The Pros: Better performance than any other rim out there; climbing, braking, cornering, and descending are all improved. Crazy stiff and almost never go out of true.
The Cons: Expensive and require special attention to proper tire pressure.
The Verdict: The world’s best rim at a price that will make you weep.
I want to preface this review with a warning: If you can’t afford a pair of Enve wheels, don’t let anyone trick you into riding them. Like a junkie looking for a fix, after just one ride you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law trying to get the money together to own a pair. They are that good. Once I experienced how much better the Enve AM rims were compared to the aluminum rims I was riding, I resigned myself to the fact that I could never go back.
Stiffness: 10 I’ve never ridden wheels that are as stiff as these are. Throw them into a bermed corner at high speed and they don’t even wiggle. In fact the stiffness has changed how I corner. On my first ride with the wheels installed on my Fox 34 equipped Stumpy EVO 29er Carbon I found myself inadvertently but consistently cutting corners too tight. I soon realized that the stiffness of the wheels required less steering input to negotiate the turn. A couple of rides later I found myself holding cleaner lines through corners with less steering correction and higher exit speeds.
The increased stiffness aided jumping efforts as well. Landing hip jumps or jumps into corners with alloy rims used to generate a vague feeling as the wheels touched down and flexed side to side. The lack of flex in the Enve AM rims was confidence inspiring and encouraged sprinting as soon as the wheels touched the ground.
Some of this stiffness can be chalked up to the 24mm inner rim width. A 2.35 Schwalbe Hans Dampf or 2.4 Maxxis Ardent fill out nicely with a rim this wide. The added width helps to support the tire sidewall and makes cornering more predictable by reducing sidewall squirm and increasing grip, qualities you can really feel out on the trail.
Weight: 9 At 440 grams for the 29er rim and 410 grams for the 650B version, there are lighter rims out there, but none of them have anywhere near this kind of stiffness, especially for a rim with a 24mm inner width. I’ve ridden very light alloy wheels before and found that they were so flexy and fragile that the benefits of the lower weight couldn’t even be accessed in any situation other than in a seated climb.
The Enve AM rims perform better everywhere, and their low rotational weight has a lot to do with this. During climbing efforts at low speed the wheels spin up much faster, making cranking over rocks and ruts on steep climbs noticeably easier. The rim’s low rotational weight improved braking performance and bike handling as well. Changing direction and switching lines is easier and encourages generally throwing the bike around to put it wherever you want on the trail.
Durability: 9 The Enve sponsored Santa Cruz Syndicate downhill team laid to rest most of the concerns with respect to Enve’s carbon rim durability by never having a race day wheel mechanical in four years of racing, but it is understandable that some concerns remain. My experience was that I had zero problems with the rims. Throughout nine months of testing I sent the wheels off of plenty of 20-foot gap jumps. I took them down the rockiest trails we have in this area with many of them offering serious rock gardens that stretch for a full mile before they smooth out.
Despite bottoming the rim out on rocks dozens of times, and all the launches on our local jump lines, the rims remained just as true as when I received them and are completely free of any dings or chips in the carbon. I can’t say the same for the stickers however, which picked up a fair amount of chips and scratches after their intimate introduction to San Luis Obispo’s geology. To be honest, if the stickers didn’t pick up some damage to prove that I’d ridden the wheels hard, I’d be too embarrassed to show up to our local freeride trail work club’s shuttle days every month.
I will admit that I am a little more careful about my tire pressures with the Enve AM rims and err on the high side if the shop pump I happen to use has a hard to read gauge. If anything is going to damage a carbon rim, it is impacts. As long as you keep your tire pressures in a reasonable range for the terrain in your area, you have nothing to worry about. If problems ever do arise, Enve has a 5-year warranty and a crash replacement program that offers 50% off of MSRP to Enve rim owners that need it.
Value: 6 Enve rims are really expensive. I am not going to sugar coat that fact. But they are also the best, bar none. If you are one of those people that are always wondering if there is something better out there to replace your current gear, there is added value in the comfort that you will never need to ask that question again with an Enve rim. You can know with certainty that your wheels are not holding you back no matter what terrain you are riding. The converse of this is that wheels this good can transform your riding experience in all the positive ways I outlined earlier, and that is hard thing to put a price on.
Bottom Line: Products that fundamentally change the riding experience are rare. Examples that come to mind are suspension forks, dropper posts, and clutch derailleurs. Enve AM carbon rims should be added to this list. When it come to performance, these rims are simply better in every way than any rim I have ever used.
Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.