This ENVE SES 4.5 Clincher Wheelset is about as American as a wheelset gets. The ENVE rims are produced in the US, as are the Chris King R45 Ceramic Bearing Hubs. A further benefit is the engagement system in the rear, which is just about instantaneous, and the ceramic bearings, which roll faster than steel.
Because it’s an ENVE, the rim has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any carbon rim on the market. The shaping of the rims is unique and showcases outside-the-box thinking of legendary aerodynamicist Simon Smart: SES is short for Smart ENVE System. 4.5 is a rough way of describing the wheelset. The name refers to the two rim depths. 48mm in front and 56mm in back. But there are more differences than just depth. The internal rim width in front is 18.5mm, with an outside width of 27mm. The rear is 17mm on the inside and 25.5mm on the outside. The reason for these differences is to maximize aerodynamics and stability. The front is shallower and wider to improve stability and reduce drag; the drag reduction in the width is due to the front wheel being the leading edge of your bike. The rear is deeper because stability isn’t as affected by crosswinds in back, and it’s narrower because the back of the rear wheel represents the bike’s trailing edge.
The rim shapes have been optimized for 25mm tires, though 22-23mm can be as fast or faster in some conditions.
Further, the designs were optimized in the wind tunnel with ENVE looking at how the wheels interacted with several different frames, taking into account not only fitting the wheels in, but how the wind flowed between the wheels and the frame tubes.
But ENVE didn’t rest with simply the rim shape. They utilize a proprietary molded spoke hole technology as well. This makes the resulting wheel stronger in two ways. One is that the carbon isn’t compromised by drilling a hole through the finished product. Another is that internal nipples have more purchase on the rim. In both cases, this means higher spoke tensions, and wheel that maintains its true regardless of manhandling. Internal nipples are also more aero.
Beyond the spoke holes, they also mold on a textured braking surface which works well not only in the dry, but in the wet. The wheels stop best with ENVE’s brake pads, which come with the wheels. They’re strongly recommended; non-use will void the warranty.
ENVE’s expertise is greatest with carbon. This is why they outsourced hubs and spokes. The hubs are Chris King R45c’s. Light, strong, durable, and easy to service. These hubs are built to last a lifetime. The King engagement mechanism is about as fast as you can find in a hub, and produces a lovely whirring noise when freewheeling. They also chose DT Swiss’ steel Aerolite spokes. Light, strong, aero. Bladed spokes might not seem like a big advantage, but it’s over 1w at 30mph, and even at lower speeds, it’s a marginal gain that accrues into a real benefit over time.
The set comes with: brake pads (Campy-compatible pads with Campy cassette body, Shimano/SRAM-compatible pads with Shimano/SRAM body), rim strips, skewers, valve extenders of the proper depth. There is no rider weight limit for these wheels. The rims are not approved for tubeless use.
The ENVE SES 4.5 Clincher King Ceramic Carbon-Fiber Road Wheelset is sweet. It’s 1502g of riding pleasure. You’ll want to ride them every day and then race them on the weekends. Considering how durable they are, you should.