ENVE Composites Factory Tour – Inside Look at Company & Carbon Fiber Manufacturing

ENVE Composites factory tour - entrance to offices

ENVE Composites is considered one of (if not the) premier carbon fiber tube and component manufacturers, and we were given a chance to peek behind the curtain at their operation. Well, most of it anyway. There are a few things we couldn’t photograph or mention, but for the most part they opened their doors wide and gave us surprising amount of access.

Based in Ogden, Utah, ENVE produces carbon fiber tubes and frame parts for a very high percentage of US custom frame builders. Brands like Crumpton, Parlee, Independent Fabrication, Calfee and many, many more rely on ENVE’s carbon expertise to make their bikes. And, of course, there’s the lustworthy matte black component line we’re all familiar with.

Follow us along through a shop tour and see how they do it…

THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

Jason Schiers is the founder. He started his entrepreneurial life with a surf wear company, followed by a number of other companies he built and sold. His last venture before ENVE was a machine shop in Las Vegas that made, among other things, some of the safety harnesses and contraptions used by Cirque du Soleil. He built a name for himself by turning around replacement parts overnight (apparently their acrobatics are quite hard on equipment). Eventually, he sold that company to an investment group and got into the bike industry. He learned about carbon fiber in the machining industry working on composite and laminate aerospace and NASCAR projects. Then, he was VP of Lew Wheels until MQC bought them and then Reynolds. He stayed on with them for about two years to develop a wheel line (he started their carbon clinchers). His entrepreneurial spirit led him to start Edge Composites with the idea of making structural carbon parts for cars, which quickly led back to bike parts. Brett and Taylor Satterthwaite (cousins) owned Dune’s Edge, a dune buggy company. They led Jason to a closet full of $5,000-and-up mountain bikes and said he should make parts for them. Edge Composites (now ENVE) was born. That was 2005, and the cousins invested the capital to get things rolling.

Sarah Lehman came aboard in 2010 to help the company grow to the next level.

“I came in because they had grown to a point where they needed someone day to day to run the business,” Lehman said. “I came in on a project basis to build the organization and structure but ended up loving the business. It has all the right components, good people, passion and the financial backing to see it through. My background is in Fortune 100 biotech and pharmaceutical companies (Amgen, ironically, among others), but I’m happier at a smaller company where my impact can be immediately felt and measured.”

Joe Stanish started as a pro downhill mountain biker and worked with Rob Roskopp at Santa Cruz helping them get the Tasman up and running and get their grassroots team going. Then he went to Rockshox working in product development and engineering first, then in manufacturing. He helped transition manufacturing first to Coorado Springs, then to Taiwan as they grew and were acquired by SRAM. He was then recruited as vp operations at Progressive Suspension and worked their for several years.

Now Stanish is VP of operations at ENVE. He’s responsible for taking their ideas and making it possible to manufacture their products in the US. Until he came along, they were running high scrap rates and had a huge backlog. Sarah had come in a year earlier and collected a ton of data on the process, but no one was doing anything with it. Having this available allowed him to quickly streamline the process and reduce errors.

Kevin Nelson is their lead engineer and has worked in the industry since 1997, starting at GT and Schwinn. Then he went to Specialized for a couple of years to work on road. He wanted to make things, though, and moved to Reynolds, where he met Jason and got his start working in carbon. When Reynolds’ California offices closed, he started doing project work for Jason, working mostly on components while Jason worked on rims.

Schiers started in a corner of a  small 5,000 square foot building housing the Satterthwaite’s long travel dune buggy manufacturer. ENVE grew to the point where it pushed the dune buggy company out. In 2011, they gambled on future growth prospects and moved into a 22,000 square foot facility (above) thinking it would suffice for about five years. They’re already looking to expand again, less than two years later.

PRODUCTION & CUSTOM TUBES

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber cutting room and tube production

Our tour starts in the cutting and bicycle tube production room. Everything is tracked by batch and roll number. This lets them trouble shoot any issues and trace them back to the material used and when it was built. Everyone that touches the product has to initial the step they’re responsible for, and which mold and carrier is used. This helps them identify the exact step that may have caused any issue. Scrap rate was once as high as 30%, it’s now less than 5%. Joe says 70% of that scrap is merely for cosmetic purposes.

Pieces are machine cut so they’re exactly right and exactly the same every time (above, left). This keeps weights the same, too. Each kit and final component is weighed and within 10g of the target weight. That includes forks, rims, etc. Freezer storage for the raw carbon fabric on right.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber cutting room and tube production

Carbon pieces are bundled, tagged and weighed before moving to the production room. These are strips for their rims.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber bicycle tube rolling and stock

In the same room is the roll wrapping machine where they make tubes to custom frame builder’s specs. For some customers, the builder can specify exact layup schedules, fiber angles and resins. For other builders, they’ll specify certain characteristics and ENVE will develop the tubing to meet their needs. They do roll wrapped tubes for various industries from military to archery, hence the wide range of mandrel sizes (black tubes at right).

