ENVE Smart SES 3.4 Carbon Clincher Wheelset Review Update

Whew…that title’s a mouthful!

I now have quite a few miles on the ENVEs, so here’s the update:

They’re perfect.

Oh, maybe not perfect, but pretty darn close.  This morning, I did a slightly longer than normal ride.  I did the normal group ride, and then towards the end of it, dropped off, hung a U-turn, and headed back west, into the wind.  For those DeKalb peeps out there, the solo part of the ride involved taking Keslinger until it turned into Gravel, then north to Gurler , then west to Woodlawn, and then a big sweep north, northwest and finally east (mega-tailwind-time) and cranked back into town.

Let me tell you…with moderate wind, on a flat DeKalb road, the ENVEs haul the mail.  It’s kind of hard to describe, but sometimes, when rural roads get a little bit worn, the tar comes to the surface just a bit and the asphalt’s stones wear smooth, and you end up with a hard, glasslike riding surface.  I’m running 95psi front and 100 rear (I could undoubtedly go lower) with Bontrager R3 700x23c tires (23c tires are supposed to have the best aero profile on the ENVEs).  If you catch the wind just right (tail wind or rear-quarter tailwind/crosswind), and can catch a piece of that glass-smooth pavement…it’s one of the best feelings in cycling.  The bike just wants to go.

Lessons I’ve learned in my time with the ENVEs:

  1. Check the quick release skewers frequently.  (I’ve had them loosen up on me twice. Haven’t determined why).
  2. Carbon clinchers have a hollow body that magnifies sound.  It takes some getting used to.  When you shoot a rock out from under a tire, it sounds LOUD at first.  No harm is coming to the wheels.  Get used to it.
  3. I had a weird, severe rattle on chip seal roads.  It scared the crap out of me–because I didn’t know what it was.  It sounded like the front hub going south.  I talked to the folks at North Central Cyclery, and they quickly determined that the problem was the valve stem rattling in the wheel.  A little rubber washer and a valve stem nut, and the problem was solved.
  4. Don’t be scared of the wheels.  When I had the issue described in #3, I was terrified that the wheels were going to asplode at any moment.  They didn’t.  I think they’re going to be totally bombproof…and I’m a lot more comfortable with them.  I’ve learned that the sky typically is not falling, and problems are relatively easy to work out.

The wheels have remained absolutely true.  I’ve run them in dry and wet conditions, and the braking performance is great–with ENVE’s pads, the braking doesn’t really feel much different from standard Shimano pads on aluminum clinchers…even in the wet.  I haven’t had any huge mountainous descents on the ENVEs, because we have no huge mountains in Illinois.  The wheels do feel perceptibly lighter and do spin up faster than my former alloy Fulcrum Racing 3s.  I think part of that is because the mass is slightly closer to the center of the wheels.

Power transfer is improved over the Fulcrums too…there is not an ounce of power lost with these.  Between the ENVEs and the Ridley, there’s no loss of efficiency to be had here.

I think these are about ideal for Illinois.  I’ve had them in winds up to 25-30mph, and while you feel them with a crosswind (and get pushed a bit), it isn’t “steer you into the next lane” bad.  I feel comfortable with them on group rides, regardless of wind.  I also think that the aerodynamic advantage is perceptible.  With straight-on head or tailwinds, they feel faster than the Fulcrums did.  Purely subjective at this point…I’m riding faster than I did with the Fulcrums, but that is undoubtedly part physical improvement on my part.  (At least, I’d like to think it is).

Crosswinds are where the Fulcrums seem to really come into their element.  I used to sail quite a bit, and in a 30-70 degree crosswind, you can really feel a sail effect from the wheels…I think that’s probably their sweet spot.  It feels like you’re close hauled or broad reaching…you have to maintain a little counter steering pressure, but the wheels just fly.

I still think the Fulcrum’s hubs had quicker and quieter engagement, but I’m looking at DT Swiss’s upgrade package for the DT 240 hubs…it’s supposed to be stronger, quieter and quicker-engaging…sounds like win-win.

I cannot say anything bad about the ENVEs at this point.  They’re fast, they look great, they ride great.  I love them.

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6 thoughts on “ENVE Smart SES 3.4 Carbon Clincher Wheelset Review Update

  1. Pingback: Quarq Power Crank Install (SRAM Red Cranks) | ridingagainstthegrain

  2. Pingback: The Superfish: Salsa Spearfish 1 Review | ridingagainstthegrain

  3. I’m about to splurt on this baby but am not sure whether I will feel an incremental gain in terms of speed? I’m coming from FR0 with it super stiff spokes, carbon and ceramic hubs (USB). Whaddya think?

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