ENVE composites makes some of the most sought after carbon road and mountain bike wheels and components in the bike industry. Unlike their competitors, who predominantly outsource manufacturing to China, all ENVE carbon rims are made in the USA at their headquarters in Ogden, UT. Renowned for quality, dependability and innovation, their products help triathletes and cyclists of all persuasions continually push performance boundaries. Knowing all this, I was floored when I won the 2013 XTERRA ENVE Performer of the Year award.
I was too sick with GI parasites in September 2013 to make the trip to Ogden to race nationals and receive the award in front of the XTERRA tribe. It was uplifting however, to have so many great friends I’ve met through XTERRA reach out and congratulate me from afar. When I got the glass trophy in the mail, I also found a certificate in the box, good for any ENVE wheelset of my choosing. Since I predominately ride and race on trails, it was a no-brainer to go with MTB rims. The only choice then was the lighter cross-country rims or the burly all-mountain rims.
A pair of cross-country (XC) 29 rims are 120 grams lighter than the all-mountain (AM) 29 rims. For weight weenies, this ends the conversation. The all-important internal rim width of the AM rims are 33% wider than the old-school 18 mm XC rims. The lay-up of the AM rims are also more robust to endure the rigors of daily riding on technical trails. Since the vast majority of my riding at the time was on the notoriously rocky and technical trails in Gambrill State Park and the Frederick Watershed, I opted for the AM rims. They were still lighter than my narrow race-oriented aluminum rims, plenty light enough for racing.
The super-wide internal rim width of the AM rims helps my tire beads properly spread out when seated. My 2.0 Specialized Fast Tracks ballooned out to nearly 2.15 on the ENVE’s and my 2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralphs increased from 2.2 to nearly 2.35 in. This allows me to use more narrow (and lighter) tires and safely run lower tire pressures to increase control and tracking. For the full-picture on why wider rims are better, especially in tubeless applications, check out this great article from Pinkbike.
When swapping tires from my old, trusty DT Swiss 470 aluminum rims onto the ENVE’s, I noticed dozens of small dents in my old rims from two years of hard use. Despite my concern over bombing descents on carbon rims, one year in the rims remain true and perform like new. Other than a few character-adding superficial scratches, they even look pretty new.
The wider contact patch and incredible stiffness gives a much more stable platform for plowing through technical bits. Perfect for a point-and-shoot riding style. It’s similar to the extra stability gained by widening your stance when standing up on a bumpy bus or train ride. The added width and incredible stiffness is very confidence inspiring in corners. At 145 lbs, I don’t experience much wheel flex even on cheap aluminum rims, but I immediately felt the difference switching to ENVE’s. No more freak outs due to tire burping and folding under heavy cornering at low pressures.
The only downside to ENVE wheels is the price. Keith Bontrager’s famous aphorism explains the issue: “Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two.” If budget is of little concern, thank your lucky stars and buy a pair of ENVE wheels, it’s a great investment. If you’re cash strapped, buy the strongest, widest, and cheapest pair of aluminum rims you can find and ride hard and often to get fitter than the competition. Save money without going broke by going tubeless and carefully selecting your tires.
Lastly, if you’re in the market for ENVE wheels and you can’t decide between weight and rim width, you don’t have to anymore. All of the options in ENVE’s new 2o14 mountain line-up are ridiculously light and have the perfect width for their intended application.