I got a glimpse of the 2008 Easton product line-up, and the wheels are sexy. Every single wheel seems to be new except for maybe the rim. I figure that they must have been throwing some big bucks into development this past year or two.
First of all, I’d like to comment that their product catalogs, since the wheels have their own catalog separate from the other components, do a decent job of explaining a product line jam-packed with new items. As a retailer, I freakin’ loathe product literature that is confusing or inadequate to consumers. I’ll just touch on some of the wheels, but maybe I’ll mention the components once I get to hold them in my hand at Interbike.
In designating their product, Easton employs an alphanumerical system that gives material, relative level in the line, and either a weight or purpose designator. For instance, any product that has an EA at the beginning has no carbon component to it. EC means that at least some carbon fibre is used. An EA90 is top of the line for non-carbon products, with EA70, EA50, and EA30 in descending order of cost and presumably performance. Finally, an EA90 SLX is lighter than an EA90 SL, while an EC90 Carbon Aero is an all-around wheel while the EC90 Time Trial is meant for you guessed it time trials. This system holds true for all Easton products, not just the wheels. Got that? Great, back to wheels specifically.
The biggest differences in the wheels are the new hub designs across the line. Gone are the old Velomax twin-thread hubs where the spoke threads into the hub and also into a nipple at the rim. Instead all the hubs rely on straight pull spokes that insert at the hub and run to a nipple at the rim. The hubs look especially clean and are well depicted in computer drawn exploded schematics towards the back of the catalog. I don’t know how these hubs will hold up in actual use, but Easton does seem particularly proud of their design. They market a time trial specific front wheel with a narrow spoke bracing and air-foil shaped axle ends to reduce drag. For my tastes, the coolest hubs are the TKO track hubs which apply the 21st century aesthetic to the traditional high-flange track hub. They somewhat resemble Cane Creek’s hub except that they have the nipples internal at the rim instead of the hub. And the TKO rear hub uses the splined track cog and Hyper-glide type lockring system that I first reported from last year’s Interbike. For track riders, this means lightning fast cog changes with just one tool.
Easton seems to be using in-house built 56mm deep carbon rims for their EC90 track, time trial, and all-around wheels and introduces a new low-profile carbon rim for their EC90 SLX climbing wheels. The climbing wheels have external nipples, while all the deep wheels have internal. And all of the all-carbon wheels are tubular, though there is an EC70-something wheel that uses a structural carbon section co-molded to an aluminium rim. That wheel seems like the wheel I’ll most likely be pitching to customers since it combines an aerodynamic 38mm depth with the convenience of clinchers and the reliability of an aluminum brake surface. However, I’ll personally be gunning for the Aero Carbon and the TKO wheels, and hopefully I’ll be able to evaluate them for Bikehugger in the future.
The wheels seem to top out around $1600 or so, which seems pretty competitive in this day and age.