Once the mandrels are wrapped with carbon, they’re cello-wrapped and placed in an electric oven for an long, slow overnight cure.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber bicycle tube rolling and stock

Mandrels for tubes for Parlee, Calfee and others.

Other than Serotta and Seven, chances are good if a custom builder is using carbon tubes, ENVE’s making them. At first, the tubing was validation for the brand. Now it’s only about 5% of their business, but it keeps them in touch with the artists making bikes. It also let’s them do some pretty trick stuff like wrap wood veneer in for customers like Independent Fabrication.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber bicycle tube rolling and stock

They keep tube stocks for some of their larger customers.

Schiers says “we’re a really high end carbon parts manufacturer that also makes bicycle components. It’s a balance though between doing sound business and the really fun, creative things.”

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber lugs for independent fabrication bikes

Custom carbon fiber lugs for Independent Fabrication's bicycles.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rear swingarm for Santa Cruz V10 downhill mountain bike

One of the more high profile frame projects they’ve done lately is the carbon fiber rear swing arm for the Santa Cruz Syndicate team downhill bikes.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rear swingarm for Santa Cruz V10 downhill mountain bike

WHY START A CARBON FIBER COMPONENT COMPANY?

“When I started this company, I made my bullet point list of things I thought was wrong with carbon fiber wheel construction,” Schiers said. “With our proprietary design and patents, I solved all of them.”

“I felt like there were really cool brands that were core but struggling as businesses, and businesses that were run really well but too corporate – their product offerings based too much on what the bean counters said. And with composites, it was even more polarized.

“I wanted to create really great products and still make it a viable business. Once you get to a certain price point, the purchase decision is made more by emotions than the price tag. I wanted to build a company that always had that passion and made it clear that our products were always designed so they’d feel right the more you used them and appreciated the small details.”

WHAT MAKES ENVE SPECIAL

What largely sets ENVE apart is the tooling and the manufacturing process. Schiers says many foreign carbon manufacturers have twice as much factory space for finishing (patching, filling, painting, etc.) than for the actual production, a byproduct of less-than-ideal manufacturing processes.

“Our composite theory is about molding as many features as possible and doing as little finishing and drilling as possible,” said Nelson. “Our rims come out of the mold perfectly smooth and require almost no finishing. We don’t even clearcoat them. We do have to paint the components, though, since they’re in the direct sunlight more, the resin would yellow over time. With the wheels, it really isn’t an issue. Even the ENVE products with any sort of ‘cosmetic’ exterior carbon layer, that layer is structural.”

From there, it’s the small design touches that make the products user friendly. Having stealthy, understated good looks certainly doesn’t hurt either.

ENVE WHEELS

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rims fresh from the mold

Schiers inspects the near perfectly smooth rim walls fresh from the mold. Excess resin and spoke hole plugs are knocked off and smoothed, and not much more is needed.

The secret sauce for ENVE’s rims is the tooling, something they wouldn’t let me photograph. And there are other parts of it we can’t even tell you about. But the process is really cool. And very time and labor intensive…which helps explain why their rims cost so much.

The bladders are a proprietary material, which is far more expensive than nylon. Further adding to the cost, their internal bladder isn’t reusable, so they need a new one for each rim.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rim cutaways from other brands

An assortment of competing carbon rims they had on hand to show the nylon bladder remnants.

Many carbon wheel manufacturers use cheap nylon bag bladders that are often left inside the rim. If you ever have the misfortune of breaking your carbon wheels, chances are you’ll see what looks like Saran Wrap on the inside walls. Schiers says those bladders can affect the wheel build if they twist up around the nipples. More importantly, they can also cause variances in wall thickness and wrinkles where the bag bunches.

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rims with molded spoke nipple holes

Many carbon rims need a heavily reinforced nipple bed to counter the drilled holes, which adds weight. By contrast, ENVE’s spoke holes are molded, a process they’ve patented. It’s more time consuming and expensive to do, but it means the wheels are built with continuous fibers all the way around. They’re not drilled through to create spoke holes, so the inherent strength of the carbon fibers remains intact.

Because ENVE’s spoke holes are molded, it means a much larger inventory count. Rather than one blank that’s drilled to whatever spoke count the customer wants, they need separate molds for both 28 and 32 hole count MTB rims and 20, 24 and 28 classic road rims. That explains why they only offer a few spoke counts. It’s also part of the reason why the heavily anticipated deal with Industry Nine for road wheels never came about.

Because the spoke holes are molded, they’re able to give them a ball and socket design. This prevents spoke bending and binding. Combine that with the continuous fibers and you get a wheel that can be built incredibly strong. “WIth other brands, we’ve seen a lot of spoke failure,” said Schiers. “We (ENVE) don’t have any breakage, and we build them with very high tension.”

In these cutaways, you can see the spoke bed is thinner -way thinner- than competitor’s rims. But Schiers says there’s more material there than you’d think because their compaction is so good.

BRAKING

They tested over 50 resins and combinations of resins, and they continue to test new materials. “Our wheels can only be as good as what materials are out there,” said Schiers. “We always stay on top of what’s coming down the pipeline so we can keep making our products better.”

