Lightweight, aerodynamic, reliable and fast, these Enve 45 clinchers with Swiss DT 240 hubs are fantastic all-rounders. The UK distributor has just reduced the price on them too, so it's well worth taking a look if you're in the market for some high-end wheels.
Enve, which used to be called Edge Composites, design and manufacture in the US. The 45s are, logically enough, 45mm deep carbon composite rims. Enve also produce 25s and 65s – the clue to the depth of each is in the name – and a couple of wheelsets with differing rim depths front to rear designed by aero guru Simon Smart.
The rim is 22mm wide at the brake tracks and the walls of the V-section are slightly curved. They're certainly a V-shape rather than a U, though. They don't look anything like Zipp's Firecrest rims, for example; the profile is always angling inwards towards the spoke bed.
Speaking of the spoke bed, each spoke nipple sits completely within the rim so it won't disrupt the aerodynamics. The downside is that if your wheel goes out of true, you'll have to remove the tyre, inner tube and rim tape and access the spoke through the rim, but that's the price you pay for the step up in performance.
Lightweight and very high quality, Swiss DT's 240 hubs are a modern classic. The stainless steel bearings are of the sealed cartridge variety, well protected from the elements. Rather than standard pawls, the rear hub uses a star ratchet system in the freewheel where 18-toothed rings glide over one another when you're coasting and lock together when you put the power down. It not only provides quick engagement, it's a very reliable system. Routine maintenance is really easy too.
The wheels are built up with Sapim's excellent CX-Ray aero spokes – 20 radially laced at the front, 24 two-cross at the rear. Our wheels weighed 664g (f) and 788g (r) for a combined weight of 1,452g (without rim tape or any quick releases fitted). That's similar to other high-end wheels of this depth. A pair of Zipp 303 Firecrests, which are also 45mm deep, weigh 1,498g (manufacturer's figure), and a pair of Reynolds 46s, with 46mm-deep rims, weigh 1432g (manufacturer's figure). The Enves are less expensive than either of these those: the Zipps are £2,300 and the Reynolds are £2,000.
Out on the tarmac, these wheels spin up to speed with lots of punch and a real urgency. There are lighter wheels out there, of course – ones with less depth to the rims – but these accelerate keenly, adding an amazing amount of life to my training bike. Hard climbs on a workaday frame became a whole lot easier. More zing. More fun.
The real benefit of these wheels is that they achieve that light weight with great aerodynamics too. They slice through the air so that once you've accelerated up to speed, it's just that little bit easier to maintain, or you cruise along just a touch faster. These are noticeably quicker than standard rims and right up there with the quickest wheels of this depth that I've ever used.
They're fine in a crosswind too. You notice strong gusts from an angle a little more than you do with a lower depth rim but it's never a problem. I felt perfectly confident using these in ridiculously strong winds whereas riding with 80mm-deep rims in the same conditions just left me terrified. I'd be happy to use these in pretty much anything.
Braking on the carbon braking surfaces is okay. It's actually pretty good. It's not quite as predictable as on an alloy surface but that's always the way. You're supposed to use only Enve brake pads with these rims but Swiss Stop yellow pads work fine – UK distributors Saddleback told us it was okay and that's good enough for me.
Enve reckon this wheel is versatile enough for everyday training as well as racing. I reckon that's pushing it. I mean, yes, they'll do a fantastic job but not many people are going to spend this amount of cash on training wheels. If you can, great, go for it, but most people who buy these are surely going to keep them for racing when every bit of extra speed and saved energy counts.
The Enve 45s are priced individually at £775 (f) and £975 (r) while the tubular versions are each £50 cheaper.
Lightweight, aerodynamic wheels made using excellent components; super-fast all-rounders
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Make and model: Enve 45 clincher, DT 240 hubs
Size tested: DT Swiss 240 hubs
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Enve say: "Best described as a jack of all trades, this "Magic Bullet" is known as the ENVE 45! When we are asked which wheel set does it all, the natural response steers toward the 45. It is one of the most versatile carbon rims available, ideal for everyday training as well as uncompromising race day performance."
It is versatile in that it's light enough to climb quickly and aero enough to spin fast on the flats. Plus, the rims aren't so deep that they become a handful in windy conditions.
If you can afford to put a pair of wheels like this on your training bike, they'll do a great job, but the price surely means that most people who buy these will be saving them for racing when the boost in performance really counts.
I know from experience that the hubs will last ages with minimal maintenance. The quality of the rims and spokes means that they're likely to do the same.
You can find lighter wheels out there, but you'll only get significantly lighter if you go for shallower depth rims (or pay much more for something like the Reynolds RZR 46).
I know people are going to say that wheels costing this much can't be good value, but comparing like with like, this is a really good price for what you get here.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Exceptional performance. These are mega fast and, just as important, easy to live with. The DT Swiss 240 hubs are excellent and easy to look after.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The overall performance; the speed
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I wish it was easier to adjust the spoke tension - but that's unavoidable if you want the spoke nipples hidden away in the rims.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If I wanted to race on top-end clinchers, definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
In terms of performance, these are hard to beat.
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.