I got to test the ENVE wheelset for four weeks, so it was a pretty quick review period, but it didn’t take long to love the attributes of their carbon rims. The rims have excellent damping characteristics, without feeling deadened or overly stiff. The rims are quite light at 410 grams for an All Mountain beast and they accelerated and rolled quickly, and their low rotational weight is very noticeable, especially when spinning, steering and cornering. When the wheels were rolled up to speed they felt like they had a little motor in them, and they spun like a buzz saw, greatly helped by the smooth Chris King hubs. They really came to life when I was sending the wheels through curvy terrain with lots of berms and rollers, and you could plow them in and out like crazy, making for a hooting and hollering session as you pounced on the terrain. Tossing them into a pump track was pure ecstasy, and brought an instant grin to the face. When pressed into corners and steered hard through difficult terrain, you could feel the exceptional lateral and torsional stiffness, which corresponds to excellent control and precision. The less tangible thing about these rims is that they feel nice and comfy, and offer a superlative ride quality. They have stiffness in all the required directions, yet they provide a touch of resiliency, damping and softness.
I ran them with a set of the sweet new Schwalbe Nobby Nic 650B tires, which are 2.34″ wide, and together they came in at a whopping 27 13/16″ tall. The wheels came with their tubeless tape installed, which looked like fancy duct tape, so I just installed the extra tall valve stems, which are required due to the extremely tall 30mm rim height. I ran them with tubes for a week, but the Nobby Nic really came to life in a tubeless mode, so I left them that way for the rest of the test period. Their tubeless tape has a rough surface, so taking tires on and off, and using tubes seems to abrade them and wear things away, so I had to add a layer of tape to seal an errant air leak when trying to go tubeless on one rim? One annoying thing is that the rim bead hook likes to hold onto the tire’s bead, and it can be an ugly wrestling match to get them to separate. I cursed more than a few times trying to get them to part ways, and it didn’t seem to matter how long the tire had been on the rim, and it was like they were sucked up into the void and glued on?
The rims were stiff and strong, and offered incredible steering response and control, and concerning capabilities. In the rear, they added an extra bit of punch to the traction and control since you could really apply torque to the wheel with immediate power and got instant feedback, which was greatly helped by the high POE of the Chris King hubs. Due to the stiffness of the rim and the inherent ability to apply so much torque, I could feel the spokes and drivetrain ping a bit under power, which was exacerbated by my personal usage of low gearing. Although not all riders might have this issue, I would prefer beefier spokes in the rear for additional strength and less noise, albeit some truing and tweaking of the spokes might help? The rims are brutally tough and bashing and smashing them through my typical heinous gravel fields, rocks gardens, slabs, ledges and other sundry rim destroyers did nothing to the sidewalls and rim edge, other than a peeled decal or two. I was pretty amazed at the strength and durability of the rims, and I would have assumed they would show some sign of wear and tear, especially with the unforgiving terrain that I tossed them into, but they were none the worse?
The rims are brutally expensive at $875 each, but their toughness, durability, stiffness and strength mean they will outlast most wheelsets, and that longevity should greatly increase the cost-benefit ratio? You can build a lighter wheelset with different hubs other than the Chris Kings, but their hubs are well-made and durable, and they needed no maintenance, other than an occasional tightening of the preload adjuster. The ISO hubs are easy to take apart, even in the rear, and their replacement axles and adapters are simple to install for any wheel configuration. They do make a pretty wild buzz and zinging noise, especially when they are wound up to speed.
- Rear Weight w/ Chris King ISO 12×142 & tubeless tape – 907.2 grams
- Front Weight w/ Chris King ISO 15mm & tubeless tape – 793.4 grams
- Wheelset Weight – 1700.6 grams
- Rim Dimensions – Inner 24.5mm, Outer 31.2mm, Height 30.2mm