Not Really A ReView: ENVE SES 3.4 Wheelset

Not Really A ReView: ENVE SES 3.4 Wheelset

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It was said by someone in the posts following Gianni’s excellent review of his tubeless system that an honest, long term analysis by a ‘real’ rider was most welcome. Well, you’re not going to get that here. You will get honesty, for sure, but ‘long term’ doesn’t come into the equation when a week is the amount of time spent ‘testing’ a product. Especially when that week sees more time spent working a real job (one where I have to be in a certain place at a certain time) than I’ve spent in the last two years. But I can give you some impressions on a few good rides on the sweet carbon goodness that is the Enve SES 3.4 clincher wheelset.

There has certainly been a lot of buzz about for the Enve hoops for a while now, and recently they gained a foothold here in NZ with distribution by Wide Open up in Rotorua. Owner Matt ‘DogBoy’ Whitaker has been a friend for a few years now, and I’ve been on at him to get me a ride on some of the wheels since he took on the brand. He also added friend of The V Kris ‘Grom’ Withington to his team, fresh back from Europe after his stint as mechanic for the Garmin pro road squad. Not a bad guy to have on your staff. So we finally co-ordinated our emails enough for me to get a loan of some wheels last week.

Without getting too technical, let’s look at the numbers; the 3.4 designation means the front rim is 35mm deep and the rear is 45mm. SES means Smart Enve System. ‘Smart’ refers to Simon Smart, who is working with Enve and using his Formula 1 background to help develop the manufacturing of the rims. While we can marvel at all the intricacies of carbon layups and aerodynamics etc, and that can be cool, all I had to go on was how they rode. So that’s what I’ll tell you about.

The rims came laced up to Chris King R45 hubs, 20/24 spokes F/R. Kris had mounted some Conti GP4000S 25mm clinchers to them (he even taped around the valve stem where it exited the valve hole; that’s pro right there). I’ve never had much luck with Conti tyres over the years, and while some of my colleagues swear by them, I was still leery but ready to be proven wrong. I mounted my cassette, aired up the tyres and rolled out of the workshop for a quick spin. It was night, I’d had a beer and I was in jeans, so a roll up the ramp and twice around the carpark was all I had time for. By the time I rolled back into the workshop, the front tyre had punctured. And I hadn’t even left the building! Just bad luck, surely? I patched the tube and vowed to give them another last chance.

The first real ride was in windy conditions (not that unusual in Wellington) so the first thing I noticed was a bit more side deflection from the cross gusts when compared to my box section Ambrosios. The next thing I noticed was the venerable Chris King bzzzzz from the freehub. I’m used to some noise from my Chorus hub but the Kings have a distinctive tone and pattern; whereas the Campa has a uniform zzzzzzzzzzz sound, the King had more of a pulsing zzzz zzzz zzzz to their schtick. I got used to it pretty quickly though. The hubs spin really smoothly and with little resistance, as noted by my mate Kah when he said I was ‘rolling away from him’ through town before we had even started pedaling in seriousness.

The bigger 25mm rubber gave a pretty cushy ride over the shitty road surfaces, and I felt like I was riding on air somewhat. Maybe this was due also to the carbon rims; probably. When we arrived at the bottom of the first real climb of the day, I wasn’t expecting any miracles as a couple of weeks off the bike and some fit guys should’ve put me in my place. I sat on second wheel and expected to be swallowed up sooner rather than later. No-one attacked, I sat and spun, and got to the top with what seemed like little effort. Was it the wheels? Possibly. Maybe their light weight aided getting my lazy ass up the hill with a minimum of grunting. Maybe.

