There are many prestigious invites you may be offered; award ceremonies, celebrity meet and greets, VIP boxes at a football game. But when you get the call saying ENVE has released the new ENVE SES 3.4 and they would like you to go try it out, well you can’t say no.
Before we would get our hands on the new ENVE SES 3.4 wheelset, we would have our bikes set up by Christian Meier and his wife Amber’s new addition to their family of businesses, The Service Course. It is part bike shop, part showroom, part maintenance centre, part spa. In short, it provides a full range of bike related services more accustomed to life on the road with WorldTour teams. The ENVE SES 3.4 wheelsets on Chris King R45 hubs would be fitted to FARA Cycling frames with a Dura Ace 9100 groupset, a part of the elite level fleet of bikes available to rent.
So what new features do the SES 3.4’s bring to ENVE’s repertoire? Following the current trend for more varied terrain use, the new wheels adopt a wider profile with a rim bed optimised for 25c tubeless tyres. The carbon braking track is moulded into the rim with an intricate diamond pattern for improved braking in all weather conditions. The wheel also features a new 6600 laminate coating which means it can allegedly handle temperatures 200 degrees higher than before.
The new ENVE SES 3.4 also aims to strike a perfect balance between aerodynamics and weight. The front and rear rims differ in depth, 38 and 42mm respectively, and differ in shapes to suit the purposes of each wheel. The front has a slightly less aero shape to handle crosswinds and cornering better while the rear remains more traditionally aero. In wind tunnel testing, the wheel aims to counter the slight pay off in aerodynamics with a reduced rolling resistance when fitted with a tubeless tyre. Our test wheelset fitted with Chris King R45 hubs and a clincher rim came in at a mere 1,416g.
The first days testing presented far from desirable conditions. Less what you would expect from Girona, and more what you would from a northern spring. A cold and relentless rain which at points verged on a downpour, combined with relenting winds and lakes of standing water. Add to this a road surface which at times was bumpy, cracked, strewn with dirt and littered with potholes. Not as pleasant for the riders but the ideal test conditions for an intended all weather wheel!
It is safe to say that performance met expectations. Even fitted with a 23c tubeless tyre (Vittoria Corsa Speed, due to availability) and a relatively low pressure of 6 bar, the ride was both comfortable and nimble. Cornering was super responsive but stable and along the straights we were unaffected by cross winds. Even a brief “oh shit” moment where the edge of the road disappeared into a rough gulley wasn’t enough to rattle the wheels. Most importantly, the braking surface performed outstandingly well even in the worst weather conditions. Saying this, ENVE still recommend using discs if you live in particularly mountainous areas.
Returning to “The Service Course” shivering and numb from a poor choice of clothing, the showers and massage facilities were a welcome relief. The next stop would be “La Fabrica”, for a very necessary re-fuelling. The cafe is set in a wonderfully historic looking stone walled space littered with cycling memorabilia. It has become somewhat of an obligatory stop for cyclists in Girona pre and post ride.
The next day brought with it the welcome relief of sun which dried the roads ready for a second round of testing. The route would be a climb and descent of the famous Els Angels, which sits close to the main town of Girona. The smoothness and lightweight SES 3.4’s meant attacks no the climb could be handled with ease with no hint of brake rub or any loss of effort. Thanks to the new diamond shaped grooves cut into the braking surface, when you apply the brakes on the descents, the wheels sing like a swarm of bees, so hairpins are both hilarious and incredibly satisfying.
The benefits in having a supremely efficient and precise braking surface is that not only do you have more confidence in speed, but it also helps encourage you to ride more on the limit. Confidence in your ability to brake lets you push out of your comfort zone knowing you have the mechanical ability to stop on a dime and not fly off the road into an abyss of treetops.
One of the main learnings was really the ethos of ENVE and their genuine passion for cycling and performance. They produce elite level products used by pro tour racers but make them available to everyone. Yes the price tags may be weighty, 3.399,00 € for this model, but when you try them it feels justifiable. Add to this a 5 year warranty and lifetime replacement guarantee and you get a real sense of the confidence they have in their products.
ENVE seem to have a fundamental interest in creating the best possible components, designed for cyclists, by cyclists. Now this is a phrase that is thrown around easily but it rang true with Ken Bloomer’s introductions and hospitality. ENVE looks after a wide range in the world of cycling reaching from Pro Teams to smaller frame builders such as Legorcicli, brands like BBUC, and people like Christian Meier. It’s about creating a network of like minded individuals who share a passion for cycling and a lifestyle based around appreciation of quality but also keeping it playful and accessible.
Honestly, with so many new factors to play, testing the wheels on a great but alien bike, it is hard to conclude a proper test, but we are very much looking forward to giving the new ENVE SES 3.4’s a proper road test later this year. They will be fighting for attention in a back to back test with more controlled conditions alongside some of the other biggest names in cycling.
For more information head to enve.com
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Words: Charles Nicholson Photos: ENVE