Enough to turn this previous cynic into a firm believer
Though Enve MTB Foundation AM30 wheels are far from cheap, the lower price is within reach of a wider market, yet they are still handmade in Utah.
It’s fair to say Enve’s brand perception has been on a bit of a rollercoaster. Championed by the Santa Cruz Syndicate for seven seasons and boasting a sky-high price tag, its carbon mtb wheels soon became the ultimate in boutique, blinging bike candy. The brand then suffered some high-profile rim failures and a growing criticism of its super-stiff ride quality.
Personally, I’ll admit I was one of the naysayers, and I really disliked the rock-solid, filling-rattling, bounce-off-everything ride of older generation Enve rims. The wheels accelerated like hell, but seemed to rob me of traction, were uncomfortable and required the removal of rim strips simply to tighten the spokes. I also saw a few crack, and began to wonder whether Enve owners were paying thousands to make their bikes worse to ride.
Thankfully, these new, and totally redesigned, £1,850 Foundation wheels show just how much the brand has taken on board opinions like mine. The Enve MTB Foundation AM30 wheels boast some special details that other brands don’t. What’s absolutely crucial, however, is how Enve has transformed the ride quality for the better.
The AM30s still feel ‘carbon’ in the sense that they are snappy and taut under acceleration, as well as being reactive and stiff through corners, but they’re now also comfortable, with hugely improved off-camber tracking. And, after tens of thousands of metres of Alpine descending on some crazy, rocky tracks, my hands and forearms are very grateful for a lack of excessive jarring and rigidity too. In fact, the whole package performed perfectly throughout testing, to the point I’ve not even had to touch a spoke key in months of use and hundreds of miles of trails.
Enve’s achieved this radically different feel by massively reducing the rim depth (it’s now 20mm high) to aid damping, and using fewer spokes. Using durable black brass nipples, 28 Sapim Race Double Butted spokes are laced into excellent Industry Nine hubs at each end with slightly asymmetric eyelets for a more equal brace angle. The rim itself uses specially tuned carbon laminates to allow some vertical displacement while retaining side-to-side stiffness, and has a claimed weight of 510g in 29in diameter.
Further smart proprietary construction details include specially moulded spoke holes, so the rim isn’t drilled post lay-up. This means continuous fibres wrap around eyelets, making them stronger than a conventional rim of the same weight. Each rim also uses a significantly thicker hookless sidewall for more impact resistance when smashing rocks, with a blunter edge to reduce pinch flats caused when the tyre casing gets cut under compression close to the bead.
Multiple times during those Alpine descents, I heard brutal rock-smashing noises at max speed – the kind to convince you you’ve murdered a rim and enough to cause huge dings and dents in the alloy rims of my riding buddies. Enve’s carbon rim emerged unscathed, however, and that durability doesn’t seem to have dulled any sense of speed or zip. So, I’m also confident the AM30s are super-strong.
Enve’s AM30s are expensive and don’t bring any ‘extra’ compliance or tracking benefits to the table like Zipp 3Zero Moto or Crank Brothers Synthesis wheelsets. But, if you’re after a zesty, rapid-feeling carbon wheel that’s comfortable enough to ride all day and tough enough to handle a proper battering, this package is a sound investment.
And while Enve hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel itself, it’s done enough to turn this previous cynic into a firm believer.