What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Test: Easton Tempest ll Wheels

The folks at Easton, known for their tubing, forks, stems, bars and seatposts recently entered the wonderful world of wheels were good enough to send us a set of the Tempest II aluminum clinchers to mess, test, caress and bless… We rode ’em into the ground, but they stayed round, and made nary a sound… We gave ’em the business, on road – AND and a bit of off-road too – and they came back smiling. This is one tough set of rollers…

Knowing Your Element
Easton has a solid reputation for making stuff that works, and they’ve got the heads up when it comes to understanding metallurgy and alloys – as most of us have owned some bike part or frame made from Easton’s own tubing. More recently they’ve emerged as one of the industry leaders in creating and working with carbon fibre – demonstrated nicely by their Carbon Nano-Tube Technology (CNT) used to create the 2006 BMC SLC01 Pro Machine road frame.

The Tempest II’s offer a semi-aero, mid-profile 30 mm rim making them fair game for just about anything – crits, road races, training, dirt, you name it.

Not a company to sit on their brains, last year they entered the wheel market by purchasing VeloMax Wheel Systems – no point reinventing the wheel. Easton recognizes a good wheel and have left the very sturdy and successful VeloMax wheels more or less alone, at least until they find a way to make them better. In this case status quo is indeed a very good thing.

Cut To The Chase
I came away from this test thinking these wheels are in a class by themselves: I rode ’em hard over all kinds of terrain, even smooth pavement every once in awhile – and they emerged smooth, true, with no dings, broken spokes, or wobbly anything*.

[*Now let’s get one thing straight – these wheels are intended for use on pavement – not hard-ass mountain trials – so neither we nor Easton recommend or condone this type of usage. It did, however prove how tough these wheels are.]

I hopped on the wheels a little over 100 hours of riding ago and went about with the singular goal of beating the living crap out of ’em. I set about riding through Georgia which has it’s share of what could loosely be called “road riding”, which involved lots of dirt roads and a couple patches of what only someone from the Deep South (Think Deliverance?) could manage to call a path…

If I broke em, so be it, we’d at least know how far they could be ridden. Of course, some solid training time was required as well, so I did log hundreds of miles on paved roads too…

Georgia-Roubaix? We found our own Hell Of the South to find the limits of the Tempest II’s

Beat It
So, let’s say, in 100 hours of riding, 60 hours were used as boring pavement time, 30 hours were utilized for the good, fun-loving pursuit of Georgia’s innumerable dirt roads and 10 hours were on really questionable surface.

For the more traditional part… Since most everyone will buy the Tempest II’s with the express goal of riding them on smooth pavement, as they’re intended, one would hope for good road performance – and they did not disappoint. The wheels are semi-aerodynamic shaped without being so much so that you’d avoid using them on a windy day – the 30 mm rim is a good choice, paired with the bladed spokes (18 front, 20 rear). The semi-aero shape isn’t enough to add any benefit from reduced wind drag, but they do allow for shorter spokes, which in turn increase the overall strength of the wheel.

[Tech ed note: Bladed spokes are also usually quite a bit stronger than standard, and since theres extra metal there, ya might as well “blade” it…]

Running the tires at about 120 psi (to hopefully avoid pinch flats on the dirt), the wheels were incredibly stiff and responsive, I couldn’t get over that fact. As a bike racer, it is a plus to ride a wheel that responds well to your efforts, and these did everything I asked and more.

The Easton’s love a little afternoon sun. The red wheels are indeed a hot addition to a bike, but even if they were purple and pink, I’d ride em.

Of course, a stiff wheel can be a painful wheel, but the Tempest II’s do not suffer from poor ride quality. I found them stiff, but they sure as hell aren’t painful, and I noticed minimal lateral flex under hard acceleration. As a racer, these are welcome features that convince me that most of the watts I squeeze from my legs are being transferred to going fast.

In corners they handle well – with just enough flex to allow for hard cornering. They held up nicely over the chattering stuff in rough corners – never really losing contact with the road surface like a super-super-stiff wheel can.

It didn’t hurt either to be rolling on some good rubber from Vredestein – the Fortezza TriComp’s proved excellent over the course of the test – never flatting, fast, and grippy.

Going Uphill the responsiveness shows again – you drive hard on the pedals, your work transfers sweetly into keeping that precious forward motion, however slow you (I) might be.

The wheels seem to blend in nicely with the Georgia red clay.

