by Ian Collins
A few years back when Easton dove into the proprietary wheelset market they came in pretty strong. With a carbon rim boasting a lifetime warranty, and a sleek, sexy overall package at competitive prices they definitely barged into the game and made a name for themselves straight away. There were a few small hiccups initially such as bearing play in early hub iterations as well as some isolated incidents with hub shells stripping out where the rotor attaches. Easton addressed the issues diplomatically and have moved towards a foolproof system that now appears to be free of any glaring flaws. A couple of months ago the Haven 27.5 wheelset landed in my hands and made its way on to my bike. I was excited to give these new wheels a good lashing to see how they would now stand up to a little real-world use and abuse.
Haven 27.5 Wheel Highlights
- Finish: Black brushed, water transfer graphics
- Wheelset weight: 1650gr
- Type: Clincher / UST
- Rim material: Easton aluminum
- Internal rim width: 21mm
- External rim width: 26mm
- Spokes: Sapim 2.0/1.7/2.0 black
- Front spoke pattern: no
- Rear spoke pattern: 24-3x
- Front hub type: m1 / 6-bolt disc type only
- Front axle size: 15x100
- Rear hub type: m1 / 6-bolt disc type only
- Rear axle size: 12x135/142
- MSRP $500 (per side)
Before the wheels even showed up I was already enchanted by their sleek looks. All black, with most of the rims in a matte finish except the high sheen lettering giving some subtle contrast. The hubs are nicely anodized and the machining was very clean. The hardware gracing them also appeared sturdy and the bearings smooth, with the freehub offering relatively quick engagement (3 pawls/30 points/12 degrees). Although I haven't had to use it yet, the adjustable bearing tension was a nice feature that could certainly prove useful down the road.
At 1,650-grams the Havens are pretty light for a 27.5-inch aluminum wheel set. Featuring a 26-mm external width, the rims seemed to be a touch on the narrow side for a mid to heavy duty trail rim, but time would tell if this would be an issue or not. I flicked the spokes a bit like a guitar string and was surprised at how high the spoke tension was. On Easton's website they mention that these are built with a “proprietary acoustic tensioning and truing method”. I had no issues installing and inflating my tires with a little sealant and a floor pump. After a second gander at how good these looked on my already all black bike, it was time to put them to the test.
On The Trail
Shaving 130-grams off my previous wheelset, the first thing I noticed was that the Havens felt light and nimble and that acceleration was effortless. The engagement is not as instant as some boutique offerings, but quick enough that it wasn't a hindrance or even something that I was ever conscious of. On offbeat technical climbs the engagement maintained a very positive, confidence inspiring feel. When it came time to put the hammer down through the turns, the Haven's were also pretty darn good although not a game changer by any means.
These wheels are fairly stiff, especially for 27.5-inch aluminum wheel with a really low spoke count (24 per wheel). In stark contrast I will say the carbon wheelsets I've ridden thus far have all felt a bit stiffer and snappier, but they ring in at over double the price. Through the rough bits I never felt any excessive deflection with the Havens, nor did I suffer any rim damage. In fact, I did flat a couple of times, which is a rare occurrence for me. This was a good indicator of how hard the rim itself is. On one ride where I flatted twice, I ended up limping out and riding a good seven miles both uphill and downhill at a modest clip over rough terrain with a flat tire. When I got back to my truck, my tire was nuked, but the rim was still free of flat spots or dents and remained as true as could be despite being a bit scratched up. In fact after a couple months of use, I still haven't had to re-tension these and they're almost perfectly straight. Pretty impressive.
Things That Could Be Improved
To be quite frank, it's hard to find fault in these wheels. At $1,000 for the set they are a bit pricey, and these days anyone who's a little bit resourceful can read some reviews and put together a nice custom wheel set for a considerably low price, but it would be tough to do so and come in at this weight in the 27.5-inch size. They didn't blow my mind with their stiffness, but they're way less costly than a carbon wheel set and considering how lightweight they are, I think they feel damn good overall. Basically, there is no major weak point that I can belly ache about.
Long Term Durability
In the few months time spent on the Havens there was no obvious issue that seemed indicative of any potential shortcomings down the line. The fault-prone hubs that penalized past models are long gone, and their replacements are far better designed. The rims are rock hard and resisted flat spots and dents better than most in their class. The wheel as a whole proved to be quite sturdy and didn't need tensioning, nor did it want to stray out of true at all. Time will tell how these hold up after a few years of riding, but Easton does back them with a two year warranty. Besides, by the time most people would be doing any real damage to these wheels we'll all be switching over to 28.25-inch wheels anyway.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The Easton Haven 27.5 wheelset comes in at reasonably competitive price and weight without cutting any corners. Add the great overall trail feel and the Havens are winners. If you ride smooth to moderately rowdy trails on anything from a 120- to 160-mm bike, these are definitely worth considering. Since they are a bit on the pricey and light-weight side, I probably wouldn't recommend them for heavy duty Enduro racing under a brawny rider. For just about any other intents and purposes on your average trail bike these will definitely leave you glowing. The beautiful aesthetics and solid warranty are just the icing on the cake.
Visit www.eastoncycling.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.