All-mountain goes bulletproof
The use of composites in bicycle manufacturing is hardly a new idea; frame builders have been utilizing bonded carbon fiber tubes since the mid-1970s, and as carbon-composite technology advanced, wheels and components were quickly embraced by the skinny-tire world. Composites also drew the attention of the weight-conscious XC crowd, but the high-impact nature of mountain bike riding—and perhaps the general perception that composites technology basically equates to black magic—slowed all-mountain and gravity-inspired mountain bikers' demand for these incredibly lightweight parts. Yet incredible improvements in frame and suspension design have given rise to true all-mountain bikes that go uphill just as well as they go downhill. This, in turn, has opened the door to some super-sexy lightweight mountain bike goodies.
The first company to say its aluminum tubes comprised a world championship winning mountain bike (Juli Furtado's 1990 Yeti), Easton was one of the pioneers of high performance aluminum, first entering the market in 1939. From lacrosse to baseball to hockey to cycling, the company has been involved in the development of new materials and methods since it was founded. The newest member of the impressive Easton Cycling lineup is the Haven carbon wheel set.
While Bike Magazine has never advocated forgoing even a few minutes of a day's ride for the extra research it takes to keep up with true gear nerds, the carbon Haven warrants more than a casual glance.
From the beginning Easton knew that its experience building carbon road bike wheels would not necessarily translate to building good carbon mountain bike wheels, so the company entrusted the formulation of a new mountain-worthy composite to Sayeed Syed, who joined the company in 2009 as the lead composites engineer. Syed, whose background is in chemistry and defense ballistics (read: bulletproof protective gear) brought an extensive knowledge of impact-resistant composite materials to the project, resulting in a rim that can withstand much greater impact than its skinny-tire counterparts.
Easton starts with small-scale testing, which means they are able to evaluate the properties of specific material combinations in a lab before ever producing the first prototype. Simple as this may seem, the process virtually allowed Sayeed and his team to test the various composites for all-mountain worthiness before the first mold was even designed. Following this model, mechanical and composite engineers were able to work together to create their ideal wheel.
Easton is so confident they've come up with a winner that they're offering a 2-year "no-questions-asked insurance policy" with each wheel set. That's right, they're calling it an insurance policy. By "no questions asked" Easton means that even if you plow your roof-rack-mounted, Haven-Carbon-equipped dream bike into the garage, they'll happily send you another pair. The damage to your bike, rack, garage and car are on you, however.
Easton Haven Carbon Wheel Set
MSRP: $2300.00 USD The Haven Carbon is sold as a complete set only.
Available: Late summer 2010
Sizes: 26- and 29-inch, available in all current axle configurations
Weight: 610g front, 840g rear (without valve stem)
Spokes: Sapim double-butted (2.0/1.7/2.0) Same spoke length front and rear, drive and non-drive sides
Lacing pattern: Three-cross, front and rear
Rim width: 21 mm internal
Hubs: Easton M1 series
The bottom line (part 1):
Twenty-three hundred bucks is a lot of money to be shelling out for a set of wheels. I've ridden a couple of bikes over the past few months that provided plenty of smiles and cost far less than a pair of carbon Havens. But if you're a rider who pushes your equipment to its limit, you can probably appreciate the unique, laterally stiff yet bump-compliant ride characteristics that carbon composite rims provide. If you are prone to breaking your stuff within two years of buying it, or you just simply like the clean look of these wheels, it might be time to think about selling off one of those extra bikes hanging in the garage.