A Menagerie of Melees – The Contender Team Bike

A Trifecta of ENVE Melees

Written by Joseph Bonacci, on March 22, 2024

ENVE Composites has been a long-time maker of high-quality carbon components, but over the past few years, they have branched out to making bike frames. Starting with their Custom Road, they created a bike fully tailored to each individual rider. A year into the Custom Road, Enve wanted to bring that quality to more cyclists, especially to those not willing to wait the months for production or to those who see custom fit and paint as unnecessary. To do this, ENVE designed the Melee, a fully-integrated carbon frame that would become the cornerstone of their lineup. In removing the ability to customize geometry, ENVE built a frame that is both lighter and stiffer.  Recently, the Melee added two new colors with ENVE Black and Aegean Blue.

ENVE Melee Aegean Blue

Currently the shop has three staff members riding Melees with Tyler, Isaac and myself. A fourth, for lead mechanic TJ, is nearly finished. Each build was created with different goals. The Melee's versatility makes it easy to configure for many different riding styles. Here is how each of us has set up the bike for how we ride.

Tyler's Gravel Melee ENVE at Contender


Last year, Tyler headed to Steamboat for the SBT Gravel event on his Cervelo Aspero-5, a true gravel bike. When he came back, he said “I think next year I want to race it on a Melee.”  A pure road bike for a gravel event? That is a bit of a perplexing statement but the Melee isn’t a stranger to gravel events. It took the win in BWR San Diego before it was officially released. That being said, SBT is rougher than BWR, so to get the performance needed, Tyler has gone through a fair amount of trial and error for the perfect setup. 

To achieve the best gravel-leaning setup, it was necessary to push the Melee's tire clearance. Officially quoted at 35mm, Tyler needed to max out the clearance to get it to gravel capability. There were a few good options to get there. Panaracer makes the Gravelking SS, a semi-slick tire, that provides cornering knobs but with a fast-rolling center. If Tyler wanted to push clearance, the 38mm Maxxis Rambler Slick would just barely fit. Ultimately, it would come down to what is the best tire for that specific day.

Tyler's heavy cockpit with Garmin Edge Computer

Tyler would eventually swap to a 1x Force XPLR group with a 44t Aero Powermeter/Chainring to fully gravel-fy the bike. This is another way to fudge the tire clearance, as losing the front derailleur would often allow for a slightly wider tire. Using SRAM's wireless AXS system, the swap between XPLR and the standard road drivetrain is pretty simple.  For someone as experienced as Tyler, this took about 30 minutes for the full swap. The standard ENVE AR Bars helped round out the bike. The slight flare gave just enough control for rough roads while allowing for a performance, road racing position. Tyler currently has the ENVE SES 4.5 wheelset.  Ultimately, race day might see him go to a shallower wheelset, trading away aerodynamics for lighter weight wheels, such as the DT Swiss 1100 Dicut Mon Chasseral Wheelset.

Silk Decals for ENVE Melee


For lack of a better title, Isaac is our resident nerd regarding bike parts. Whenever he builds a bike, he researches for days to wring every bit of performance out of his bikes, but the mainly mountain racer needed a high-performing bike for long base miles, and potentially for some road racing. The 6 ft 1 in (long legs, short torso) rider chose a 56cm Melee. This put him right at the minimum insertion of the seatpost with his 79.5cm saddle height but allowed his ideal position on the bike. Building off the ENVE Melee RED AXS kit, Isaac sought to get all the marginal gains possible and to do that he upgraded his bike with some nice bits from CeramicSpeed. 

Ceramic Speed Bottom Bracket Contender Bicycles Enve Melee

The ceramic bearings CeramicSpeed offers are some of the nicest available. To fully optimize his drivetrain, Isaac replaced his stock pulley wheels and bottom bracket with their CeramicSpeed counterparts. For the bottom bracket, Isaac was more after the extra durability offered by ceramic bearings, rather than the pure performance boost. Ceramic bearings last significantly longer than steel bearings. For a bike that would face all-weather conditions and excessive mileage, the durability (and CeramicSpeed’s comprehensive warranty) gave Isaac the piece of mind to thrash his bike. 

The last marginal gains squeezed out of the bike follow the proverb “to go fast, one must first look fast.” Adding on the Silk Decal Kit, the white logos added about 15 "virtual" watts to Isaac’s power (or so he feels).  Even though ceramic hub bearings are a common upgrade, Isaac bypassed this as he felt the Enve hubs provided adequate durability. Running a 40cm ENVE AR Bar and 100mm Stem, Isaac still felt the bar to be too wide and the stem too short, so he may opt to swap to a 38cm bar with a 120mm next time he needs to bleed his brakes. That is the one downside of this (and pretty much every other cockpit with internal brake hoses), it is borderline impossible to do a quick stem and bar swap. 

Jobo's ENVE Melee with SRAM RED


Focusing on climbing ability, I wanted to make my Melee as lightweight as possible without compromising ride quality. The Melee was the perfect frameset since I wanted to have race-bike handling with the slightly longer wheelbase. Compared to other race bikes, the Melee's long wheelbase gives the frame even that much more stability and additional comfort for those long days.  Keeping with the comfortable theme, I even put two centimeters of spacers under the stem to slightly raise the handlebar, something Tyler and Isaac love to point out. My bike came from ENVE equipped with SRAM RED, a 12-speed road groupset that is ideal for keeping weight down while offering electronic shifting and a providing ample range. For the perfect gear range, I actually wanted to run the 48/35 chainrings with the 10-33 cassette.  My bike came instead with the 46/33 and a 10-28 cassette, which was a narrower range (both top and bottom) but had tighter spacing in the cassette. While the range isn't ideal, I know I can always swap out later without too much trouble. 

Like Isaac and Tyler, my Melee is equipped with ENVE SES 4.5 wheels. I also have a set of Reynolds AR46 Expert Wheels as a lightweight option for days with more climbing. Dropping about 60g from the ENVEs, the Reynolds provides a 46mm depth to maximize aerodynamics, without a weight compromise. The AR46s may be my favorite wheelset for riding in Utah, because they are light enough to climb fast, but deep enough to keep the bike rolling stable and ditch your friends on the descents. As the 4.5s seem a bit faster on the flats, they’re my go-to for the flatter rides. 

SRAM RED Derailleur on ENVE Melee

At 5 ft 9 in, the 54cm Melee was the best fit for me. With a 100mm stem and 40cm bar, I am comfortable whether I am riding on the hoods, in the drops, or resting on the hook of the bar. This bike checked my boxes for speed and handling, without compromising the comfort aspect. While the Melee is a race bike, the versatile fit can open it up to many riders who may not be comfortable on bikes like the Tarmac SL8 or the Pinarello Dogma. With the ENVE 4.5 wheelset, the bike weighs in at just 16 lbs 4 oz (7.4 kg) with pedals, which is impressive considering there are a few places to easily make it lighter. 

a Trio of Melees at Contender Bicycles


ENVE has stepped up its game in the last few years. By adding bikes to its catalog, it has affirmed itself as an industry-leading bike company. Making the jump from a small, local company, ENVE now supports multiple World Tour teams, providing frames and components to Total Energies and components for Pogacar and his UAE Team. 

ENVE Melee black built with Shimano Dura ACE

If you are interested in discussing the frame or a build, visit us in-store or shoot us an email or chat on our website and we will get you sorted. Anyone on staff will be able to answer any questions you may have, but if you want someone with personal Melee experience, ask for Isaac, Tyler, or myself (Joseph), and we will give you the rundown. 


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