ENVE Composites Factory Tour - carbon fiber rim brake track comparison

ENVE’s Classic road rims run through their custom built brake track finishing machine that uses a diamond disc grinding wheel to roughen up and shape the brake track. (top rim, above)

The new SES aero wheels had to develop a new method for texturizing the braking surface (bottom rim). Simon Smart didn’t want a raised track because it would mess up the aerodynamics. So, they create a textured section inside the mold that puts the brake track completely flush with the sidewall. Schiers says it actually works better, too. The classic road rims still use the original design because that’s the way their molds are made.

ENVE Composites factory tour - standard road rim brake track compared to Smart Enve System aerodynamic wheels

Another view of the two different brake tracks

One of the key points that’s helped them grow is that their rims don’t need special care to build into a wheel. They provide their own nipples that fit into the molded conical seat, so any good shop can build them up with any spokes and hubs. That, and they’re about the only game in town if you want a high end carbon rim that’s not prebuilt into a wheel. Given that’s where they started, ENVE sells a lot of individual rims, but they are starting to sell more and more complete wheels now.

COMPONENTS

While the brand started with rims and wheels, Jason’s love for bikes and knowledge of small parts manufacturing inevitably led to components, too, once Kevin Nelson came on board. Nelson took the opportunity to expand the line and ran with it and now oversees the final design on all new products while Schiers advises. While the wheels were being finalized, Nelson was simultaneously working on the forks, which all launched together at Sea Otter in 2007 with mountain bike riser and flat bars. After that came the 1.0 and cyclocross forks, road bars, stems and more recently a new version of the flat bar and the disc brake ‘cross fork.

So what makes them special?

ENVE Composites factory tour - road bike handlebars

Nelson: “With our road handlebars, they taper to a domed end rather than an open circle. It’s comfortable even when you’re on the tips of the drops, but it’s also structurally better than the open circles. The bar’s curvature is designed to give a lot of flexibility in lever placement and hand position. With the newer shallow drop bar, there’s not as much room to work with so we had work pretty hard to give it the same flexibility. All of the bars feature dual cable gutters to work with all of the component brands. Road bars slant slightly downward to fit your hands’ natural positions as they go out, and the MTB bars do the opposite to fit your hands in the wider position on those bikes.

 

ENVE Composites factory tour - carbon fiber stem and seatpost

Seatposts are a simple one-bolt design that lets you adjust angle and fore-aft with a single allen key, and it’s very easy to assemble. The clamping area is intentionally short. While that seems counter intuitive, it allows a greater range of fore-aft saddle adjustment. Each post comes with two sets of rail clamps, one for standard round rails and one for taller carbon rails. The current design has an alloy sleeve around the entire assembly, but they’ve prototyped some without it and may explore that again in the future. For now, Kevin says the alloy sleeves give it better grip with minimal weight gain.

“Stems are one of the more difficult parts to engineer out of carbon,” said Nelson. “We tried to make something that was simple and efficient, stiff and light. It’s rounded off so there are no sharp edges to hit your knees and there’s a solid four-bolt faceplate.”

ENVE Composites factory tour - carbon fiber seatpost cutaway

Inside the ENVE seatpost

Schiers: “When we got into the fork market, everyone was making them the same way. They’d take a preformed steerer tube, bond it to a chunk of carbon for the crown then bond legs to it. When that was done, they’d drill the brake hole through the chunk of carbon, which created a huge seam right in the highest stress area.”

“We put a lot of time and energy into creating the tooling and design to make a one piece fork with continuous fibers from top to dropout. It’s molded as one piece, even the brake mount hole is molded in.”

ENVE Composites factory tour - mountain bike handlebars for XC and DH

For the mountain bike handlebars, Nelson spent a lot of time with the layup to tune the ride – the same as someone would when tuning a custom carbon bike frame.

ENVE’s national sales manager Ronnie Points says: “It’s the flex characteristics, the ride feel, that makes them special. You can create a composite structure that flexes in a repeatable manner for an insane amount of lifecycles without failure. The trick is to balance the right amount of flex with the right amount of strength. We do a lot of lab testing and a lot on ride feel. Our bars are designed to flex just a bit that adds a suppleness to the bar, and the flex pattern is from the center out, not just at the ends”

PRODUCTION IN THE U.S.

ENVE Composites factory tour - machine shop

Part of the reason they’re creating more capacity for U.S. production of the components is that they can react faster to market wants and needs. “It comes down to time,” Schiers says. “We just can’t be efficient if they’re waiting on things from others.”

Along those lines, Schiers opens the door to the machine shop, shown above. They have two lathes (and another on the way), three milling machines and water jet.

“This is one of the things that I’m most proud of,” Schiers says. “It gives us the ability to go from concept to a testable part in a week if necessary. It’s awesome. It saves us from having to put a bid out, wait a couple weeks, wait more for the part, then tweak and start all over again. It also lets us make more parts for small frame builders.”

