Easton’s tubeless EA90 SLX is a great all-around road wheelset. When our US team tested it over the end of 2013 and start of 2014 it easily held up to some aggressive dirt-road riding and cyclocross racing under riders of up to 185lb/84kg without so much as losing a millimetre of trueness or burping any air.
Our UK testers at BikeRadar’s sister mag Cycling Plus have now also got their teeth into the EA90s and come away equally impressed with their performance on the road.
The original test set weighed 1,426g (623g front, 803g rear) against 1437g for our second batch – with a brace of quick-releases adding another 150g.
With an internal rim width as tested of 18mm (22.5mm externally), the EA90s offer a solid, wide stance. Perhaps more importantly, the rims seem to strike that nice balance of ease of installation and a solid, confident, tubeless seal.
There’s no need for a rim tape if running them with tubes, because the rim bed is completely sealed, and that’s a bonus in two ways. As well as permitting the fitting of tubeless tyres, undrilled rim beds are much stronger and more rigid, creating a more responsive and durable wheel.
First time out, we tested Schwalbe One 25mm tyres at everywhere from 70-110psi, and Hutchinson Piranha 2 cyclocross tubeless tyres as low as 25psi without any burps or other issues.
For our 2015 test, we set our wheels up with a pair of Hutchinson Fusion 23mm tubeless tyres and a dash of sealant. Because of the need for a very snug fit to avoid air loss, fitting required three metal core tyre levers to coax the final portion of bead in to place, but the tyres seated first time with a quick blast from a track pump.
Using Easton’s Echo rear hub with wide-set, angular contact bearings and an inverted driver-ring/pawl configuration – considerably increasing wheel stability and bearing durability – the rear wheel engages quickly under pedal load.
The Easton EA90 SLX Echo rear hub has an inverted ring/pawl configuration
On the road – or wherever else you take them – the EA90s feel swift, lively and dependable. The 23mm Generation 5 rim design makes the most of the grip available, and the 25mm height is oblivious to wind and extremely nimble. Responsiveness is electric – you can feel the light weight when climbing or accelerating, but they are plenty stiff when you’re out of the saddle or cornering.
In terms of general durability, things have been reassuring. Despite somewhat rough care during our US test (read: power washing after ’cross races or muddy road rides), the hubs still moved silkily after months of use.
It’s worth mentioning though that the stock grease on the free hub is not cold-weather friendly. Riding in temps at or below freezing resulted in chainsuck. This can be easily remedied by adding oil to the grease, but we’d have preferred Easton use a slightly lighter viscosity free hub grease so riders don’t have to mess with it.
Two more things to note: the included valve stems don’t have a removable core, so sealant has to be added into the tyre itself before mounting. And while the nipples are externally located and use industry-standard wrench flats for easy truing, they use an Easton-exclusive dual-threaded design that’s permanently paired with the spoke so finding replacements could be tricky.
As with all tubeless wheels, you are saving a bit of rotational weight by swapping tubes ( 120g) for sealant ( 30g a tyre). Some argue that they can feel a smoother ride with road tubeless. But what we appreciate is the fact that flats are virtually eliminated, as small punctures are quickly sealed. Yes, you will have to top off your air at some point, but that certainly beats immediately stopping to pull a tyre and tube off a wheel, especially in cold and grimy winter conditions.
Compared to other high-end road tubeless options, they are generally lighter and competitively priced. While the £350 / AU$650 Ultegra 6800s are half the price, they weigh 1,654g. Other options include the £849 / AU$1,767 HED Ardennes Plus SL at a claimed 1,513g, the £800 / AU$1,499 Shimano C24 Tubeless at 1,482g, and the £850 / AU$1,450 Bontrager X Lite TLR at 1,518g.
NoTubes' £850 / AU$TBC Alpha 340 Pro has a claimed weight of 1,330g but has a rider weight limit of 190lb (86.1kg).
American Classic beats the EA90 SLX on weight, but gives up on price; the Argent Road Tubeless set we weighed at 1,400g comes in at £899.99 / AU$1,500.