Down the other side and speed was easily held without much pedalling, and I seemed to be on the brakes trying to avoid running into the wheel in front of me. Was it the smooth-rolling hubs? The aero rims? Had to be. I wasn’t doing much. We turned off for the steady gain in elevation before the road turned steeper. Conversation came easily as we turned the cranks and approached the climb. I made sure I wasn’t over-stressing my unfit legs and lungs. I looked around and there were only three of us there. Could it have been I was climbing better than I believed because of the stiffness of the wheels due to their moulding process? Well, it wasn’t anything I was doing, surely (I wasn’t doing any more than Surviving on V, after all). Kris explains this process better than I ever could: “The spoke holes are part of the moulding process, whereby the rim comes out of the mould with the spoke holes already in the rim allowing uninteruupted carbon fibres around the spoke holes, which means no additional alloy or brass inserts. This process then in turn means where the spoke enters the rim is very strong, allowing the builder to build the wheel with very high spoke tension which then means a stronger, stiffer and more responsive wheel.” Yep, that was probably it.

The bottom line is, these wheels are pretty sweet. They feel stiff and light, they roll and roll, they look the business and they cost a lot. Do I need them? Shit no, but I don’t need 11 speeds or fancy shoes either, as one of my savvy friends pointed out. I felt like I could climb better with them, they felt solid when cornering hard, they accelerated snappily, braked well and they elicited a lot of comments. Placebo effect? Doubtful. But I must admit I didn’t want to send them back. Matt, Kris, when your demo days are over and they are ‘used’, I’ll be happy to give them a good home…

Slideshow:
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*Kris can build your wheels in-house with the King hubs in any colour and they come with a 5 year warranty and crash replacement. Thanks to Wide Open for an impending credit card blow-out.

 

// Accessories and Gear // Product Review

  1. @Giles

    I’d never considered theft as being morally acceptable, until now. I don’t know what those wheels cost, but given the current VMH expenditure approval process, I reckon that’s the only way I could get a set.

    Matthew 6:33

  2. @mxlmax

    @Giles

    I’d never considered theft as being morally acceptable, until now. I don’t know what those wheels cost, but given the current VMH expenditure approval process, I reckon that’s the only way I could get a set.

    Matthew 6:33

    Some dude named Matt has a set for 6.33? That’s sweet.

  3. @Marko

    @mxlmax

    @Giles

    I’d never considered theft as being morally acceptable, until now. I don’t know what those wheels cost, but given the current VMH expenditure approval process, I reckon that’s the only way I could get a set.

    Matthew 6:33

    Some dude named Matt has a set for 6.33? That’s sweet.

    Ha!

  4. Nice review!  The ENVE SES wheels really are where it’s at.  I have about 600mi on the 6.7 tubulars and love them.  Your friend did well to tape the valve stems for you – they have a habit of rattling around the valve hole in the rim.  In fact, I misinterpreted this noise in my front wheel for being a shoddy glue-job (my first time gluing tubulars).  I ripped off the front tire, cleaned the rim back to new, and re-glued it with OCD zeal only to have the same noise return!  A little electrical tape around the valve stem and The Principle of Silence had returned.  Also, the zzz-zzz-zzz pulsing of the rear hub isn’t so much due to the CK hubs, but the depth of the rim.  My 6.7s (with DT 240s hubs) do the same thing, and it is very pronounced.  It bothered me the first couple rides, after which I narrowed it down to an effect of the elongated valve stem.  I don’t even notice it anymore.  I too am a big fan of the gumwall look and will use this as an excuse to post my bike once more!

    r3

  5. @Velosophe really nice rig and setup. All black tyres (despite the dirty schleck love that many around here have for gumwalls) would set it off even more?

  6. @Velosophe apologies for the anthropomorphing of Dirty Schleck Love.

  7. @Marcus Thanks!  I am thinking about trying Conti Comps next time around.  The Vittoria SCs are really nice but I have already incurred a pretty bad cut on the rear and the wear is showing.  They were super easy to mount though, and I hear the opposite about Continentals. We’ll see!

  8. @Velosophe I’ve become fixated with degree of rear hub engagement recently, especially for cyclocross. The DT240 has an optional kit that takes you to 10° of engagement. Have you tried it?

    Not as good as CK with 5°, but better than stock.

  9. Good reviewand I would whole heartedly agree with most of what you say. I have the 6.7’s (Tubular version) and they really are nice, also laced to CK R45 Hubs.

    The only bit I don’t agree with, although I’m not a wheelbuilder and someone with more expereince can chip in here but tighter spokes do not make a stiffer wheel.

