Easton’s EC90 SL carbon tubular road wheels impress us most not for their laundry list of tech features but rather the most important aspect of any wheel: the quality of the build.
Spoke tension is appropriately tight and remarkably even throughout, and each wheel is fabulously round and true straight out of the box. Even better, they’ve stayed that way over nearly a year of testing on both dirt roads and bumpy Colorado cyclo-cross courses. Aside from one crash, we haven’t needed to twist a single nipple – hallelujah!
However, that’s not to say that the tech laundry list and overall performance aren’t impressive, too. Total weight is 10g lighter than claimed at just 1,222g for the pair and the feathery carbon tubular rims mean that most of the weight is concentrated around the hubs for a faster feel than the numbers alone might suggest.
Factor in that high and even spoke tension, and the large-diameter driveside rear hub flange, and it’s no surprise that spin-up during sprints and steep climbs is fast and solid-feeling with barely a hint of winding or flex even with just 18 front and 24 rear butted Sapim spokes.
Straight-pull spokes anchor into the alloy rear hub shell with a radial/cross pattern: straight-pull spokes anchor into the alloy rear hub shell with a radial/cross pattern James Huang
Once you’re up to speed, the EC90 SL wheels also make it a little easier to stay there. The modestly deep 38mm rims offer a more aerodynamic feel than pure box-section profiles yet are lighter, more versatile and easier to handle in crosswinds than substantially more aggressive ones.
In addition, the proprietary R4SL hubs feature precisely machined bearing seats and smooth-rolling hybrid ceramic cartridges throughout with easily adjustable preload for a perfect spin.
When it comes to time to stop, the included Swiss Stop Yellow King pads offer up some of the best performance on carbon rims, with good power and excellent modulation with very minor – and very manageable – grabbiness in dry conditions.
We’ve only a handful of fairly minor complaints. Part of the secret to the R4SL hubs’ silky spin is the minimal sealing but that’s also their Achilles’ heel. There’s little else to create friction aside from the dual-lip seals on the cartridges themselves so persistent use in foul conditions can shorten bearing lifespans and hasten service intervals.
The r4sl alloy freehub body’s group-specific spline patterns save as much weight as possible. though this shimano 10spd version looks fairly standard, the sram red driver’s midsection is completely barren: the r4sl alloy freehub body’s group-specific spline patterns save as much weight as possible. though this shimano 10spd version looks fairly standard, the sram red driver’s midsection is completely barren James Huang
Though we’ve had no issues with any of the hub bearings during road testing we did see some mud and water contamination in the freehub driver after some exceptionally muddy ‘cross races.
In addition, we’ve also lost some of the ‘perma-graphics’ on the hub shell and the rims are devoid of drain holes. Water intrusion hasn’t been an issue for us but we’d imagine that it could be for Pacific Northwest and UK riders who regularly spend a lot of time in the wet.
It’s also a good thing that the build quality has been so good. The internally housed nipples make for smaller spoke holes and subsequently stronger rims as a result, but truing can be a major pain once tyres are glued on.
Aside from that, there’s little to gripe about. The Easton EC90 SL carbon tubulars are light, durable and fast and at £1,299 ($1,799.99) they’re reasonably good value, too.
Provided you’re reasonably diligent about hub maintenance when needed, these should make for wonderfully versatile race wheels that should also survive several seasons with a little care.
The 38mm rim depth offers an aero advantage over most box-section wheels without being too much to handle in crosswinds: the 38mm rim depth offers an aero advantage over most box-section wheels without being too much to handle in crosswinds James Huang