Easton EA 90 SL Wheels: At The Finish – by Grannygear
My initial impressions were of a laterally stiff wheel with high spoke tension and so the forward drive under prodding was exceptional. They really scoot. I also felt that they were a firm riding wheel and I think that is accurate, but they are not harsh. Splitting hairs here, but considering the snap under pedaling and the sharp steering response, it’s a worthwhile trade for a rider looking for speed. They never beat me up but I was not cradled either.
The weight on these is very low. At 1528 grams, these are a light wheel even in a world full of carbon. Of course they are not deep wheels in any real aero sense, but that is a silly idea in my thinking…aero and gravel. I would love to see the numbers showing that a deep carbon wheel is really paying off when there is a fat 42mm tire mounted to it. Until then I will remain skeptical.
And at 27mms deep these are not a box profile rim either. That moderate rim height looks really good too, especially on a slender tubed frame. I find them to be a very sharp looking wheel and they have been a compliment to any of the three bikes I have had them on. I have never had any issues getting tires to seat tubeless, although I do wonder if a bit more of an aggressive bead seat might not be nice, just to have more hold on the tire bead when deflated. That just gives me a better feeling in case of sudden air loss, but with the miasma of tires and rim combos in the non-system tubeless world we operate in, it’s hard to get that just right. Some rims do it better than these though.
The 19.5mm internal width is minimal in the current movement toward wider gravel wheels. I am testing another set of wheels that are 25mm internal. That is a nice MTB XC rim width. So while that extra beef is really sweet for 42+mm wide tires, I am not convinced that it makes much sense for lesser rubber. At 19.5mms wide the EA 90SLs are a bit of a throwback. 21mm is, I think, the sweet spot. But I mounted tires on these and on 21mm wide rims to compare and only found 1mm difference (give or take) in the resulting tire profile. It’s not a big deal but it is a deal and if you want to run really low tire pressures and bigger tires. Want it wider internally with like wheel quality? Easton has the EA 90 AX Disc for that application. I don’t think I would run bigger than a 40mm tire on the EA 90 SLs on a regular basis but it is not going to break anything if you do.
Thoughts on this though: In the rush to wide rims we are gaining weight in the wheels. If you are not running a big tire, like 45mms, and that at a lower pressure, why spin that rim weight around all the time? Many riders never run bigger than a 38mm tire anyway and in a lot of the country, a 38 is all you need and more. For that situation these wheels are really good.
Frankly I expect a correction in rim widths in gravel. It happened in Plus bike rims where they went out to 50mm wide (Outer width- Editor) with 3.0 tires. Oooff! That is a lot of rolling thunder, right there. It actually reduced the pressure on the rims enough to burp tires more often. Now that has settled to rims more like 30mm-38mm (internal width) and tires in that 2.8”-2.6” range. Better, unless you are bikepacking in sand all day. We shall see how this all plays out but once you get to a 50mm x 700c tire on a gravel bike, the line is pretty blurry. Just give me a fast 29″er at that point. Wait…it WOULD be a fast 29″er at that point, but with stupid handlebars.
At first I wondered if these might be slow rolling due to the bit of drag felt in the axle when spun by hand, but they sure seem free rolling on the road. I expect some break-in has occurred. I also was not easy on these wheels. We had a lot of rain this year so the dirt roads have been very rutted. There were times I let the bike have it’s head and ran into ruts that tested my ability to hang onto the bars. The EA90 SLs never flinched, but I did.
The last thing before I wrote this was to pull them from the recent test bike and pop them onto my carbon road bike. I run a 30mm tire on it tubeless, so I was curious how the wheels would compare to my Hunt 50mm carbons. Weight was about the same. Internal width is actually a bit more on the carbons. The Easton wheels have been an improvement in nearly every way, with one exception, that being into the wind at speed, where I have to assume the 50mm rims were doing something for me there. The ride improved, acceleration improved, handling is sharp and accurate, and they roll better. Pretty much a complete win although the look of the deep carbon wheels is sexier.
I really like these wheels. I have a project bike in mind that will likely live with a 38mm tire on it, 40mm tops, and will see a lot of big, mixed surface rides. I would be very happy to run a set of EA 90 SLs on it. I would say that if these were 21mms wide and still under 1600g, then the appeal would be broader in the marketplace, but if you can live with what they do best and forgive what they do not, then they should be on the “A” list as upgrade wheels for a fast all road or gravel bike.
For $900.00 retail they make a pretty strong argument for not shopping carbon.
NOTE: Easton sent over the EA 90 SL wheels for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid, nor bribed for this content and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.