    The reason the spokes are tensioned higher than other wheels is due to the reduced spoke count, i.e. larger gaps between spokes on the rim. That and that the rims can take a higher tension.

    In comparision to an equally lesser tensioned / same number spoked wheel provided that the spokes are tight enough (and this is the important bit) to not become loose, both wheels will ride the same. Tighter spokes do not make stiffer wheels.

    It took me a long while to get my head round it but this post goes some way to explain it.

    You can only make a stiffer wheel by increasing the spoke count, i.e. reducing the distance between the spoke holes will increase the wheel stiffness. All things being equal.

  10. Brett, nice write up, those look stunning on the Merckx. Not sure if its the light in the last photo but the tan walls compliment the yellow on the frame nicely.

    I’ve been hankering after a set of carbon wheels but  I’d have to sell something to finance them and I fear that the only way to avoid a losing argument with Mrs Chris about how the money could be best spent on something more useful would be to sell Mrs Chris.

  11. Men ride tubs. Punters ride carbon clinchers. Your opinion has become moot. On everything.

  12. @scaler911

    @G’rilla

    Warranty and crash replacement is huge. I’m building my dream cyclocross bike right now but don’t think I could ride a race full gas on carbon for fear of shattering it. Las month a friend exited the first lap with a carbon taco.

    But 5 year crash replacement? Are there qualifications on that?

    Ya, You don’t want this to happen: (from a teammates rig last weekend)

    Jesus.  What the fuck did he ride into to do that?

  13. @Ron

    And remind me please, Brett. Is the Merckx your #1?

    Sharp looking bike no matter what. And what V-meter is that on your stem – a Cateye Strada wireless maybe?

    It’s my only 1. And yeah, Strada wireless (which is not a V-Meter… NO computer is a V-Meter).

    @SimonH

    Well, I’ll take Kris’ word for it… he is a wheelbuilder and a former pro mechanic, so I’d say yep, he has more experience with it.

  14. So today I had my first ride back on the Ambrosios after sending the Enves back. I took off down my street and as I approached a downhill S-bend I went for the brakes and… nothing! Heading into the heavily trafficked village, panic ensued as I pulled the brake levers to the bar so hard both shift paddles were jammed against the bar. I reached down and grabbed the front brake cable and yanked it hard enough to slow me just as I came to the local bike shop. After I removed my heart from my mouth I told Jonty what had just happened, much to his amusement.

    The Enves are a wider rim than the Golden Tickets, which meant I’d had to loosen the brake cable tension to run them… I’d refitted my wheels and omitted to re-adjust the cables. The pads weren’t even close to the braking surface.

    Valuable lesson right there!

  15. @brett I had a similar experience when I started riding on the rollers, flipper the cam thingy open so I wouldn’t catapult myself off the bike and rollers if I grabbed some brake in an unbalanced moment. Forgot to close them the next time I headed out on the road. didn’t need the brakes until about 5km down the road. By that time my brain had done it’s mental check-list, no faults had been flagged up, the guns were warming nicely and I was running slightly late for a training ride with my sensei so full speed was authorised. The pads did connect with the rim when I got to a cross road with a usually busy road but without the force that I would usually expect.

    Let’s just say that it’s a mistake that I’ll only make once.

  16. @brett

    @SimonH

    Well, I’ll take Kris’ word for it… he is a wheelbuilder and a former pro mechanic, so I’d say yep, he has more experience with it.

    Hey, there’s no point in me arguing with a Keeper, but seriously, have a read of the linked page on my earlier post, it makes sense.

    Just becuase a wheel builder says so doesn’t make it right, I used to think that tight spokes made for stiff wheels and tighter spokes made for stiffer, it ain’t so, do the maths and you will see …

  17. @G’rilla I’ve heard of that kit, but I haven’t tried it yet.  One thing that’s nice about DT hubs is that there seems to be a lot of options available, such as the aforementioned kit and easily swappable freehub bodies. I would love to try the 3.4s with CK hubs though.  I plan to put at least a couple thousand miles on these wheels before I start messing with the freehub though. Right now they are still very new to me.

