Not Really A ReView: ENVE SES 3.4 Wheelset

Carbone.

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…

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/enve/”/]

*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.

 

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69 Replies to “Not Really A ReView: ENVE SES 3.4 Wheelset”

  1. @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.

  2. @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 Cafe Roubaix, not a shitty Reynolds, but still.

  3. @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?

  4. 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…

  5. @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

  6. @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.

  7. @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.

  8. @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 Cafe Roubaix guy.

  9. @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…

  10. @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…

  11. 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.

  12. 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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