Tested: Easton Haven Carbon Wheelset

Is the extravagant price of a ballistics-grade wheelset worth it? Singletrack.com looks to find out

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As the cycling saying goes: light, strong, cheap — pick two. Easton went with light and strong. Cheap, the Haven Carbons are not.

The Haven Carbons come in 26-inch and 29-inch in any current axle configuration.
The Haven Carbons come in 26-inch and 29-inch in any current axle configuration.

At $2,300, Haven Carbon wheels are more expensive than just about every wheelset out there. But if any set of wheels is worth that much dough it’s these. They’re billed as all-mountain wheels, prepared to handle as much bashing and thrashing as you can throw at them, and yet they weight in at a mere 1450g, lighter than many high-end XC wheels that would never stand up to such abuse.


Easton is so confident in the strength of the Haven Carbons that they offer a two-year, no-questions-asked warranty on them. That’s right, no questions asked. If they break, you get a new set.

To develop a carbon rim capable of standing up to an all-mountain thrashing, they called on Sayeed Syed, an engineer with a history in composites for military applications and ballistics, and chief engineer Chuck Taxeira. The result of their efforts was the creation of the Easton Advanced Materials System (EAMS), a program designed to raise the bar for production techniques.

Out of EAMS came Easton’s proprietary Armored Ballistic Composite, or ABC, which utilizes a carbon/High Modulus Polyethelyne (HMPE) hybrid material designed for exceptional impact resistance. For a frame of reference, HMPE is also used in ultra-light body armor. The company uses its proprietary MRES-B resin to hold everything together, providing an extremely light, fantastically strong matrix for the fibers. The advanced resin, which is carefully controlled to keep weight low, provides the ABC composite with nearly unparalleled impact strength.

MSRP: $2,300
Sizes: 26-inch/29-inch, in any current axle configuration
Weight: 610/840g front/rear
Pros: super strong, quite light, excellent warranty
Cons: expensive, clearcoat dings

Easton builds the wheels from materials to finished product in their Tijuana, Mexico, factory. They’re laced up with Sapim double-butted spokes and are built by hand using acoustic tuning to measure spoke tension throughout the build. This allows the wheels to be tensioned more evenly, increasing durability and allowing higher tensions for a stiffer wheel.

The Havens are UST-compatible, with a 21mm internal rim width, and are available with every axle configuration currently available. The Maxxis Ardent UST tires I used with them mounted easily with a floor pump, and could still be yanked off by hand. The nice wide rim bed created an excellent tire profile as well.


Do facts and figures and military name-dropping translate into a ride worth over two grand?

The answer to that is a definitive YES, if you have two grand to spend. The Haven’s kick the ass of every other all-mountain wheel I’ve used up and down the street.

They’re light, of course, making them feel more like a nice XC wheelset when climbing than something designed for bigger hits. They also feel plenty stiff, tracking well in hard corners. But the fact that a wheel this expensive feels light and sprightly isn’t exactly a surprise — what is impressive is their ruggedness.

The real drawback for carbon rims is impact resistance. Hit a square edge with your aluminum rim and it may bend a bit, but will likely still hold a tire. And even if it is shot, a replacement is going to run you tens of dollars, not hundreds. Carbon, on the other hand, isn’t malleable like alloys are — it just cracks and fails, rather than bends.

Easton is obviously confident they’ve created a carbon rim strong enough to withstand direct impact at high speed, otherwise they wouldn’t offer that warranty on an all-mountain wheel. So I decided to test their confidence.

At 610 grams front and 840 grams rear, the Haven Carbons are damn light, super strong and very expensive.
At 610 grams front and 840 grams rear, the Haven Carbons are damn light, super strong and very expensive.

I performed two tests, the first of which was performed on-trail in the dessert outside Tucson, Arizona. This was a sort of “random acts of destruction test,” where I simply ran my tires at 12 PSI (yes, 12) for a good half hour at the end of a ride. As you might guess, the result was approximately 5,000 rim hits in the space of half an hour. The goal was not to evaluate ride quality anymore, just to see if I could break them.

The result of test #1? I was unable to do any structural damage whatsoever to the rims. I peeled the tires off and checked them out thoroughly and found nothing. The rear did develop a very slight wobble that was easily trued out.

Test #2 was similar, just a bit more violent. The protocol was equally simple: same tire pressure, ride at curb at ~20mph, pull the front wheel up and over and whack the rear into the square edge, repeated four times. The noise was impressive.

But again, no damage. I’m still riding the same wheels today.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t break these rims. I’m pretty skinny at 5’10, 145 pounds, and didn’t launch off anything more than three feet or so on them. But breaking them would be damn hard. I put them through impacts that would have bent an aluminum rim easily, and they held up fine.

My only complaint about the Haven Carbons was the frequent clear-coat chips that starting showing up long before I performed my destruct-O tests. I only rode these for about 25 hours, so I imagine a full season’s worth of use would result in some nasty aesthetics. Then again, I was riding with abandon (ahh, the lure of equipment that isn’t yours) in ultra-rocky Arizona.

The Scoop

If you tend to break wheels and want a super light, blingin’ carbon wheelset that can put up with your abuse, and will be replaced if it can’t, these are for you. If your disposable income is lacking, there are wheels that are still very good for a fourth of the cost.

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