First Look: ENVE 45 and ENVE 65 Wheelset Review

Written by Contender Bicycles, on March 03, 2021

Few brands carry the prestige ENVE Composites. At the time of their 2007 introduction, ENVE quickly found themselves at the forefront of carbon wheel and component technology. Their wheels carry a ‘wow’ factor that manages a combination of good looks, class-leading performance, and impressive ride quality, regardless of whether it's an ENVE road wheel, gravel wheel, or mountain bike wheel. Perhaps their only weakness was the price, as carbon components made here in Ogden, Utah can be expensive. But with the new ENVE Foundation Collection, those same values carry to a more manageable price point.

What is the ENVE Foundation Collection?

In short, the ENVE Foundation Collection consists of two road bike wheelsets: the ENVE 45 and ENVE 65. Both bring ENVE levels of quality and performance to a $1600 price point, and are positioned alongside the brand’s top-spec SES wheelsets as a complement, much like Shimano Ultegra complements a high-zoot Dura-Ace wheelset. All Foundation Collection wheels are made in the U.S.A. and still carry the brand’s lifetime incident protection program, as well as what they call their ENVE wheelset ‘core technologies:’ ENVE 45 & 65 Foundation Wheels - Contender Bicycles

  • Aero Efficiency and Stability
    • ENVE claims that aerodynamic optimization is key to improving the ride, handling, and speed of any road bike, and that is reflected in ENVE road rim shapes. As such, these wheels offer similar rim shapes to their aero-optimized SES rims, leading to strong aero efficiency and crosswind stability. All of their rims are aero-optimized around 25c to 28c tires.
ENVE Foundation Wheels Rim Profile - Contender Bicycles
  • Tubeless Optimization
    • These rims use a hookless sidewall design that ENVE says leads to a stronger rim and more precise fit with wheels. As a result, they are tubeless tire-only, though one can run a tube with a tubeless tire without issue. ENVE has led the pack in tubeless tire compatibility and ease of use, for the advantages of lower rolling resistance, lower tire pressures, and fewer overall flats.
  • Anti-Pinch Flat Protection
    • Few wheel brands claim to have anti-pinch flat protection, but ENVE says that their unique rim profiling leads to a 60+% improvement in pinch flat resistance and a 30+% improvement in impact strength against rocks, curbs, and whatever else your rim might come across.
ENVE Foundation Wheels - Flat Protection - Contender Bicycles
  • Molded Spoke Holes
    • Rims aren’t only about how a tire sits in the rim, but how a spoke tensions a rim. After all, a pulled spoke not only ruins a ride but a whole wheelset too. ENVE’s answer is a molded rim with molded spoke holes and a conical nipple seat that ensures wheel reliability that lasts is made to last. The end result, they claim, is that ENVE wheels require little spoke tension and fewer broken spokes, and an overall more durable set of wheels.
ENVE 45 & 65 Foundation Wheelsets - Molded Spoke Holes - Contender Bicycles
  • Warranty and Lifetime Incident Protection
    • ENVE has the backs of everyone who wants the best in performance, reliability, and longevity. As such, all ENVE wheels are covered by their Lifetime Incident Protection, which protects the original owner from incidents that the rider is responsible for. This includes impact damage, crashes, and any other unlucky mishaps. They also include a five-year warranty to protect the original owner from material and workmanship defects.

The Wheels

The new ENVE 45 carbon wheelset features all of the brand’s ‘core technologies’ paired with a balanced 45 mm rim depth. This is their all-arounder wheelset, and at 1541 grams for a complete wheelset, there isn’t a ton given up here despite the $1600 price point. It uses a new hub that uses the same freehub design as their ENVE alloy hubs. There are also Sapim CX-Sprint bladed spokes, a nice touch while some other wheels at this price point use standard round spokes. ENVE Foundation Wheels - Hubs - Contender Bicycles Want something with more of an aerodynamic edge? Check out the ENVE 65 wheels. The 65 offers up their new ENVE alloy hubs and Sapim CX-Sprint bladed spokes but uses a deeper 65 mm rim. It shares the $1600 price point and weighs in at 1621 grams for a complete wheelset, a great choice of carbon wheelset for an aero road bike or tri bike.

Interestingly enough, ENVE released a bunch of aero data on their new wheels, how they compare to similarly-priced carbon wheels, and even how they compare to other ENVE wheels. These two rim profiles place the wheelsets essentially in between the ENVE 3.4 and ENVE 4.5, and ENVE 5.6 and ENVE 7.8 not just in overall shape, but in pure testing numbers. While crosswind stability and ride quality are not quite up to the level of their more expensive siblings, they compare nicely in weighted overall drag at both 20 mph and 32 mph. ENVE 65 Foundation Wheels - Contender Bicycles ENVE touts a "full carbon laminate that has been tuned for vibration absorption to combat fatigue over long hours in the saddle." We talk all the time about the mythical "ride quality" when discussing road bikes. The fact of the matter, however, is that a good set of carbon wheels can transform how a bike rides. Sprinting and out-of-the-saddle climbing is certainly more responsive, accentuated by the increased stiffness afforded by carbon. And while carbon fiber can naturally provide a smoother ride over rough road surfaces, typically a wheel manufacturer needs to pay special attention to ride quality.

Both the 45 and 65 rims have a 21 mm internal width, but a massive 28 mm external width. Just a few years ago, a 21 mm internal width was commonplace on XC mountain bikes, but the 28 mm external width might be the most interesting. While these wheels don't explicitly use the ENVE SES rim profile, this rim width is decidedly new-school. In short, tires can be (and should be) run at lower pressures, yielding a greater contact patch with more predictable cornering. Aero benefits aren't all these wheels offer. ENVE 45 Foundation Wheelset - Details - Contender Bicycles But what about the competition? Well, they certainly compare favorably to other road bike wheelsets. Of course, there are a few differences, but in essence, these Foundation wheels manage similar if not better performance in regards to aerodynamics and price-to-weight ratio. It makes for surprising value for money from a company not known for their “value propositions”, made all the better by being a local company that has a track record of standing behind their products. ENVE Foundation Wheels - Contender Bicycles Conclusion

Knowing our neighbor just half an hour north of us, ENVE wheels are tech-forward with the requisite data to justify its pricing. However, there is much more to how a set of wheels functions on a day-to-day basis than pure numbers or a solid lifetime warranty. We’d love to know how the wheels feel cornering, how stiff they might be, and whether or not these wheels ride harshly, and when we do we will report our findings. But in the meantime, we feel that these wheels are every bit as good as what one would find at similar price points, backed up by a Made in the USA company that offers Lifetime Incident Protection. Not too bad in our eyes.

We are a dedicated ENVE Ride Center, meaning we have ENVE wheelsets in stock at Contender Bicycles, including these new ENVE Foundation wheels. Give us a call during business hours or send us an email at any time to info@contenderbicycles.com with any questions.


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