  18. @mouse

    @scaler911

    @G’rilla

    Warranty and crash replacement is huge. I’m building my dream cyclocross bike right now but don’t think I could ride a race full gas on carbon for fear of shattering it. Las month a friend exited the first lap with a carbon taco.

    But 5 year crash replacement? Are there qualifications on that?

    Ya, You don’t want this to happen: (from a teammates rig last weekend)

    Jesus. What the fuck did he ride into to do that?

    The V.

  19. @brett

    So today I had my first ride back on the Ambrosios after sending the Enves back. I took off down my street and as I approached a downhill S-bend I went for the brakes and… nothing! Heading into the heavily trafficked village, panic ensued as I pulled the brake levers to the bar so hard both shift paddles were jammed against the bar. I reached down and grabbed the front brake cable and yanked it hard enough to slow me just as I came to the local bike shop. After I removed my heart from my mouth I told Jonty what had just happened, much to his amusement.

    The Enves are a wider rim than the Golden Tickets, which meant I’d had to loosen the brake cable tension to run them… I’d refitted my wheels and omitted to re-adjust the cables. The pads weren’t even close to the braking surface.

    Valuable lesson right there!

    WOAH!!! I’ve had that happen when swapping wheels but never to the point of not being able to brake at all. Fast thinking!

    Just a joke about the Strada V-Meter. I have a few of those computers as well & like them as much as ya can like one.

    Also, on taping the rim…are you guys saying you tape the actual valve stem? Or are you putting a piece of tape on the rim with a hole, allowing the stem to pass through? This second option doesn’t seem like it would cure a rattle though. I’m confused.

  20. @Ron

    Also, on taping the rim…are you guys saying you tape the actual valve stem? Or are you putting a piece of tape on the rim with a hole, allowing the stem to pass through? This second option doesn’t seem like it would cure a rattle though. I’m confused.

    I believe as shown in @brett’s photo, you wrap the valve stem with electrical tape to build up the diameter so that there is very little/no play therefore no rattle. Also, the electrical tape pads contact of the valve stem to the rim so any movement that would result in a rattle is muted.

  21. @SimonH You might be right that it’s not down to spoke tension, but higher tension wheels tend to have deeper, stiffer rims, which probably contribute a lot more to stiffness than the spokes.

  22. @Frank:

    After some discussion on the book of faces with another Keeper, I’ve decided to post a video of one of your favorite bands. Only on this link ’cause this is where folk are hanging out today. This one’s for you little buddy:

    (To all my fellow VM, nice knowing you, I’ll get booted off the site for this).

  23. @scaler911 That should be least of your worries. Once this video gets out people all over the world are going to kill all cyclists and we’ll have to take the site down.

  24. @Marko

    I probably shouldn’t admit this either, but the USGP in Bend is put on by a friend and old team mate. And I know some of these people. Gah!

  25. @brett

    Fab review, I’m jealous you had a chance to try out those wheels. And I’m thrilled there is a palpable performance difference, and a little sick. I was maybe hoping there was no big difference so I wouldn’t have to lust after them quite so much. Most importantly, your Merckx looks so badass with that wheel set. Personally I like the black sidewall look with those wheels but those were meant for your bike. ENVE-Chris KIng, what’s not to fall in love with? The fact they cost more than your bike is a problem for all us us but fuck it, it’s just money, eh? Anything that makes us climb better is good with me.

  26. @SimonH

    @brett

    @SimonH

    Well, I’ll take Kris’ word for it… he is a wheelbuilder and a former pro mechanic, so I’d say yep, he has more experience with it.

    Hey, there’s no point in me arguing with a Keeper, but seriously, have a read of the linked page on my earlier post, it makes sense.

    Just becuase a wheel builder says so doesn’t make it right, I used to think that tight spokes made for stiff wheels and tighter spokes made for stiffer, it ain’t so, do the maths and you will see …

    You’re not arguing with me, because I have no idea. The quote was from Kris, and I have no reason to dispute what he said…

    You also state that because a wheelbuilder says so doesn’t make it right, then post a link to what a wheelbuilder says! I look forward to your ongoing argument with yourself!