Between several new machines, and punches and all manner of other equipment they inherited from Dune’s Edge, they are now able produce every component they offer in house. Schiers says they can also use better grades of material here that aren’t allowed to be exported. This might or might not be a hint that a premium line of US-made components may come in the future, but for now all activity seems to be on meeting current demand.

In addition to the components, ENVE makes all of their tooling, tables, work benches, and machines in house. Pretty much the only things they don’t do in house are paint, decals and anodization.

While the rims are all made in UT, their components are mostly made overseas for now. Some are made domestically, and Schiers says they’re working to do more here.

“First and foremost, we’re designing the laminates here, prototyping here and completely designing everything here, including the tooling,” Schiers says. “Then we take it over there, and we’re in frequent (weekly) communication with them to maintain a consistency in the product. Then we do the final testing here, too.”

They’re also contemplating a full time position at the foreign factories to oversee their production. Schiers said even if they could ramp up production here in the US to help speed aftermarket order fulfillment, there would always be an Asian component to their manufacturing. Why? Because OEM customers need the product quickly and it makes more sense to have it made in and delivered to the same area when their products are being spec’d on production bikes.

TESTING

ENVE Composites factory tour - wheel frontal impact testing machine

A wheel frontal impact machine that mimics the UCI's test

ENVE’s wheel testing room is like a medieval torture chamber. Abused wheels lie around with markings and fresh goods awaiting punishment hang on the wall. Testing is done on final products, not during the manufacturing process. Checks are made during the manufacturing.

Their wheels are engineered for mis-use. Rims are checked for lateral stiffness on the machine above and directly below. The wheels are built with spoke tension at 180kg (almost 400lbs). Recommended is 120kg to 130kg, then set to roll on these uneven wheels.

They also test for max inflation on MTB wheels to make sure the rim won’t blow apart if you unwittingly way over inflate the tire (or pump the heck out of it to seat a tubeless tire’s bead, for example).

ENVE Composites factory tour - brake track heat testing

Brake track test – Nelson says they have a zero return rate for brake track failure since implementing their new test 15 months ago. Riders, myself included, question the safety and effectiveness of braking on carbon rims, clinchers in particular, and those concerns aren’t going unheard in the industry. ENVE is addressing it with this brake track test.

During the test, they measure brake track width to keep it within a very tight tolerance threshold. It’s based on both what people will perceive when braking and what’s not likely to propagate with continued use. They run it with brakes on for a preset time period and speed/power, during which the outside of the brake track reaches about 350°F. The wheels are then allowed to cool to room temp, then subjected to the test three more times using the same pads. Keeping the same pads allows them to glaze over, mimicking real world conditions, and glazing can cause them to heat up more and faster. They use the same ENVE pads that are included with the road rims and wheels, and braking pressure is about medium force. That would translate to dragging the brakes more than lightly but far less than it would take to lock them up. Each successive run gets longer, but watching the numbers on screen, the temperatures drop really quickly – as in about 100° in about five seconds…and that’s without the airflow over the wheel that it would get on a real ride. (I wasn’t allowed to photograph the test screen)

Tire pressure is set at 110psi, and it climbed to about 116psi during the first run. Test engineer Brent Pontius says it’ll get to a max of about 120psi during the final run, but it’s never enough to deform the rim wall.

Once it’s gone through four cycles, the rim width and fluctuations are measured again to ensure they remain within tolerances.

“Getting this test right is what can make or break us as a company,” Pontius said. “These new Smart ENVE System wheels are going to be a high volume piece, and if we had returns on it it could really hurt the company.”

ENVE Composites factory tour - rim impact breakage test

Impact Test - Lifts a 50lb weight and drops it from 2″ increments until it breaks. The criteria is that it passes a 8″ drop and is still rideable to a complete stop.

ENVE Composites factory tour - rim impact breakage test

Why? Suppose you hit a sharp edge (curb, pot hole, brick), you’d want the wheel to maintain its integrity and allow you to safely stop. Realistically, you’re quite unlikely to ever hit anything this hard. This one made it to 16″ before breaking, and it was still holding air in the tire. Here’s video:

ENVE Composites factory tour - spoke hole breakage test

Spoke Pull Test – After all the other tests, the same rim is then subjected to the spoke breakage test. The rim is sectioned and 10 spoke holes are tested. Basically, they tension the wheel until a DT Competition spoke will break before the spoke pulls through the rim. They’ve gotten up to 800lbs of force with a straight gauge, straight pull spoke without it pulling through their DH or 8.9 SES rims. The shallower rims usually make it to about 700lbs of force. For comparison, a normal wheel build is around 250lbs of static load.

This is the 85mm SES rim; it broke at 710lbs of force. The machine maxes out at 800lbs, and a spoke only lasts about 10 pulls at that pressure before breaking. Each rim has to pass a minimum of 600lbs, which could suspend a small car with just four spokes.

CONCLUSION

When I visit cycling companies, I almost always get the sense that the people behind them are some of the most passionate people in the business. This tour was no different. Each person I spoke with was genuinely excited about what they were doing, and it shows through the components they’re making. Near the end of the day, I asked Jason what, in his words, makes ENVE special. His reply:

“We want to create only the best. ENVE is a zero compromise company.”

