Enve-Kappius 29er Wheelset by Wheelbuilder.com

29er Wheels

Update August 10: The bottom line.

Strengths:

  • 240 points of engagement
  • Stunning design and appearance
  • Oversized drive should prove more durable
  • Excellent bearings
  • Very easy to service

Weaknesses:

  • Price
  • Dependent on SRAM cogset

We feel very privileged to have the Kappius wheels with Enve rims built by Wheelbuilder.com.  These wheels stop traffic and any bike we put these on looked like a Ferrari with no shortage of onlookers.

The good news is they work too. These are the best wheelsets I’ve used and I’ve tried quite a few.  But let’s focus on the hubs since this is what the review is about.

The price
$1000 for a hub set is a lot so this component really doesn’t compete with others on price but towers above them and proclaims that it has no competition.  The science, the materials and the construction are all there. So like a good exotic, it does its job well. And the promise is that it should be more reliable than anything else on the market today.

The ratchet mechanism
The genius behind the Kappius hub is it utilizes all the space on a milled out SRAM cassette to provide an oversized drive mechanism. This drive mechanism will be stronger because of its size. And Kappius set out to put as many points of engagement as possible. 240 is the staggering number they came out with so the pedals will feel like they’re instantly on the power after coasting or backpedaling. For comparison, the Shimano hubs have 32 points of engagement and the previous bar set by Chris King is at 110 points of engagement.

The noise
As you can see in our first video, we were initially concerned about the noise by such a hub with so many points of engagement. We let the hub break in and we put the wheel on many bikes. We learned that the hub gets quieter over time.. Also bikes with big carbon tubes can amplify the sound of the hub as they act like a sound box.  The hubs mounted on Enve rims are loud but they’re really on par with Chris King and DT Swiss hubs. What is distinctive though is the noise is at a higher frequency since the ratchet click is more frequent. It may seem louder at first but it’s really just a higher pitch.

The performance
Performance was flawless during our 2 months of testing. Initially, we heard the drivetrain pop a coup,e of times but that turned out to be the shimano chain settling in to the SRAM cog. The cogset had a little drag initially and pushe the crank around when coasting but that went away on the second ride.

Since then, it has been instant engagement power on both geared and singlespeed setups. We thought that this would be useful in singlespeed only when backpedaling to set up for tech sections. But anytime the rider coasts, getting back on the power is instant. So it actually makes a difference on all these situations when the rider gets back on the power. Upon exiting on the cornering, getting back on the pedals is instantaneous and consistent. After coasting, engagement is instantaneous and positive. As exotic as these wheels were, they really disappeared in our rides. And that’s how well-performing  components should all behave.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 flaming chili peppers.

Update: June 19
We’ve had a few rides on our Enve Kappius wheels and here’s a few observations:

  • The instant engagement is for real. It feels precise like a swiss watch and it engages instantly after coasting or ratcheting up a tricky climb.
  • There have been a few occasional ‘pops’ as the the pawls break in and settle into place. They have been occurring less now and we hope they go away completely as the hub breaks in.
  • The drag in the hub (observed by the cranks spinning slightly when coasting) has gone away now that the hub is breaking in.
  • The noise of the hub has been decreasing. It is about on par with a King or a DT system in terms of volume level but it is more annoying since it is higher frequency with the clicks occuring 240 times a revolution :)
  • The wheelset is incredibly stiff laterally and making our frame seem flexy. We need to try it in a different frame
  • The wheels feel very light on the circumference. It feels like a 26er or lighter.
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Summer is here and the UPS man aka ‘brown santa’ is starting to deliver us better and better gifts.  The package today is an exciting wheelset that showcases the work of four companies: Wheelbuilder.com, Kappius Components, Enve Composites and DT Swiss.  It merges the products of these companies to produce the most important component on your bike, the wheelset.

This is a showcase wheelset so the graphics and the price are a bit outrageous.  But it is exciting to see how wheelsets are evolving and what is possible with today’s technologies.  Take note that this 29er wheelset is one of the lightest at 1440 grams yet it is one of the strongest. It promises to be very reliable too but only time will tell.

But in the ‘good-cheap-light, pick two’ adage, something’s got to give. The price… $3100. With a customized cogset, $3400.

Price Breakdown:

Kappius Hubs: $1000

Enve Rims: $1700

DT Spokes: $443

Wheel Build: : $160

Total: $3303

This is of course the most expensive configuration available.

There are a ton more options here that are not as bling but better value. Check here for Wheelbuilder.com pricing and options: http://www.wheelbuilder.com/store/mtbr

Russ Kappius talks about the Kappius Components Evolution Hub.
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The Enve wheels are fully UST compatible and here’s the installation instructions.
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Check here for Wheelbuilder.com pricing and options: http://www.wheelbuilder.com/store/mtbr

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  • ginsu says:

    They do realize that MTB usually involves riding in the mud/dirt terrain right? Imagine how much weight the hubs will gain from dirt accumulation over just one season!

    If they really cared about bearing seals then all they would have to do is drill ONE small hole, you don’t need to make it a cheese grater just to equalize pressure.

  • bryan says:

    Ahhh, that’s why there’s such a thing as a garden hose. Spray that crud out after every ride and viola, like new. Unfortunately I still can’t seriously consider a wheelset at this price. It’s nice to dream though, isn’t it?

  • MMyers says:

    Almost $500 dollars worth of DT spokes?

    That seems unlikely.

    • Sloppyjoe says:

      The white ones are supposed to retail for roughly $4.00 each and the red ones are somewhere around $6.00 each. Looks like they are 32h, so that’s 56 white spokes and 8 red spokes. $224 in white spokes and $48 in red spokes for a grand total of $272. Price on the Enve nipples ranges from $.60 to $1.00 each so that could add up to $64 more, but I would also like to see how the price got up that high.

  • Pete says:

    From seeing how the Enve guy installs the tubeless tape and the type of tape he is using, and compared to Stan’s tape and installation technique, I would say pretty much any reasonable tape and technique will do the job.
    To me this quy demonstrating the tape installation looks like amateur doing it the first time.
    As for the wheelset- may be good but certainly not for the price- I hope the Chinese made wheelsets will spread even faster into US cycling scene to give these US manufacturers wake up call about their ridiculours pricing.

  • Pete says:

    ….one more reply… more proprietary stuff not many of us are interested in- speaking about the hubs…

  • ginsu says:

    Stops traffic!!! Well, I totally buy wheels to impress the locals. I mean I rarely ride my bike anywhere besides the cafe or bike shop because otherwise there aren’t any people to impress.

    I mean when I ride the trails there’s nobody around, I hate it!

  • ginsu says:

    OH, and PLEASE TIP YOUR WHEEL BUILDER if you bring in a $3700 build! You should be stuffing a HUNDEY down their pocket!!! Maybe two!

  • Nik says:

    I would of thought a mention (unless I missed it) would have been given to the cutouts in the hub shell body: an invite for mud etc surely?

  • morgan1819 says:

    Alternative …. XTR hubs on 30mm wide carbon rims from Light-Bicycle.

    1500 grams. Dead silent. Tough as nails.

    $550 and you can have them built by your local wheelbuilder.

    Makes $3300.00 for these look like a joke.

  • Alex says:

    XTR Hubs seems to be crap compared to these but they cost 1/3
    Engagement wise, i mean

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