  27. @Marko That video needs to be cast into the fiery pits of hell. AWKWARD I could only watch about 20 seconds of it.

    PS be careful Bretto, a women died after doing that. Took bike out of car, put wheels back in, forgot to close brakes, and rode straight into traffic.

  28. @minion

    @Marko That video needs to be cast into the fiery pits of hell. AWKWARD I could only watch about 20 seconds of it.

    PS be careful Bretto, a women died after doing that. Took bike out of car, put wheels back in, forgot to close brakes, and rode straight into traffic.

    Right. Because the Greenedge “Call me Maybe” didn’t suck enough ass. And we wonder why “we” have an image problem.

  29. @brett

    @SimonH

    Oli will sort this out! Spoke tensioners at dawn!

  30. @Ron

    Also, on taping the rim…are you guys saying you tape the actual valve stem? Or are you putting a piece of tape on the rim with a hole, allowing the stem to pass through? This second option doesn’t seem like it would cure a rattle though. I’m confused.

    I wrapped a layer of tape around the valve stem before mounting the tires on the Enve’s to head off the rattling issue, but didn’t wrap it thick enough to actually hold the valve tightly in the hole of the rim.  The real solution is to push a small piece of electrical tape down over the valve stem, letting it poke its own hole through, so that the tape suspends the valve stem in the hole of the rim.  For whatever reason, my rear wheel never had this issue [with just one layer of tape wrapped around the valve stem], but my front wheel did.

    You can see the result of this technique in this picture, although the tape strips are rather long here:

  31. @Velosophe that bike would look a lot cooler without that Atari console on the stem.

  32. Doh!  I should have noticed that the 3rd picture of the reviewed wheels showcases the 1st type of valve tape technique described above.  This probably is the best way to go about it, but it takes a good deal of foresight to remember to do it before gluing the tires.  I had the foresight [in fact did a damn PRO job with just 1mm of exposed tape] but I didn’t wrap it quite thick enough – probably 3 layers would be perfect.

  33. @Marcus

    @Velosophe that bike would look a lot cooler without that Atari console on the stem.

    Agreed!  Total Anti-V Meter, and flying in the face of proper bicycle porn photography practice.  It’s just a picture I pulled off google.

  34. @mouse

    @scaler911

    @G’rilla

    Warranty and crash replacement is huge. I’m building my dream cyclocross bike right now but don’t think I could ride a race full gas on carbon for fear of shattering it. Las month a friend exited the first lap with a carbon taco.

    But 5 year crash replacement? Are there qualifications on that?

    Ya, You don’t want this to happen: (from a teammates rig last weekend)

    Jesus. What the fuck did he ride into to do that?

    Seriously? I had a guy t-bone my back wheel in a corner during a race, and then he proceded to faceplant into my wheel, putting all his (considerable) weight on the bastard. Its still true as a song bird. Of course, its a Café Roubaix, not a shitty Reynolds, but still.

  35. @brett

    So today I had my first ride back on the Ambrosios after sending the Enves back. I took off down my street and as I approached a downhill S-bend I went for the brakes and… nothing! Heading into the heavily trafficked village, panic ensued as I pulled the brake levers to the bar so hard both shift paddles were jammed against the bar. I reached down and grabbed the front brake cable and yanked it hard enough to slow me just as I came to the local bike shop. After I removed my heart from my mouth I told Jonty what had just happened, much to his amusement.

    The Enves are a wider rim than the Golden Tickets, which meant I’d had to loosen the brake cable tension to run them… I’d refitted my wheels and omitted to re-adjust the cables. The pads weren’t even close to the braking surface.

    Valuable lesson right there!

    That’s scary shit right there. Part of my pre-ride ritual is to test my brakes before I head out. In fact, I test them right after inflating the tires.

    In general, carbon rims are wider than alu, so keep that in mind. Did you ride different brake pads, by the way, or your usual ones?

  36. @scaler911

    Fixed your post.