I Want A Pipe-Swingin Wheel
Sure, the wheels proved to be stiff, light, responsive, all-around quality wheels, but the one thing many new wheels lack is that certain – DURABILITY. If I’m shelling out $850 dollars retail, I want a great set of performance wheels that will go the distance, and I can ride day in and day out, year after year. And since these are test wheels, I figured this was my carte blanche to test that durability by riding them hard… REAL hard!

I was so impressed by the strength of these wheels that I made the stupid mistake of forgetting my helmet! Remember – don’t ride like this at home.

I spent a good 40 hours without pavement under these wheels. On the variable quality dirt roads of rural Georgia they performed without any problems, as they should. We raced the wheels on a local ‘cross course, and the wheels were fast and true – even when I nailed an old stump, head on and pulled off a beautiful superman. I literally ‘tried’ everything in the book, and couldn’t hurt the wheels.

Why? Why Are They So Damn Tough?
To say that I was bubbling over with good feelings about the wheels would be an understatement. I wanted to know how they could be so impressive, so I called Scott Vogelmann from Veltec Sports (the distributors of Easton bike gear) to have a chat.

How do you make a strong wheel? Build quality, friends. Every single spoke should have the exact same tension on it. So I went through each and every spoke on these wheels and plucked them, and sure enough heard a sweet melodious note – the exact same note on every spoke. This means that stresses are evenly distributed around the whole wheel – not just into one area (which can lead to things breaking)

Threaded spokes – no J-Bend spokes and ensuing weak points – these wheels are designed to be strong and stiff in every way.

Strong Spokes
The wheels are hand built with Twin Thread stainless steel elliptical spokes – threaded at both ends, thus eliminating the nail head end of the spoke or a j-bend to accommodate the hub. The advantage you ask? A straight spoke is stronger and can tolerate higher tensions than a spoke with a bend in it. So eliminate the bend and you eliminate a point of weakness – ever notice how spokes usually break near the bend? When combined with threading the spokes at both ends (allowing higher tension) you get a stiffer, stronger wheel.

[Note: Some spokes break near the bend because of low quality hub machining / punching, where the spoke holes allow for “hot points” and stress risers. We don’t mean to imply that any wheel with a bent spoke is poor quality as plenty are great. It’s just that Easton have a very strong set up with these…]

Another benefit of higher tension is fewer loosened spokes, less truing and less maintenance – and that as we know can lead to more riding!

Tell Us More!
Scott Vogelmann enlightens us some more on this fascinating topic:

“With the normal, J-Bend spoke, the weakest part is at the bend. When the spoke is made, that’s the part of the spoke that is traumatized the most – a blow to flatten it off, then it’s bent, in turn, it’s the weakest point, the point most likely to break. If you make it a straight pull spoke, you eliminate that. If you eliminate the spoke head, you rid yourself of further trauma, and the spoke is further strengthened. Since the spoke is fixed at the rim and hub it makes it very stiff, as the spoke can’t flex at all. The fact they’re bladed of course helps with the aerodynamics.”

The bladed spokes, paired with a semi-aero rim, make for a cool aero-looking wheel.

The R series hubs are made of beautifully polished aluminum with aluminum rear and aluminum front axles. They utilize cartridge bearings that come preloaded from the factory that reduces the need for maintenance.

These slick looking hubs are a fine addition to any bike.

The rear hub comes apart with two 5mm allen keys. The aluminum axle is made with nicely polished anodized gold. The smoother, the more fatigue resistant, the more you polish it, the greater the tolerance on the bearing set. The bearings have a hybrid seal – the outside of the bearing has a seal to keep everything out, inside, you don’t need as much of a seal, just enough to keep the grease in. This cuts down on rolling resistance – yet another reason why these wheels kick ass.

The hub bodies are swappable for Campy and Shimano cassettes.

Everything points to a fine wheel – what more can you ask for? The builds were fantastic, high-quality, and made with two hands. The ride is smooth, stiff, and they withstood the kind of abuse I’d never wish on a set of wheels I had to pay for. Definitely worth a look.

Tech ed note: While these are not the lightest wheels available they do carry their weight well. The Hub is not only very durable (not bomb proof or nuke proof or even idiot proof, as running em off road will surely more likely ruin these wheels) it is also a substantial percentage of the weight. That’s not a bad thing, as the weight at the hub is far more easy to turn than the weight at the rim. It’s also a large part of the reason that spoke tension can be very high with these wheels, and that in turn gives them their great acceleration. Simply put, these feel lighter than their 1500 gram tag might make you think!

Retail price: US$850 dollars
Weight: Front: 656 g, Rear 844 g, Pair: 1500 g
Get more info at: EastonSports.com

Where to Get ‘Em

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

Pez Cycling news and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limits that may limit their use.

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