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Road Gear

The Fall of Discs: Easton’s tubeless disc wheels overcome a slight weight penalty with stiffness and reliability

The Easton EA90 XD tubeless 'cross wheels sacrifice weight for incredible stiffness, with tubeless capability to boot

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Editor’s Note: Disc brakes are here for cyclocross in a big way. Nearly every manufacturer is offering at least one disc-ready frame and many of the sport’s heavyweights are adopting the technology for 2012-13. We’ve been proponents of disc technology for ’cross for years and over the coming weeks, contributor Michael Robson will explore the burgeoning arena of ‘cross-specific disc brakes, from the new gear to tips on getting your disc set-up dialed.

As more wheel options come on the market for disc brake ‘cross bikes, I have steadily become determined to test as many as I can and report back.

This is partly because wheels and wheel performance are so crucial, and partly because there’s really nothing else going on in the world of ‘cross tech. The go-to disc calipers (Avid BB7) are a 13-year-old design and only now are we starting to see real murmurings about the possibility of hydraulic setups. But apart from some blurry pics and hearsay, there’s not much to talk about. So, wheels it is.

Easton’s EA90 XD wheelset is an elegant mash-up of the M-1 mountain bike hubs and the rims from the EA90 Road Tubeless wheelset.

The rims are a pretty bombproof affair, 22mm wide, 24mm deep and welded at the seam. They incorporate Easton’s dual-thread system: the rim has a threaded insert, and the nipple is threaded inside and out, so it screws into the rim and the spoke at the same time, yet another innovation from Easton’s mountain bike side.

The hubs are straight-up M1 mountain bike hubs: simple, serviceable design, beefy seals, ISO 6-bolt rotor mounts and ready for 20 straight-pull Sapim double-butted spokes up front and 24 in the rear. I must admit that 20 spokes in a disc brake front wheel sounded at least four spokes short, but riding the wheels told a different story.

At 1,620 grams these aren’t the lightest wheels out there, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Easton was going for. They obviously put that extra material to good use — the wheels are very stiff and tough as nails.

Frankly, I don’t mind the way they accelerate. They’re not super snappy like ultra-light carbon, but where the weight holds them back the stiffness makes up for it. For comparison, they only weigh 100g more than Stan’s Iron Cross wheels, but are far stiffer and more durable. I really put these suckers thought their paces and after some of the nasty rides I like to do, I’m happy to report no loss of spoke tension or any kind of failure. Thumbs up.

If I were to get really picky, really pedantic, the only shortcoming I could come up with would be this: although the wheels are tubeless-ready and come with valve stems, said valve stems don’t come with removable cores. I like the convenience of being able to check and charge up sealant without un-seating the tire. However, this is easily remedied by sticking in a different set of stems, and is not even remotely a deal-breaker.

The EA90 XD wheels go for $900 and would easily serve as durable and dependable wheels for training during the week, and then scrub up just fine for racing on the weekend.