by Nick Zuzelski
Carbon wheels are all the rage as of the past few seasons, but with their high cost, it's still a commodity seen more often on factory pro level bikes and in the wish lists of your everyday rider. Easton kept that in mind while creating the all new EC70 Trail Wheelset, trying to come up with a new price point offering for the trail riding enthusiast. I've been putting these wheels through some all-mountain abuse the past few months and it's time to fill you in on how they've performed.
EC70 Trail Highlights
The EC70s roll on Easton's proven M1 hubs. Featuring 24 straight-pull double-butted spokes per wheel, the wheels feel amazingly light when you grab them out of the box - scary light. Tipping the scales at a claimed 1,355 grams for the set, your trail bike will most likely be on a diet with these. The carbon rims feature a 20mm inner width, and carry a taller "squared" profile from a cross sectional view. Coming in a stealth, all-black look with a matte black carbon finish on the rims, the color scheme keeps things simple but oh-so sexy. Easton's attention to detail and quality is very apparent when you come in close for a better look at the wheels. The front hub is adaptable to run 9x100QR or 15mm axles while the rear is adaptable to 10x135QR or 12x135/142mm configurations.
The EC70 wheels are made without using Easton's Armored Ballistics Composite (ABC) that is used on their other carbon offerings, such as the Carbon Havens. From what I was told, ABC is specifically designed to withstand sharp impacts. Actually, it's designed to withstand bullets. Doing without the ABC material allows a significant price break on the EC70 wheels, but they still offer rim strength on the same level as the competition, according to Easton.
- Finish: Matte Ud Carbon Rim, Black Ano Hub
- Wheelset Weight: 1355g
- Type: Clincher - Non Ust
- Rim Material: EC70 Carbon
- Rim Width: 20mm Internal / 25.5mm External
- Spokes: 24 Straight Pull - Double Butted Black Laced 3X
- Nipple Type: Easton Alloy
- Hub Types: M1 / 6 Bolt Disc
- Front Axle Size: 9x100QR, 15x100
- Rear Axle Size: 10x135QR, 12x135/142
- Bearing Type: Sealed Cartridge
- MSRP: $1800
On The Trail
After mounting up a set of 2.35-inch Schwalbe Hans Dampfs on my carbon Nomad, I immediately started putting these wheels through the paces on some more aggressive terrain. Coming from a DH racing background and weighing 185-pounds, I tend to ride a little more aggressively than the standard XC lycra clad welterweight, so I was interested to see how these wheels would hold up to some of my punishment.
I had an immediate dislike for the front hub's incompatibility with a 20mm front axle. With almost all the bases covered for common trail bike hub formats, the inability to run a 20mm axle was a pretty big letdown for me, especially since I'm still running a FOX 36 fork due to stiffness preferences. With a rather expensive custom 20 to 15mm adapter in place, down the trail I went...
The first thing you can notice with these wheels is the near silent rear hub with very precise engagement. If you are running a clutched rear derailleur, you are going to have one hell of a quiet whip. Freehub engagement has been completely free of skipping and popping, and the sealed bearings are still silky smooth after all the mud, dust, and water I can throw at them.
Another attribute I noticed was a faster/easier acceleration on the trail thanks to the lack of rotating mass. While slight, the light feeling really seemed to make the bike feel snappier while pedaling out of corners and sprinting. Always a plus in my book.
After getting some miles in, I decided to convert these wheels to tubeless using a conversion kit. Unfortunately the wheels aren't tubeless compatible out of the box. Regardless, the conversion was easy and I have not had any issues since. The tire beads are seating nicely and I haven't had to worry about tubes since - no more pinch flats = more time for shredding.
I ride lots of rocky and rooty terrain on the East Coast, a place where a strong wheel can shine and a weak one will consistently knock you offline due to excessive lateral flex. Simply put, my bike stayed in the path I chose (no matter how terrible of a line choice). They kept me tracking straight with no noticeable excess flex while navigating through the chunder. The carbon rims offer a solid and quiet ride quality while charging through the rough stuff, and it's quite noticeable - giving a feeling of a more damped and "plastic" rim than a ringing and pinging aluminum hoop. The rims have stayed amazingly true and held up great while trail riding.
In the spirit of "all-mountain" riding, which includes riding my Nomad a little recklessly, I put the wheels through more of a torture test than most would. Why not ride for a bit at the local freeride trails? I eventually tempted fate and smashed the rear wheel on a sizable double with a fairly sharp (and rock-solid) dirt case point. After casing that hard I was expecting to look down and see a taco-ed wheel ripping apart my drivetrain, but instead the rim had cracked, showed a small line of broken fibers, and was still almost perfectly true. Rather than risk a full wheel blow up by continuing to jump, I called the day short and rode back to the truck. Reflecting on past experiences, I can say that an equivalent aluminum rim would have had me carrying my bike back rather than riding. No wheelset will allow for every mistake, so it comes down to your comfort level and a basic risk analysis if you take your trail wheels to the jumps.
After mounting a replacement EC70 on the rear, the fun and outstanding performance has continued on the trails and these will undoubtedly last me through plenty of seasons of shredding. Personally, a line has been drawn for the need to throw on my more beefy freeride wheelset for the rowdy jumping days - or just grab the downhill bike.
What's The Bottom Line?
Coming in at their low weight to high strength ratio, the Easton EC70 Trail wheelset would be a great upgrade for your bike if you're in the market for performance at a slightly lower price point. The $1800 price tag might still keep some riders on a ramen noodle diet for a few years, but if you are serious about performance and want to reap the benefits of carbon while saving a few bucks, this could be a great wheelset for you.
For complete specs and more details, visit www.eastoncycling.com.