, through dust, mud, rock, mud, tarmac and more mud. And they've come out remarkably well. Their stiffness has been assimilated so that now the Other Wheels feel a bit baggy, and that rigidity is certainly welcome during CX race sprints or any tarmac work, although they can get wearing on the arms by the end of a long day.

Despite the abuse they've been given, and there have been enough sharp intakes of breath over some committed rock and rut hitting and more than enough pinch-punctures, they're still running remarkably true. Once the bearings in the rear wheel have been hit out and new ones pushed in they should be good to go for another punishing spell.

Verdict

Solid, bombproof and futureproof cross/adventure or wider tyred road wheels; rear bearings are the only let-down

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Easton EA90 XD 25mm Clincher Wheels

Size tested: 700C Disc

Tell us what the wheel is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Easton says: "The EA90 XD was designed with one thing in mind - cyclo-cross. Instead of repurposing a road or 29er mountain bike wheel, we designed the XD from the ground up specifically for the needs of the emerging generation of disc-enabled 'cross riders. This wheelset utilizes Easton's proprietary tubeless rim design that holds certified road tubeless cyclo-cross tires securely at impressively low tire pressures. The rim is wider too, at 17.5-millimeters, so it matches bigger volume 'cross tires perfectly.

"But tubeless compatibility is only half the story, the EA90 XD also boasts six-bolt disc rotor mounts and Easton's M1 sealed cartridge bearing hubs. These wheels are light, fast and bombproof. Best of all, they rely on standard Sapim stainless steel straight-pull spokes and Easton's surprisingly simple proprietary alloy tubeless nipples, so they're easy to maintain and service.

"The most versatile cyclo-cross disc wheel on the market. Easily convertible between thru-axle and standard quick releases. Shimano/SRAM 10 and 11 speed compatible or switch to a campy freehub body."

 

That's them pretty much summed up: bombproof and generally reliable if you don't mind a bit of bearing TLC.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?

Weight - 1620g

Braking Surface - Disc

Cassette Type - Shimano 10/11, Sram 10/11. Campagnolo freehub available.

Finish - Black rim, black ano hub

TYPE - Clincher

Rim Material - EA90 Alloy, welded

Rim Depth - 24.5mm

Internal Rim Width - 17.5mm

External Rim Width - 22mm

Spokes - Sapim, black, double-butted

Front Spoke Pattern - 20 total, 3 cross

REAR Spoke Pattern - 24 total, 3 cross

Front Hub Type - M1/6 bolt disc type only

Rear Hub Type - M1/6 bolt disc type only

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Well built and sturdy.

Rate the wheel for performance:
 
8/10

Good go-to day-to-day bit-of-everything wheels, suitable for both blatting around the wilds and racing.

Rate the wheel for durability:
 
5/10

Excellent with regards to the wheels staying tight and true, marked down for rear bearing endurance.

Rate the wheel for weight
 
7/10

Not the sveltest wheels out there, but certainly not heavy enough to be used as an excuse.

Rate the wheel for value:
 
6/10

Stuck somewhere between good value wheels and quite posh ones, they're certainly a performance wheelset when it comes to construction and stiffness, but the rear bearings nudge them towards the budget.

Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?

Despite being treated really quite badly over a variety of terrain, the wheels stayed tight and true.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

Because they're tubeless-ready wheels you expect tyres to be a reassuringly tight sealing fit, and they were.

How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?

Supplied skewers perfectly adequate.

Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose

A good general off-road wheel with the added future-happy benefits of tubeless and thru-axle compatibility.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

Stiff, light enough, tubeless and bolt-thru future ready.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

Longterm rear hub bearing issues and freehub care.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

Great wheels for those who use their CX and CX style bikes for a little bit of everything. Some might find them too stiff for their all-day demands though. Marked up for tubeless and axle-swapping capabilities, then marked down for the bearing issue.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 180cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: It varies as to the season.  My best bike is: The one I'm on at the time

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, fun

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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