WEIGHTS

And no factory tour would be complete without weighing a few things…

ENVE Factory Tour - stem weight 120mm

ENVE’s stems and seatposts are for road or mountain bikes, there are no different models, just different sizes. This is a 120mm stem at 124g.

ENVE Factory Tour - seatpost actual weights

The 27.2 seatpost came in at 193g and the 31.6 at 202g.

ENVE Factory Tour - road bike handlebars actual weights

Their original curved handlebar is 208g and the compact is 223g. Both are 44mm wide.

ENVE Factory Tour - mountain bike handlebars actual weights

Mountain bike handlebars are: XC flat bar (176g), XC riser (211g) and DH riser (233g). The first two are 700mm wide, the DH bar is 800mm wide.

ENVE Factory Tour - road bike forks actual weights

Their straight steerer road bike forks are 306g for the 1.0 and 373g for the 2.0.

Comments

Rob - 05/17/12 - 10:43am

Is this an advert?

Meta - 05/17/12 - 11:11am

That’s definitely what I call an informercial. Don’t give me the safety BS. Enve rims are just too heavy. Zipp & especially Reynolds are way more advanced, resilient and very light, especially tubular rims.

Sir Eddy - 05/17/12 - 11:42am

Agreed. It sure feels like it. While I’m a user of Enve products I have to laugh at the article. “We don’t have any spoke breakage” Tell that to my Enve wheels. 3 broken spokes in the first month, which resulted in a complete rebuild.

223g handlebar, and 193g seatpost. are pretty hard to get excited about, and short rail clamps on the seatpost aren’t something I agree with. I also didn’t realize the components were made offshore, which makes their pricing even more difficult to swallow.

Sorry, but this put me off Enve rather than sold me on them.

christian - 05/17/12 - 12:26pm

Our shop had a spoke pull through a new EDGE rim when being built up onto a new orange Chris King road wheelset. Enve took our wheel back, replaced the rim with a newer model, and built it up free of charge. Mind you, they didn’t build the wheel, build the rim, or supply the hub in the first place. So excellent customer service and willingness to correct past mistakes of their former company. A pleasant surprise after dealing with Mavic for 15 years……..

Tropt - 05/17/12 - 12:26pm

Agreed, Sir Eddy. Far more expensive than FSA, 3T, etc, but for what? The weights sure aren’t very impressive. If the stuff weren’t priced as it is then i’d probably be more into it. Sure looks cool though, and nothing will make people at a trade show swoon like show bikes built up with enve parts…

Brandon - 05/17/12 - 12:38pm

So I have seen this a lot recently, people asking if a review is really just an advertisement. Its a freaking review. Its an inside look at a company with a bit of background history. I think it is very interesting to see how these items are made. Yeah the rims are heavy and sometimes they break, but the product is still a very good product. I bet if we had everyone who rides these wheels come on here and say if they have any issues it would only be a few, just like every other product. Thanks for sharing the info on ENVE. I still cant afford it, but it was interesting.

logic - 05/17/12 - 12:40pm

Interesting…I thought their components were made in UT as well. Well, at least I learned something! All in all, it is cool to watch a company grow. I wish them more success.

Krank - 05/17/12 - 12:53pm

Seems curious that only their rim and tube manufacturing is shown here, and not the components. Seems to support the rumors that those aren’t made in the US anymore

Emiliano Jordan - 05/17/12 - 1:09pm

Component manufacturing is moving back to UT for all US supply. Personally, I’m pretty excited about this and look forward to all ENVE products purchased in the US supporting US workers.

Tyler (Editor) - 05/17/12 - 1:11pm

Krank – They make it clear that the components are not entirely made in the US. They make some of them here and are increasing their capacity to do so, but it’s no secret they’re made overseas. 100% of the rims are made in UT.

Emiliano – I don’t think ALL components for US supply will be here for a while, but it seems clear they’d like to get there.

Ruckus - 05/17/12 - 1:18pm

Having been inside A LOT of bike related carbon fiber I must say ENVE’s stuff is a significantly nicer than most of what is on the market these days.

Having met Jason at NAHBS this year I was impressed by their plans to manufacture more in the USA and goals to bring more manufacturing back to the states.
Keep up the good work guys!

Matt M. - 05/17/12 - 1:26pm

I have owned Zipp, Mavic and Enve wheels and will say that I prefer the Enve personally. With my Zipp 404 clinchers (aluminum rim), I started to notice “soft spots” or “bubbles” in the sidewall after 2+ years and have had 2 pair develop cracks. With my old Zipp 303 tubulars, they slightly warped after 3+ years and the sidewalls became a little wavy to the point they could not be perfectly trued. With my Mavic Cosmic Carbones, I can see at least one spot where the fairing seems to be breaking free from the aluminum rim. They also aren’t nearly as laterally stiff as Zipp or Enve.

