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by Dave Rome
April 10, 2020
The annual Sea Otter Classic trade show isn’t happening as usual this month, unfortunately, so to fill the gaping tech news void left in its wake, we went ahead and put together our own virtual event, which we’ve playfully dubbed … Pond Beaver 2020! We’ve gathered up a mountain of information and images of new gear to come this season, and we’ll be rolling it out to you in a satisfyingly steady stream over the next few weeks.
The Ultegra to Shimano’s Dura-Ace, the Pro range to Specialized’s S-Works, and now, the Foundation Collection to Enve’s existing premium wheel lineup. Yup, Enve has announced its entry into the lower-cost (it’s all relative) carbon wheel market. They’re priced at US$1,600 / AU$2,899 / £1,800 a pair, feature much of the same technology and the same warranty as the top-tier offering, and are even still made in their Ogden, Utah facility.
The Foundation Collection currently includes three new wheelsets. For the road these are the disc-brake-only Enve 45 and 65, offering 45 and 65 mm depths respectively. Mountain bikers get the burly AM30 (intended for trail and enduro riding). I’ll focus on the road wheels.
Enve says the new Foundation Collection is a strategic approach to the “commoditization of carbon wheelsets” and has been made possible by improved manufacturing efficiencies. Regardless of the reasoning, these new wheels offer a US$900+ price drop compared to Enve’s premium offerings, so what’s lost? Let’s dive in.
Enve will offer two Foundation-level wheels for the road: the Foundation 45 (shown here) and the Foundation 65.
The new Foundation 45 and 65 wheels take direct aero cues from Enve’s SES rim shapes. However, where the SES wheels offer rim shapes specifically optimised for the respective front and rear positions of the bike, the new lower-cost wheels feature the exact same 24-hole rim front to back.
Both the Foundation 45 and Foundation 65 use the same internal and external widths, and the same general rim shape. The only real difference is the section depth.
Across both 45 and 65 mm depths, that rim offers a 21 mm internal and 28 mm external width. Enve states the rim is aerodynamically optimised for use with a 25 mm tyre, while wider and more-efficient-rolling tyres can be used at the cost of aerodynamic performance.
Taking a cue from Enve’s SES AR, the wheels feature a hookless tubeless bead. “We choose hookless because it allows us to consistently produce the critical dimensional tolerances tubeless requires,” stated Enve’s VP of R&D, Scott Nielson.
Enve’s new Foundation road wheels feature tubeless-compatible hookless rim bed shapes.
However, like with the AR wheels, that hookless bead comes with significant stipulations over suitable tyres, and whether running inner tubes or not, Enve offers a list of specific tubeless tyres that pass its internal safety tests with these rims. That’s a test that sees a tyre inflated to 1.5x its maximum quoted pressure — certainly a testing model that’s playing it extremely safe.
Much like Enve’s other rims, the Foundation collection features moulded-in spoke and valve stem holes. According to Enve, the result is continuous fibres that increase the strength of each spoke hole, something that results in a lighter and stronger rim.
The new Foundation wheels aren’t quite as aerodynamically efficient as other models in the range that use staggered profiles front-to-rear (at least according to Enve’s data), but the differences are very minor. The price differences, however, are not. Enve tested its Foundation wheels at the UK-based Mercedes F1 wind tunnel. All wheels were tested on a Scott Foil Disc, and at 48 km/h.
I always take the specific numbers with a ground-down grain of salt, but the summary is that the new wheels are said to retain the same crosswind stability as the SES 3.4, while giving up a little in absolute aerodynamic performance.
More cost-savings in the 45 and 65 wheels come through a cheaper version of Enve’s own hub. This new hub uses the same internals as Enve’s Premium road disc hub, but offers a simplified and smaller-flanged (by 5 mm) hub shell.
Inside you’ll find the same “ID360 40t ratchet drive mechanism” and sprung automatic preload system, the latter being designed to provide adjustment-free use. The sealed bearings within are still sourced from NTN, but are a cheaper variant compared to the custom stainless-steel versions used in the premium hubs.
Internal nipples are used on both wheelsets because they allow for smaller (and, thus, stronger) holes.
The hubs use a Center Lock mount for the rotor, and are claimed at 124 g and 252 g for the front and rear (Shimano freehub) respectively. Shimano, SRAM XDR, and Campagnolo freehubs are available.
Similar cost savings are seen with the spokes, and where Enve’s premium wheels use Sapim CX Ray spokes, the Foundation models use the heavier, but still bladed, Sapim CX Sprint spokes.
A summary of the lower cost Foundation wheels and Enve’s pre-existing premium options.
All told, the Foundation 45 and 65 wheels carry claimed weights of 1,541 g and 1,621 g respectively. That’s not too far off Enve’s more expensive options, and according to the company, they’re figures that still beat much of the big-brand competition for the money.
Once an afterthought, more and more carbon wheel manufacturers are adding value through extensive warranty and crash-replacement programs. Enve’s is a five-year warranty against material and workmanship defects, while a generous lifetime incident-protection program is available to (original) owners who damage their wheels while “riding, crashing, or transporting their bikes”.
In the end, the US$900 reduced price that comes with the Foundation wheels seemingly results in a product that is slightly slower, heavier, a little less stiff, and with ever-so-slightly reduced bearing durability compared to the premium offering. Still, Enve seems confident its Foundation wheels will be more than competitive with other big-brand options in the price category. They’re available now.