You don't match these wheels to your gear, you match your gear to these wheels.
You don't match these wheels to your gear, you match your gear to these wheels.

First Look: Enve M-Series

No, they’re not cheap, but these new mountain wheels might be the single biggest improvement you can make to your bike.


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Enve—the Ogden, Utah-based purveyor of what are arguably the most sought-after carbon wheels on the market—has introduced a full remake of its mountain wheelset line. Whereas the previous line-up consisted of just three models (XC, AM, and DH), there are now four choices in the new M-Series: the M50, M60, M70, and M90.

The nomenclature derives from the ratio of climbing-to-descending that each wheel is intended to tackle. M50s are the lightweight cross-country rim for the rider who spends 50 percent of his time climbing and 50 percent descending. M60s and M70s are trail-oriented, with the 70s leaning more toward bigger hits and enduro riding. The M90s are burly (but not portly) downhill hoops, for riders who spend 90 percent of their time descending.

Relative to past models, the new rims have an entirely new profile, which is much wider across and more rounded off at the rim crest. (Wider rims are trending with most wheel manufacturers at the moment because they allow the tires to spread, thereby creating a bigger contact patch and improved traction.)

(A Gentleman's World/Google)

According to Enve, the rounded profile adds strength. The company says each rim is almost twice as strong as previous comparable models, an impressive stat given that we’ve never known anyone to actually break an Enve wheel. (In case you don’t believe it, watch this convincing video of their sponsored riders hammering the new hoops.)

The revised shape also helps take the sting out of rough trails by damping some of the vibrations. If we had one criticism of the previous models, it was that they were a bit harsh, so this should be a big improvement.

Like many manufacturers, Enve has transitioned from a hooked-bead to a hookless design, meaning there’s no longer any lip on the inside of the rim. Contrary to what many think, this lip never held the tire on the rim while inflated but rather (prior to the advent of tubeless design), kept the tire on the wheel in case of a catastrophic failure. 

In a tubeless setup, however, the lip created a pocket between the tire and rim where sealant could get stuck, the most common cause of burping. According to Enve, it’s virtually impossible to burp a tire with a hookless design. 

(Bicycle Sport Shop/Google)

And though the new rims are both stronger and less harsh than previous iterations, they are also lighter than past models. Most dramatically, a set of 29-inch M50s are almost four ounces lighter than the old XCs. Our test set of 29-inch M60s, built with six-bolt-rotor pattern, thru-axle DT Swiss 240 hubs, weigh 1,540 grams—only a few ounces heavier than the old XC wheels. But that little extra weight buys true all-mountain rigidity and toughness.

Now, about that hefty price tag. Many will balk at the idea of shelling out $2,718 for a set of wheels. Indeed, it’s no small investment. However, from my experience, there’s no single greater improvement to a mountain bike’s performance (especially a 29er where wheel flex can be a real issue) than a lightweight, strong, stiff set of carbon fiber wheels. The steering accuracy and ability to track a line and push hard into corners is a noticeable performance improvement, much the way a pair of stiff ski boots can help you improve your carving.

As for the concern that carbon fiber isn’t tough enough for wheel use, consider that the Santa Cruz Syndicate downhill team athletes ride Enve wheels. The team took the top two podium spots at the Leogang World Cup race last weekend. Enve also extends a five-year warranty on the wheels and a lifetime crash replacement program that gets you new wheels at half price with no questions asked.

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