Now, with Enve, I’ve had ZERO manufacturing issues, but have had the opportunity to experience their customer service. I have a set of EDGE 29er XC rims from many years ago before the ENVE name. They have been amazing. I’m a Clydesdale and it’s the only set of rims I know of that will actually support the force I exert on wheels without weighing a ton. Reynolds, Roval’s, etc are not recommended for guys my size. With Enve, I can ride a CREST weight wheelset and have it be stronger and stiffer than a FLOW wheelset. Not much more I can ask for…

Also, as I mentioned, my wheels are / were EDGE branding. I had the unfortunate incident of loosing air in my rear tire while racing and bottoming out the carbon rim on rocks causing a flake in the outer layer of rim… It still rode fine and I finished the race, but I sent the rim in to ENVE and they rebuilt my wheel with a brand new rim and spokes for free. They retroactively applied their new 5 year warranty to parts that were well beyond the initial 2 year promise when I bought them. This is well beyond my expectations from any company.

At the end of the day, I would say that if you are the kind of rider to upgrade to brand new wheels every 2 years or more then buy the lightest you can find. If you don’t have the cash to do it that often, buy the ones that are going to last and have the best warranty in the business. I know I personally will continue to ride any of their products that I can afford.

call420 - 05/17/12 - 1:54pm

whats with all the complaining about this being an advert? Its a story about people and the factory they are making stuff in the USA. did you want a hit piece?
seems like just a lot of bitching

Troll27 - 05/17/12 - 2:09pm

As with the road disk brake article, once again the fine folks at
BikeRumor demonstrate a complete lack of technical competence, or at
the very least least a lack of interest in questioning a
manufacturer’s assertions. Too bad they didn’t report on the food &
beverages laid on, or what schwag they

Reverting to high school physics, we can calculate that the 50 lb /
22.7 kg mass is moving at about 7.8 m/s, or about 17.5 MPH, when it
hits the tire after having been dropped from a height of 16″ (or about
0.4m).

Compression of the tire under the nice, rounded face of the weight
absorbs some of the impact load and distributes it radially around the
tire (with the shock propagating at or about the speed of sound of air
inside the tire), laterally into the tire sidewalls, and vertically
into the wheel itself. Assuming the falling weight stops in 1 cm,
then the maximum vertical load imparted to the wheel at the point of
impact is 8853 kg – truly an impressive amount, but in reality less
than that due to the distribution of the load as described. The
vertical load would not be hard to measure from the axle, and in fact
ENVE may be doing this.

While it is hard to tell from the video, the rim may fail when the
weight fully compresses the tire and contacts the sidewall of the rim
itself. Note that while the Bike Rumor staff had no problem deeming
disk brakes unsuitable for road use, despite riding with them in a
truly boneheaded way) they seem to have overlooked the very basic need
to understand the actual failure mechanism at work here.

Further, as the writers probably don’t know, or maybe decided they
couldn’t fit in the precious allocated column-inches of their web
article, thin-walled carbon-reinforced plastic really isn’t terribly
good at withstanding an compressive impulse load applied, over a small
area, via contact with a hard object. Which is why one doesn’t clamp
one’s Cervelo R in a work stand vise. So, as long as one’s tire is
properly inflated (what tire pressure were they using, guys? How about
tire size? 21mm? 23mm? 35mm?) and doing its thing, one might be OK
when a riding at a relaxed 17 MPH and strike a rock with one’s rim.

How else does this test differ from The Real World? I don’t think
I’ve seen many bricks or potholes with nice rounded edges which
distribute their impulse loads over a relatively large area. Nor do I
think the folks who most benefit from aero, lightweight carbon rims
spend a lot of time riding 17 MPH. While the wheel appears to be
rigidly mounted to the test jig, when mounted on a bike such an impact
would cause the front end to lift, also reducing the forces acting on
the rim (unless the rider weighs more than 8853 kg). This favors the
rim, of course.

Great products? Maybe so. Carbon rims suitable for everyday use?
That’s up to the rider and the volume of their wallet. Meaningful
technical information on a stress test? I think not.

Sevo - 05/17/12 - 2:20pm

Best wheels out there. Light, Strong, and well made. Sure…handlful of people have a handful of issues, but compared to other brands which have had more than a handful of issues, silly weight limits on who can use what/when, and lack of much testing (Remember Reynold’s $6k road wheels that shattered under more than one rider…..shattered).

I have 1st Gen EDGE/ENVE rims, I have had them for 4 years. Been anywhere from 260lbs to 225lbs riding and racing these wheels here in rock filled Colorado. Problems? Zilch. Course, I also know how to ride a bike too.

Matt M. - 05/17/12 - 2:37pm

Troll27,

Regardless of the math, I think it’s quite obvious that Enve tests their products to exceed industry standards and their closest competitors. As far as your math goes, there are a lot of other factors that don’t make this weight drop equal to just riding at 17.5mph such as forward momentum. The propulsion of the rider forward would greatly reduce the downward force on the rim when hitting a pothole. The only way your math is relevant is if they rode head on into a skinny bar that was exactly skewer height at 17.5mph. Even then, the force would not necessarily be equal because the momentum would then transfer to the rider and leave the bike. With that said, I don’t expect any rim to hold up riding head on into a stationary object at speed…

Just because you can’t do a scientific analysis from a short EXAMPLE video does not make the information worthless. It’s simply meant to be a “behind the scenes peek”.

