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Easton EC90 XC Wheelset — Wheel Failure Out of the Box

Last updated 2011-09-22 - Send Feedback
Related: gear, mountain biking

I received my first set of Easton EC90 XC 29er wheels having ordered them from BikeBling.com. Both boxes arrived in pristine condition— no signs of shipping damage.

I took both wheels down to my local bike shop for installing the tubeless tires (compressed air is a big help). A very experienced professional mechanic actually did the install, as I watched.

The Schwalbe 'Rocket Ron' tire went onto the rear wheel without incident.

Front wheel crack

The front EC90 XC 29er wheel immediately failed: at about 20 psi (well below the pressure required to pop the tire bead into place), the rim on the EC90 XC wheel bulged outwards— it had cracked internally. Inspection revealed a very large crack inside the wheel, as shown below.

Failed (cracked upon first inflation) Easton EC90 XC 29er front wheel

How could a failure get through quality control?

These is a $2600 wheelset. Expectations are therefore very high.

Since these wheels are “100% hand built”, an open question is how such a failure could occur. One could reasonably assume that one essential quality control test would consist of mounting a tubeless tire, then pumping it to the maximum permissible pressure. It seems to me that this crucial part of the quality assurance cycle must not have been performed, since the failure was immediate.

Testing a wheel design is not the same as testing a built wheel. How could a wheel sent through “multiple QC checks” fail like this? I am glad to help Easton figure this out, and I’m sure that Easton would like to find the answer also. I await Easton’s answer on this point (more on that further below).

Easton’s wheel testing as found on the website

Easton’s response

After the wheel failed, I called Easton, explained who I was and that this was a real opportunity for Easton to explain what might have happened, that I would be happy to exchange the wheel directly so as to expedite the failure analysis, etc.

I made it very clear that I wanted to give Easton their chance to evaluate the wheel and provide an explanation, since I would be reviewing the wheels on my web site. I had to be very insistent and repeat myself multiple times to finally get beyond the first level to the product manager. But eventually the message got through to the Associate Product Manager.

To Easton’s great credit, I had a replacement wheel within 3 days, along with a FedEx return tag for the bad wheel. This is Good, very good. The replacement front wheel has been trouble-free, as was a 2nd set of wheels I purchased shortly thereafter (two bikes needed wheels).

Update Sept 21, 2011: the tubeless valve failed (began leaking badly) on the rear EC90 XC rear wheel, stranding me at high altitude in the White Mountains, see my notes on the Lezyne pump, which also failed. Why should a tubeless valve fail? It comes pre-installed by Easton.

As I’ve expressed to Easton explicitly multiple times, in voice messages and email, I wish to provide a fair and objective take on what might have happened with the out-of-the-box wheel defect (crack). To do so requires some kind of follow-up from Eastonanything, even the cop-out of “we cannot comment for legal reasons”.

After six weeks of waiting (as of late September, 2011), Easton won’t return either my voice messages or email. I called and emailed multiple times. Radio silence.

I understand if Easton prefers to not comment on the failure for some lawyer-induced reason, but it is both unprofessional and discourteous to not at least contact me stating “we won’t be able to comment”. I went out of my way to help Easton in any way I could, indeed some hours of my time were spent that need not have been wasted, since I could have bypassed the whole Easton organization and simply exchanged the wheel with the dealer. Followup matters, Easton.


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