  37. @Marko

    I’m revoking your privileges until you start behaving again. Jesus, you can’t unsee that shit.

  38. What gallery?  None loads for me, I’ll clear the cache.

  39. The only cycling related music video I want to see is this one — Chris Barber with the team he sponsored in the late 60s. But I don’t think there’s anything more than the picture…

  40. @Russ M

    Not all roads are shitty – my NZ experience was that they mostly are
    You mentioned climbs at some point, and there are plenty of those – for sure
    ( 44yr old body kid at heart )  – +1 , even though I have to add a few years

    @brett

    had a few years lving in Belmont, Haywards Rd to Paremata a favourite, or out along Paekakariki great ride

  41. @markpa

    @Russ M

    Not all roads are shitty – my NZ experience was that they mostly are
    You mentioned climbs at some point, and there are plenty of those – for sure
    ( 44yr old body kid at heart ) – +1 , even though I have to add a few years

    @brett

    had a few years lving in Belmont, Haywards Rd to Paremata a favourite, or out along Paekakariki great ride

    Nice one, that was the ride referenced in the article that I did my first test ride on the wheels on! Over Haywards, up and over Moonshine Hill and back into Welly. Love the Paekak climb too.

  42. @frank

    @brett

    Did you ride different brake pads, by the way, or your usual ones?

    Used the supplied Enve pads of course… not recommended to use anything else.

  43. @scaler911 Yeah that video did blow. I watched it again past the dancing in the warehouse and it improved. Slightly.

    If I ever see Chris Hoy in a piss taking video homage video to, fucken T – Pain  or some other nonsenseI’m taking an angle grinder to all my bikes and not looking back.

  44. @frank hehe, I will have Reynolds as an option direct from BH (as well as Zipps), but I don’t see myself jumping up and down to sell ’em.

    @SimonH & @Oli if he would like to chime in, wheelbuilding is science and art. But people are always mistaken when speaking of one thing makes a better (stiffer) wheel than others. As an example, tradition box tubulars will be laced with lower tention to withstand cobbles, looking to achieve flexibility. Also, very much related to bike fit, training, and all things cause & effect, it is not one element that makes a stiff wheel, but a nexus of elemtents – one part is effected by another, be it low/wide flanges, butted v. aero spokes, rim depth or materiel, etc. Enve uses typical low spoke counts for an very strong/stiff rim and very high spoke tension, plus very reputable and dependable hubs, and even Pillar or Enve internal nipples. All of these elements provide for tremendous wheel stiffness.

    And I am the Café Roubaix guy.

  45. @brett

    @frank

    @brett

    Did you ride different brake pads, by the way, or your usual ones?

    Used the supplied Enve pads of course… not recommended to use anything else.

    Oh baby yes! Don’t screw with break pads if you like your Enve rims…

  46. @minion

    @scaler911 Yeah that video did blow. I watched it again past the dancing in the warehouse and it improved. Slightly.

    If I ever see Chris Hoy in a piss taking video homage video to, fucken T – Pain or some other nonsenseI’m taking an angle grinder to all my bikes and not looking back.

    You kill me! If Sir Hoy did that, I’d be right beside you holding the cord while you cut your bikes up…

  47. A ridiculous deal on Enve 2.45 and Chris King hubs. $1,650

    http://cowbell.cxmagazine.com/forum/topics/enve-edge-2-45-tubulars-on-ck-cross-hubs

  48. That’s a smokin’ deal for those wheels!

  49. Enve will crash warranty wheels for 1/2 price. I had them do this for me via wheelbuilder.com after an accident. I paid the difference to upgrade the enve 3.4s clinchers from the 45s. The braking is better on the 3.4s. I only run these on my better bike. I run wheels with alu sidewalls on my other bike because no matter what they say carbon clinchers dont stop well (if at all) in the rain.

  50. I’ve pulled the trigger on a set of Enve 3.4 today, including a Powertap.

    Unfortunately the LBS default setting is for fishing tackle so I have to wait until they get a Campag freehub in, but even holding them felt lovely.

    And I’m also looking forward to seeing how my riding translates into power.

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