Wheel Enve? – My New Enve SES 8.9 Carbon Wheels
I picked up my new race wheels the other day from North Shore Road Bike and couldn’t be more excited. There’s just something about deep dish carbon wheels. Pulling them out of the wheel bag and swapping them in for everyday training wheels kind of always makes me feel like a kid again on Christmas morning. They’re one bike part that actually gets me really excited. It must be the way they sound when you’re bombing down a freshly paved road going 40+ km’s per hour, or the way they aggressively respond to an out of the saddle attack at the base of a roller, or maybe it’s just the way they make a bike look a tad bit like a fighter jet. Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure, riding is so much more fun on race wheels.
My new wheels are the Enve SES 8.9 Tubulars. Besides looking absolutely badass they have some unique features that put this wheel in the top of its class. The first thing that stands out is that the front wheel and rear wheel have different dimensions. The front wheel is shallower than the rear at 85mm and wider at 26mm. This is to increase stability and reduce drag in all wind conditions. The rear wheel is deeper at 95mm and narrower with a width of 24mm as stability is less affected in that area. The wheels are very light coming in at 500 grams for the front rim and 545 grams for the rear. When designing the wheels, Enve teamed up with Simon Smart who has years of experience as a Formula One aerodynamicist and worked on the design and development of the Giant Trinity and Scott Plasma 3 TT frames. If that doesn’t give you some sense of confidence the wheels are also designed and manufactured in their own facility in the USA. I won’t get into all the minor details I’m not an aerodynamicist or an engineer, I’m nerdy enough being an accountant by day and spandex wearer by night, adding those titles wouldn’t be doing me any favours! You can check it all out along with links to multiple reviews on their website.
I had my wheels built up by Dave at North Shore Road Bike. He put a Powertap G3 hub in the rear as this is what I’ve been using in training. I’m looking forward to being able to use this to improve my pacing in races and also being able to analyze the power data post-race to look at ways to ride smarter. The front wheel was built around at DT Swiss 240 hub. For rubber, after some consulting with Dave, we decided to go with tubulars that closely match the different profiles of the rims to get the most aero setup. On the front he glued on a 25mm Continental Competition tubular and on the rear a 22mm tubular. Enve does offer a Clincher version of the 8.9’s; however, I chose to go with tubulars as I feel there’s a reduced risk of getting a flat on race day and overall I prefer the way tubulars ride. One really nice touch is the Enve valve extenders. With these the valve core on the tubular is removed and the valve extender is threaded in. I didn’t have this on my previous race wheel set and it was a big pet peeve when it came time to filling my tires with air, the valve inside my wheel would often close and cause big headaches when trying to open it as it wasn’t very accessible, the valve extender on those wheels threaded around the valve stem rather than into the valve stem.
Since picking up the wheels we were fortunate enough to get a streak of good riding weather in Vancouver. I took the opportunity to swap them in and take them for a couple test rides as I didn’t want to be testing these out for the first time on race day. The first ride I took them out for was a 4 hour ride from the North Shore out to Iona Beach with some time trialing efforts in my aero bars. It was a very windy day (typical at Iona Beach) and I was really happy with how the wheels responded to it. When getting hit with the occasional crosswind the wheels felt very stable, it didn’t feel as though I was riding a sail like I’ve experienced in the past. That’s really important to me as I don’t want to be tensing up when riding in my aero position and be worrying about being blown off the road. The braking with these wheels felt exceptional. Enve provides you with specific brake pads to use and they worked like a charm. The other thing I noticed is how well they cornered and accelerated out, this made for a very fun riding experience.
The second ride I took them out for was a ride out to Horseshoe Bay. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s a very hilly route. Right at the beginning of the ride I had to accelerate up a hill to make a light and I couldn’t believe the response from the wheels. They felt like they really had some pop, this is probably attributed to their stiffness. Climbing throughout the ride they felt very good and where they really shone was on the descents; I could really feel the added speed from the wheels versus descending with my training wheels. The built in Powertap G3 worked flawlessly on the rides and though it didn’t always give me what I wanted to see, it gave me accurate power numbers throughout both rides.
Overall I’m extremely stoked on my new Enve SES 8.9’s. I can’t wait to take these out for some true testing come race season later this month and see what kind of blistering bike splits I can put out on them.