Troll27 - 05/17/12 - 2:51pm

Matt,

My math reflects the test. The force is independent of the size & shape of the object. How the force is distributed into the wheel depends on the size & shape of the object – which I pointed out, but you clearly didn’t get.

Had you said something about horizontal and vertical components of force, then perhaps we’d have the basis for a more detailed conversation about the forces at work while the wheel is moving horizontally when it hits the object.

You’d do well to stop digging the hole deeper.

Yours,
Troll27

Matt M. - 05/17/12 - 3:38pm

Troll27,

In your 6th paragraph, you specifically equated this test to a rider traveling at 17mph. As far as shape of the object, they test with a blunt item to measure surface impact strength specifically without other factors. Common sense tells us that a sharp item is more likely to pierce the tire / rim at the same given force, but I’m sure you thought that was too scientific for everyone else to understand. Perhaps the test would satisfy you more if they used an axe instead?

All of your comments go a long way towards disproving nothing about this test. You’re expectations of this article are just a pathetic way for you to try to brag about your understanding of basic physics by tearing apart the ONE thing you can see without considering the battery of tests not shown. If you truly cared or were concerned about the results of your IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS you would be contacting Enve rather than posting on a third party site moaning about article quality. You are, in fact, a troll…

Blooseville - 05/17/12 - 5:03pm

These guys are clearly on top of this game!

Rob - 05/17/12 - 6:21pm

I hoped not to get drawn into these debates, but here goes…

With impact testing of composites it’s incredibly difficult to come to a test standard that makes much sense. For example, there still is no ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) which fully captures anything other than the most basic impact tests of laminated composite panels. During my time as a composites material testing researcher I came to see vast differences between different test standards.

You have to test your structure to something that makes sense to you.

For example the following will make HUGE differences to the results of your tests.

- The velocity of the impactor.
- The shape of the impactor.
- The angle of impact.
- The total kinetic energy of your impactor.
- Boundary conditions of the wheel. Is it clamped just at the axle or at other places along the rim…. Etc etc

It is incredibly difficult to test the impact performance of something as simple as a flat panel of composite let alone something as complex as a wheel.

I think they have come up with a test which is at least close to the kinds of conditions you or I may come across.

I would honestly suggest that anyone questioning the testing of their products reads a little about material testing of what are the most complex materials in existence.

In essence… testing impact performance of composite components is a 100% head fuck + ball-ache if you ever even try and figure out whats going on.

Also, Trol27. The impactor will almost certainly make contact with the rim at most impact energies tested, and as such the velocity of the impact will be the speed of sound in the composite not the speed of sound in air. (To add to more of the complexity… what kind of velocity are we talking here… Lamb wave velocity, flexural wave velocity, surface wave velocity, Rayligh wave velocity)

Rob - 05/17/12 - 6:23pm

I will also say however….

That you should really have a rebound stop when impacting a structure. With the tests shown you have the impactor hitting the wheel a number of tiimes (hit, bounce, huit, bounce, hit etc).

However given the cost of Instron testing machines I can hardly blame you :-)

Mr. P - 05/17/12 - 11:45pm

@Troll27

You lost me at: “While it is hard to tell from the video, the rim may fail when…”

That is some great guesswork you have going on there! lol.

@ the Haters of this write up
I’m not a carbon guy, but thought this was a good inside peek to the business. Clearly Enve implements it’s builds with reasons. Those were explained & reported by Bike Rumor. Was Enve not supposed to state it’s reasons for their engineering features? Was Bike Rumor not supposed to report on them? Bike Rumor was inside a business – where one gets one sided information. Duh. Use YOUR brain to figure out what fits you and what doesn’t.

Go to singletrackworld.com and see the inside Hope feature. Same type of content. Go to vital, Pinkbike, etc. inside views are always the same…an inside view only.

Hats off to Enve for thriving in the economy of the last 4 years and finding a way to keep most of it on home soil.

P

Sevo - 05/18/12 - 12:12am

Guys…..the test is only a recreation of what the UCI requires. That’s it. Which after LEW’s last wheels shattering under people. It’s a big deal.

Could the test be better? Sure. But I’ve seen it in action. It will suffice.

DL - 05/18/12 - 12:17am

Go Lance.

Scottyroyal - 05/18/12 - 10:36am

Landis is innocent

JP32 - 05/19/12 - 6:39pm

Great article, exactly as headlined — an inside look at mfg. (even thought they wouldn’t show you the real manufacturing stuff, i.e., the actual process).

As to the test being debated, I run a carbon shop and am a former bike racer, and my comment is that it is certainly easy, even trivial, to find fault with the test.

Testing is deceptively simple, looks easy but once you get into it, you discover all kinds of confounding variables and “unrealistic” conditions. The best you can do at the end of the day is to try to design a test and test apparatus that 1) have some relation to the real world conditions you want to test, and 2) are repeatable and quantifiable.

