Introducing the Revised ENVE SES Wheel Lineup

Written by Alvin Holbrook, on May 26, 2022

We have had a strong relationship with ENVE for years. It helps that they build their carbon wheels just up the road from us in Ogden, Utah, but they also have a history of building the finest carbon wheelsets available. They’re seen as a go-to of sorts for those who want the best and as such we stock their array of carbon wheels for almost all uses.

ENVE has announced their fourth generation of SES (Smart ENVE System) wheels, a simplification of their road wheel lineup. The lineup is composed of four wheels: a climbing-specific wheel, a speed-over everything wheel, and two wheels that can do just about anything a road rider, gravel racer, or anyone in between might ask of them. These wheels are about being as fast as possible for the specific use, with new features, lower weight, and a whole lot more speed in the real world. We've put together this guide to the latest ENVE road wheels to help you choose

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enve ses 3.4 wheels in stock gravel bike contender bicycles

Updates to ENVE Road Wheels

ENVE is making a big deal of this fourth generation of bicycle wheels by making wheels that not only perform well in the wind tunnel, but also perform exceptionally on the open road. As a result, all of these wheels are designed to work as a package - front wheels are designed with stability in mind, and rear wheels are designed with drag reduction in mind. 

Generally speaking, each wheel gets a lighter carbon layup, slight refinements to shape to provide better aero wheelset efficiency. The rim shapes are all new, with a slimmed down range to four wheel options. Each wheel uses ENVE’s Premium road hub, which we’ve come to enjoy. The ratchet system is reliable and quick-engaging, and the three freehub options - Shimano, SRAM XDR, and Campagnolo N3W - cover the gamut of options.

There are no longer options from Chris King or Industry Nine hubs; if you want to use those hubs you'll have to reach out to an ENVE dealer for custom wheels. We at Contender Bicycles are happy to help.

enve wheels 2022

All ENVE wheels use their Wide Hookless Bead, which on the surface is the same as every other hookless bead that most carbon rims come with. Yes, we’re going to talk about hookless beads. These are a point of contention for most as rims have come with hooks to keep tires in place for decades. But besides strength and improved engagement between rim and tire, a big reason for hookless beads is to prevent punctures from pinching. Interestingly, the ENVE SES 3.4 and SES 4.5 wheels have wider bead walls. These make the rim stronger against the square edges they’re more likely to see, but they also improve aerodynamics around wider tires.

Let’s Talk Aero

Wheels previously were designed for aero at 48 kph/30 mph, but this latest generation is also designed at 32 kph/20 mph. The new wheels are all designed around ENVE’s 27mm road tire, but are purpose-built for different circumstances.

The cycling world has learned over the years that aerodynamics matter at just about every level. Airflow matters at low speed when climbing, it matters riding gravel roads in a headwind, and it matters in a whole array of windiness. ENVE knows this better than most. As such have designed their front wheels to be shallower than the rear wheels with a more rounded rim profile for improved crosswind stability. The rear rim is deeper, sharper in shape, and designed to reduce drag. But they’ve gone further than that, adding in blunt spokes up front to further increase stability in crosswinds, while emphasizing deeper, more obviously bladed spokes out back to minimize drag.

enve wheel review contender bicycles aero efficiency

ENVE’s proof is in the pudding, or at least the bar chart. The critical notes are that regardless of whether you’re riding at pro speeds or at more normal speeds, ENVE makes some of the fastest wheels around. The 4.5 AR seems to be the most balanced wheel, offering aero efficiency not far off from the new 6.7 wheel. Further, its efficiency against wind resistance at an angle performs well even against deeper wheels. Paired to its 25mm internal rim width, the 4.5 looks like the aero choice for those who use wider tires.

But aero is only as valuable as the situation in which it is placed. Cyclists who find themselves going up, down, and all-around will be better off with an aero-optimized but lower-profile rim. As such, the ENVE 2.3 wheelset gets a narrower 21mm internal rim width. The ENVE 6.7 gets a slightly wider 23mm internal rim width. But the ENVE 3.4 and 4.5 wheelset feature a 25mm internal rim width and a substantially larger Wide Hookless Bead, meaning optimized aerodynamics around the wider road tires that are likely to be used with mixed surfaces.

The ENVE Four-Wheel Lineup?

ENVE SES 2.3 Carbon Wheels

ENVE is based in Ogden, Utah, and they have a whole mess of climbs beautiful mountain climbs around them. And while weight makes a difference on hilly terrain and steep climbs, there’s no reason why those riders can’t get some level of aero efficiency. The ENVE SES 2.3 wheels are for those who value low weight on steep climbs or hilly courses, and value stability when descending. The SES 2.3 gets a 28mm rim up front, a 32mm rim out back, and weigh in at just 1197g.

ENVE SES 3.4 bike wheelset in stock contender bicycles

ENVE SES 3.4 Carbon Wheels

The ENVE SES 3.4 wheelset is seen almost as often on gravel bikes as it is on road bikes. Despite ENVE’s own G-series gravel wheels, the 3.4 is a popular choice for gravel riders looking for an aero edge. But those looking to ride only on the road will benefit from the low weight, width, and strength of the 3.4. This latest iteration of the SES 3.4 takes many of the dimensions of the popular SES 3.4 AR wheel. That means a 39mm rim up front, 43mm rear rim, with an internal rim width of 25mm and a wider 32mm external width. Total weight is just 1390g thanks to a lighter carbon layup.

ENVE SES 4.5 wheelset in stock contender bicycles

ENVE SES 4.5 Carbon Wheels

The ENVE SES 4.5 wheels receive an entirely new design that ENVE claims is the ‘quintessential aero road wheel.’ The 4.5 wheelset gets the same internal and external rim widths as the balance 3.4, but it is a whole lot deeper, with a 51mm front rim and 56mm rear rim. The testing shows this wheel is almost as fast as the new SES 6.7 wheel in most circumstances, but it's wider hookless bead makes it worthwhile on the cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix or at your local road race. An ENVE SES 4.5 wheelset weighs just 1450g, or about 120g lighter than the previous 4.5 AR.

ENVE SES 6.7 wheelset in stock contender bicycles

ENVE SES 6.7 Carbon Wheels

The ENVE SES 6.7 wheelset is a fairly new option that replaces both the previous generation ENVE SES 5.6 and ENVE SES 7.8 wheels. These are all about aerodynamics and rolling efficiency; while they’re best optimized around a 27mm tire like the other wheels, the 23mm internal rim width makes them compatible with a 25mm tire should the rider choose to do so. These wheels are as aerodynamic as the previous 7.8 wheels, more aero than the previous 5.6, and a whole 150g lighter than the 7.8 at just 1497g.

Conclusion

The fourth generation of ENVE SES wheels are all about going fast, but in the real world. The range of wheels receive all new shapes, layups, and designs that make them smoother riding, faster in all situations, and surprisingly lighter too. And with ENVE’s excellent warranty and rider protection programs, we are confident these ENVE wheels will continue to be some of our favorites.

We have ENVE wheels in stock now, including the new 4.5, 3.4, 2.3, and 6.7 all ready for your next custom build. Contact us by phone or email to get started.

Words by Alvin Holbrook. Images provided by ENVE Composites.


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