Easton isn't sitting on the sidelines of the disc cyclocross movement, offering a new EA90 XD disc and tubeless-compatible aluminum clincher wheelset for the 2012-13 season.
At 1,605g a set they're not especially light but they're very stiff and tough – and somewhat reasonably priced – making them an excellent choice for everyday use and training.
Despite being equipped with just 20 front and 24 rear straight-pull butted stainless steel spokes, the EA90 XD wheels hit well above their weight class and feel remarkably solid and substantial both in terms of cornering and under power.
The torsional stiffness largely offsets the wheels' mid-pack weight, and even when you're pushing hard in corners with good grip there's virtually no sensation of the wheels folding underneath you.
Credit likely goes to the burly, welded aluminum rims, which feature solid outer walls with no piercings whatsoever aside from the valve hole. Instead of conventionally drilling straight through the rim and using standard nipples, Easton uses riveted-in eyelets that are threaded on the inside to mate with the matching dual-threaded aluminum nipples – the same system that's used on the company's bombproof Haven Carbon mountain bike wheelset.
Double-threaded nipples anchor to the spoke and riveted-in rim eyelets
The upside of this setup is a supremely rigid rim that's been admirably bulletproof during testing – much like a convertible versus a hardtop, punching fewer holes in a structure leads to better strength and stiffness. The downside is the use of proprietary nipples, although Easton at least uses standard straight-pull spokes in just two different lengths throughout the wheelset.
Easy and reliable tubeless compatibility is another positive, with the solid outer rim wall requiring no tape to produce an airtight chamber. Smart internal shaping makes for easy installation of suitable tires, too, and we had no issues seating a set of Vittoria Cross XG Pro tires using only a standard floor pump. Once mounted up, the tightly fitting bead allowed us to confidently run just 25psi up front for a 70kg tester – once unthinkable for a tubeless cyclocross setup.
Like the nipple arrangement, the M1 hubs (with 135mm rear spacing) are also borrowed from Easton's mountain bike range. While the company doesn't advertise as such, they can be converted to thru-axles front and rear if needed. The large-diameter aluminum shells rotate on cartridge bearings with adjustable preload throughout, and the freehub body is easily removed for quick servicing.
Bearing preload is easily adjusted with the external collar
That's a good thing, as prior experience with other Easton hubs has shown that they'll need regular servicing if they get wet – not exactly a high point considering 'cross races are often conducted in truly nasty conditions.
Achieving a proper bearing preload requires a deft touch and freehub engagement could also be quicker at a ho-hum 12 degrees. But, in fairness, that's inline with most competitors.
Other minor complaints include valve stems with non-removable cores, and the lack of Campagnolo compatibility owing to the use of mountain bike hubs (Easton's road hubs offer multiple freehub bodies). And while the rims are fantastically durable, we'd prefer that they were wider than 22/17.5mm (external/internal measurement) for better casing support of voluminous 'cross rubber.