We've got an overdose of "adventure" riding components today, as Easton (owned by Fox) has coordinated with the suspension company for synchronized release of a new adventure/gravel-oriented wheelset to play nicely with Fox's new Step-Cast AX Adventure Cross suspension fork.
Easton's new $599 alloy wheelset attempts to bridge the gap between lightweight but expensive carbon wheels and heavy stock wheels found on most gravel bikes. The EA70 AX wheelset features the company's alloy ARC 24 rim launched two years ago at Sea Otter. The rim is, you guessed it, 24mm (internally) wide, 27mm externally wide, 20mm deep and tubeless ready. These rims are available separately in 32 hole drillings, but the new EA70 AX wheelset features 28 spoke versions.
Gram counters will want to know that each rim's list weight is 455g, and when we last threw one on a scale, it was quite close at 463g.
Easton's straight-pull doubled butted spokes are held in place by silver brass nipples. As with most wheels nowadays, caps are available to swap between different bikes and forks configurations. You choose a set for each wheel (15mm, 12mm or QR front and QR or 142/12mm rear) and can purchase another set for $16.
The rear hub accommodates Shimano/SRAM 11-speed-compatible freehubs, or an XD driver for wide-range gearing. The rim bed features a subtle ridge to keep the tubeless tire's bead in place and prevent burping, and can handle relatively high pressure should you want to add slicks and chase pavement group rides or do some loaded touring or bikepacking.
As is typical of most rims, the maximum tire pressure for this wheelset depends on tire width, and at 24mm wide, the company does not recommend using traditional 23mm or 25mm road tires. Although the company says the width gives an optimal profile for 35-40c tires (that's 35-40mm for the studious reader), a max tire pressure is not offered for anything below 37mm:
Owners of earlier Easton tubeless wheels will be happy to know that one small but important detail has also been addressed with this latest iteration of tubeless wheels: The included valves now have removable valve cores. Gone are the days of throwing out the included valves or unseating and reseating the entire tire just to add sealant. Finally.
We've had one lengthy challenging ride on the wheels, the same ride as the one on the Fox AX fork, a hilly four-hour nearly all-dirt affair through the Santa Cruz mountains. With a record-setting wet winter, many of the dirt and gravel roads have more see more than their fair share of erosion, making for rutted, bumpy riding.
With Schwalbe G-One tubeless gravel tires set at around 30psi rear and 26 psi front (measured two days later), we didn't experience a single burp despite some hard hits. After this ride and some power washing, the wheels spin smoothly, round and true, as one should expect.
One of the biggest variables in tubeless wheel testing, in our experience, is a wheel's compatibility with a wide-range of tubeless tires. Past Easton Road Tubeless wheels tended to do best with the ultra-tight carbon bead Hutchinson tires, WTB TCS or Vittoria TNT tires for low pressure applications, because in our estimation they were also designed to work with the impossibly tight, stiff beads of Road Tubeless-certified tires. However, the Arc rims used on the EA70 AX are not Road Tubeless-certified rims and are instead aimed at the mountain and gravel crowd. We're curious as to whether they'll be more forgiving of tire choice in low pressure applications for cyclocross and gravel.
We've got the test bike for a few weeks, and plan to test the EA70 AX wheels with some different rubber and report back. Stay tuned for our longer-term test.
The Easton AX line also includes a 16 degree flared handlebar in both carbon and alloy forms, and now the Fox Step-Cast AX fork.
Might we see a compliant AX seatpost or short-travel dropper post next? We like what we've tried so far but are curious what's coming next. Full photo gallery below the specs.
EA70 AX Tubeless Wheel Specs:
Rim: Easton Arc 24 alloy clincher, tubeless-ready, disc brake only, 20mm deep.
Rim width: 24mm wide (internal), 27mm wide (external)
Hubs: Easton X5CL Centerlock
Spokes: Easton double butted straight pull, 28 spokes front/rear
Axle options: Front: 15mm, 12mm, QR ; Rear : 142×12, QR
Weight: List: 1760g without valves (700c/622mm/29er). 650b/27.5 option is 1670g.
MSRP: $599.00 per set of wheels, includes tubeless valves
More info: eastoncycling.com
EA70 AX Tubeless Wheelset and EC70 AX Handlebar Photo Gallery: