ENVE Composites’ carbon fiber rims are a lust worthy item. Light, sure, but also proving to be pretty strong out in the real world.
The latter point is something ENVE wants to drive home, so we approached them with a project that will put them through their paces in some unexpected ways. Our test rims are the 29″ XC Tubeless Clincher models, which retail for $899 a piece. For the money, there are lighter rims out there (but not by much as you’ll see further down). So there must be something more to them.
Jake Pantone, ENVE’s marketing manager, says it’s the strength and durability that really set them apart. In the real world, we’re hoping that translates to wheels that stay true and stiffness that keeps us on point. Feedback on that will come in time. For now, let’s check out the weight and specs…
Our test rims came in at 378g and 383g. Claimed weight is 385g. So far, so good.
Rims come with valve stems, Gorilla Tape and nipples, wheels include it all except the nipples.
The Gorilla tape can be a bit tough to get off and it’ll likely leave a little residue, but Pantone says it’s the best solution they found for something that was strong enough to handle air pressures well and be easy to install by molding to the shape the the rim well. “We tested just about every type of tape under the sun, including a lot of popular ones,” Pantone said. “At the end of the day the Gorilla Tape worked best.”
“And it’s not that sticky…it’s highly unlikely it’ll pull up any of the carbon. We pull tape on and off all day for testing. We don’t even see carbon or resin, including the patch (see below), coming up even with tubular glue.”
After talking with ENVE, we’ll be running the wheels with cheap tape and tubes for the first couple of rides until they settle in. Because they’re trued from inside the rim bed, this will let us re-true and fine tune them before laying down the Gorilla Tape and adding sealant to the mix. After that, they’ll be tubeless only.
The valve stems have removable cores so you can insert sealant through the valves rather than unmount the tire, and Pantone says this also lets you push more air in with a compressor to help seat difficult tires. It is a UST rim, so they should inflate with a floor pump when using UST tires, but this helps with running non-UST or tubeless-ready tires.
ENVE provides Pillar barrel-style internal nipples – shown here in silver compared to a black Wheelsmith alloy one. ENVE designed the inside of the rim to interface specifically with this design. Why? Pantone says it lets them use a smaller hole in the rim, which makes it stronger and puts less stress on the surface. Spoke tensions can be higher and you’ll see less binding on the nipple and spokes. The claimed result is a wheel that shouldn’t change as much on the first few rides, and you won’t hear as many pops and pings as things settle in. Lastly, Pantone says the design lets the nipple articulate better, which keeps the spokes from having any weird kinks or bends.
The design requires spokes that are about 6mm longer than using normal nipples, but ENVE provides a spoke length calculator on their website to make it easy.
Our rims are 32 hole drillings (28 is the other option). Pillar nipples come in at 14g for 32 and 27g for 64 (rounding). Valve stems with caps are 15g. All told, this still puts a “complete” rim weight at about 400g. Still pretty dang good.
Side note: ENVE recommends a minimum 120kg spoke tension on the drive side rear / disc side front.
CONSTRUCTION AND DIMENSIONS
On the right, there’s an obvious recessed rectangle 180º from the valve stem hole. This is a patch to cover the hole where the bladders are removed; it’s glued on with epoxy. While it’s designed to counter balance the weight of the valve stem, Pantone says that’s more noticeable on road wheels but still helps.
Different focus points. Click to enlarge.
Claimed dimensions are 18mm internal and 24mm external. We measured right at 17mm at the top of the hook, but Pantone says the claimed measurement is inside the hook bead and actually sits around 18.5 to 19mm. From an eyeball, that seems about right.
At the top of the rim, it’s spot on at 24mm.
At the widest point further down, it’s just a hair shy of 26mm. The bead hook profile is rounded from the outside, which should help prevent pinch flats a bit if you’re running tubes.
So, what’s in store for these rims? Look for a killer project bike to be announced soon…