Then, you can at least get some kind of measure of how your current item compares to others from the same production line (to judge your consistency), how it compares to previous designs (to see if you have improved), and to your competitors (to see if you are missing something).

With this test, I liked the simple setup, but other similar impact tests (e.g., for airframe parts) do two things differently. First, they stop the weight bouncing after the first impact, which adds a lot of cost to the test rig. Second, they do each impact at a separate spot, but this might be more of a confounding factor on a rim.

I would like to see the test use a less rounded impactor, maybe a more triangular impactor with a curve radius of 1/4″. I’d also want to try it at a glancing angle, more like the impact of a pothole edge. But, while this might give a better idea of how much force it actually takes to brake a rim with a glancing blow, this might be just a spurious difference and make the test less consistent.

To make Troll27 happy, you’d probably need to have a full crash test setup, with a test track, bicycle, crash-test dummy, a test rig to roll the bike w/dummy at exact speeds, and a standard pothole. Then, after spending silly money on the tests, we can argue about what is a reasonable standard pothole.

Seriously, this is not a billion dollar space probe with no hope of repair. Once you have a test that reasonably tests something approximating the conditions you care about, is repeatable, and is quantifiable, and you have a product that tests similarly to or better than others that work in the real world, the next step is real world testing.

ben - 05/19/12 - 7:32pm

shut up and ride your bike you damn peasants!

ec - 05/22/12 - 5:04pm

Great article–admittedly forwarded from John Neugent–thanks for the insight, and thanks to ENVE, no thanks to all the negative comments from the peanut gallery sociopaths.

Gregg Gusta - 05/22/12 - 6:37pm

came here for the comments and you guys are AWESOME. Whatever meds you are supposed to be on, please continue NOT taking them. Never even looked at the article, just enjoying the sociopathy. Too much of a price differential over aluminum still for the increase in performance.

Gregg Gusta - 05/22/12 - 6:38pm

Contador!

Phil H - 05/22/12 - 7:45pm

Sanity Check…..17.5 mph and 8853 kgf from a 16 inch drop ??????
The impact velocity is the square root of 7.84 = 2.8m/s
The force in decelerating a 22.7 kg mass over a distance of 1cm is therefore a 908 kgf.
I don’t know the source of this error but 8853 Newtons is roughly a 908 kgf.
Phil H (ex Physics High School Teacher).

John Siviour - 05/23/12 - 4:21am

Ta Bike Rumor, Enve and JN.

Love the look and engineering of the product. While unlikely to purchase any of the inventory anytime soon (my alloy clinchers will just have to persevere), it was great to get some insight into a sound business staffed by passionate enthusiasts.

FWIW I concur with JP32. Sensible, repeatable, reliable testing (rather than getting the Large Hadron Collider tech involved). Over time/products/etc and with appropriate analysis and refinement, such testing will serve Enve, competitors and the industry in general very well indeed.

Congrats…and I look forward to the day I can sport some Enve bling on my machine.

Fisho - 05/23/12 - 10:14am

Neat, but can’t afford any of it anyway.

[...] caught wind of this thing when we visited ENVE’s factory and spied the new disc brake road bike fork, but had to wait until now to see what it’d be [...]

John Tucker - 07/25/12 - 7:51pm

Lab testing is great but today at the Dealer camp I was able to ride the 29er Enve XC, Reynolds and Roval wheels on the same bike and same course at Deer Valley Utah. All three significantly outperformed my high end Aluminium wheels and the Enve wheel was, in my subjective opinion, the best of the three carbon wheels. Tomorrow I get to ride the Enve 29er AM.

joe - 06/06/13 - 1:18am

a little late to respon to the guys at the top, but… weight? you guys arent comparing properly. Zipps dedicated climbing wheel is heavier than enve’s… and the fire crest 303 is comparable to the 3.4 tubular (both 1200 something). the classic 45 rims (1.45 not 2.45) is ridiculously light considering the depth. Beyond those wheels, weight doesnt even matter. asking somebody that buys super deep aero wheels to compare weight is just dumb. its a matter of a few grams, and the preference at that point should be on the wheel that is more aero and rides better. As far as aerodynamics go, SES is better than firecrest in headwind, but firecrest is better in cross winds. As far as how the feel in cross winds, idk cant afford anything haha. Both Zipp and ENVE brag about cross wind stability. and enve is in teh market of selling just rims, so as far as many broken spokes go, the company cannot be at fault for an independent wheelbuilders mistakes.

John Smithson - 11/17/14 - 11:36pm

Hey there,
certainly enjoyed the article.I’ve been fortunate to have been able to outfit my Nomad with a complete ENVE cockpit.Each component has a feel and finish that is a joy to use. The sheer difference in how my bike rides and handles is beyond compare to the other carbon components that they replaced. Is it expensive….sure but the quality is worth every penny.
I plan next to work a bit harder, save alittle longer to obtain a set of rims to match a newly bought Chris King sour apple green hub set….
My only regret is I Didn’t DO it sooner.
GREAT PRODUCTS!

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