The Secrets Behind ENVE Wheels - What makes ENVE wheels so good?
09 March 2023
By Charles Coleman
For years, ENVE has made some of the most sought-after wheels in the industry and has arguably set the benchmark for high performance. Yet people still compare their prices with other brands and ask, “Why are ENVE wheels so expensive,” and “How can they justify it?” In a world full of obscure CFD data and claimed weights, it’s hard to decipher the difference between many wheelsets on the market. Below, we outline the main points that make ENVE’s unique.
Unrivalled design and production
A lot of people and processes go into creating the ultimate wheelset. Every ENVE rim is handmade in the ENVE factory in Ogden, Utah, by skilled workers who have perfected their art over many years. You can see the name of the exact person who has constructed each rim at the ENVE factory – just look inside the rim bed!
The carbon layers are constructed in ENVE’s own made-inhouse CNC moulds, using a reusable and removable moulding bladder. This type of moulding bladder allows for a thicker, more rigid material to be used, which ultimately creates a better layup with less imperfections. In addition, not only is the re-useable bladder more environmentally friendly, but you avoid the problem of pieces of leftover bladder in the rim.
In most rim construction on the market, the bladder is popped and then hooked out. Like a balloon, the bladder can break into pieces which ultimately get left in the rim, knocking around and adding unnecessary weight. Trivia: if you look in the rim bed of an ENVE rim, you will see a rectangular hatch, which is the hole they pull the bladder out of.
To keep the weight down and achieve the desired ride quality, the rims are not finished with a cosmetic layer of carbon like those of many other brands – ENVE has nothing to hide and likes showing off the raw composition of its products, so it omits fillers and paint. Keeping the rim as raw as possible also minimises the weight – the new 2.3 SES wheels with their hookless, tubeless construction come in at 1,197g when built with the premium ENVE hub.
Ride quality is something that ENVE spends a lot of time working on, and something that other manufacturers frequently forget about. When ENVE designs and develops a rim, ride quality, handling, durability and speed come before weight. This is very difficult to quantify and can’t be objectified through any headline number, however ENVE wheels DO ride differently.
The brand’s global athlete roster of pro level teams tests multiple prototype rims a year, through different weather conditions and terrain, and gives feedback that helps ENVE to create products with the perfect balance of qualities to suit the modern rider. The majority of prototypes never go beyond this stage, but you can rest assured that ENVE is always working on something and looking towards the future.
ENVE is probably most renowned for its forward thinking with regards to aerodynamic designs. The SES wheel range is the epitome of this, with different depths of front and rear rim offering the best blend of speed and handling.
On top of all the real world testing it does, ENVE is assisted in the development and testing process by Simon Smart and the Mercedes F1 wind tunnel, with inhouse CFD testing also being used to refine the wheels. This is a very labour heavy and expensive process, but a worthwhile one, as the result is wheelsets that are built from the ground up to be fast across a yaw spectrum. Meanwhile, cheaper rims are designed via CFD only, then tested in a wind tunnel to pull out some ‘headline’ yaw angle figure for marketing.
So, why does using the wind tunnel as opposed to CFD only matter? Firstly, F1 has proven that wind tunnels remain highly relevant, otherwise they wouldn’t still use them and would instead save millions of pounds by relying on CFD alone. Secondly, not all wind tunnels are created equal and working in one of the world’s most renowned wind tunnels is key to getting good data.
Quality handling and longevity
There is no point in having a fast wheelset if it doesn’t handle well. ENVE’s deep section wheels handle exceptionally well in windy conditions, as stability is a key attribute that’s engineered into all wheels that they offer. ENVE spends a lot of time making its wheelsets best in class for handling through multiple depth rims and extensive testing.
All of this is subjective, and again something you can’t get from a headline grabbing number, but having multi-depth rims adds a lot of cost as it means doubling the amount of moulds and product lines per wheelset. Furthermore, in ENVE’s rims the nipples are hidden inside, for an extra aerodynamic advantage.
Being carbon, the rim doesn’t bend like a metal one, so the spokes will rarely require adjustment. ENVE uses moulded spoke holes to build higher tension and a more even wheelset, while other brands drill their spokes holes, which means cutting through and weakening the carbon fibres.
Priceless builds and aftercare
At Saddleback, we build all our wheels from scratch, so we can control the quality and ensure that every ENVE wheelset meets our tolerance standards. Our team of dedicated wheel builders has many years of experience and gives incredible attention to detail, which results in consistent wheel builds of the quality that you would expect for a high-end wheelset.
Every wheel is hand-laced, spoke-by-spoke, and consistently distressed via a custom-built distressing machine. It is then finished using the finest tools in the industry. We also supply a number of great wheel builders around the UK and the EU, who can similarly offer top level builds and the highest level of service.
We all love riding our bikes, and anything that stops us from enjoying our desired quality of ride is a nuisance. Saddleback and ENVE both hire bike fanatic staff, so you can trust that we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and resolve problems as efficiently as possible.
ENVE also provides excellent Warranty and Incident Protection cover, so if anything does happen, whether that be your smashing a wheel in a crash, casing a jump a bit too hard or having a tubeless accident, we’ll always have your back. ENVE products are an investment, so you’ll be looked after throughout their life, not just at the point of sale.