ENVE SES 2.2 rims with textured brake surface and tubeless clinchers
For the past few years ENVE has been diligently expanding their line of carbon rims in both off-road and road/triathlon models. It’s possible that their mtb efforts have been more successful in relative terms, since ENVE has been a leader in that emerging demographic while the road/tri market was already crowded long before the company entered the fray. But the SES series of rims bring much to riders affiliated to the pavement party. Including the new 2.2 and 7.8 series this fall, ENVE covers the whole rim profile range from 25mm (f&r) height of the SES 2.2 to the seriously deep 85mm/95mm (f/r) of the SES8.9 rims, with all sizes in between. Throughout the range, SES rims incorporate subtle refinements and quality as opposed to flashy gimmicks, and the quality of their construction is considered tops in the game. And unlike their other major competitors, ENVE offers their carbon rims as either alone or built into a wheel with a selection of top name brand hubs from DT and Chris King (as well as their new in-house built carbon hubs). With the introduction of the SES 2.2 in particular, ENVE also adds tubeless-ready road rims to their repertoire.
The SES 2.2 stands out among all the other SES rims because the shape and height of the 2.2 puts weight reduction ahead of minimizing aerodynamic drag. As a devout believer in aero wheels, would I like these rims?
Bike Hugger had the opportunity to build and then test a set of the SES 2.2 carbon clincher rims. The rims are available in 20h and 24h options, as front and rear respectively. Unlike the other SES road rims, the 2.2 rim set uses the same shape and height for both front and rear positions, so one would assume that you could make a 24/24 spoke wheelset. Don’t expect to see other spoke count options; ENVE moulds rather than drills the spoke holes into the rims, unlike most of the industry. This means that the carbon laminate is unbroken at these high stress areas, consequently the rim can be made stronger and lighter. But they can’t just drill a blank rim differently to change the spoke count. The two sample clincher rims weighed 419 and 421gr (f/r). This is very close to the claimed 400-410gr claimed weight for the clincher but 50% more than the claimed weight of the tubular SES 2.2. This seems extreme, but actually throughout the SES product line, the clincher rims weigh around 110gr more per rim than their tubular counterparts, regardless of profile depth. It’s just that on the 2.2, a rim without much profile, that weight difference is proportionally much higher.
The SES 2.2 carbon clincher rim is 25mm in height and 27mm at maximum width. It is designed to work best with 25mm clincher tyres, as the road market is quietly but rapidly abandoning 23mm as the conventional size for performance road tyres. If the tyre width is progressive, then perhaps the textured brake track can be thought of as almost old-fashioned as the whole road market is poised to throw everything into disc brake designs. That may be so, but there are some riders (myself included) who decline to become early adopters, preferring instead for standards and designs to mature before they start updating an entire stable of rim-brake road bikes and wheelsets. The interior of the tyre wheel is sculpted to allow tubeless tyre beads to corral the air pressure and then pop the tyre into place. With such tubeless-ready rims, you generally need to use thin, plasticky rim tape like Stans. The airtight tubeless tape is not strictly needed if you’re not using tubeless tyres, but otherwise mounting or removing conventional clinchers on such rims with a woven rim strip in place is a ridiculous chore. ENVE included both types with the bare rims, but I didn’t even contemplate using the woven strip.
ENVE gave no specific recommendations on which hubs to use, though it would be ridiculous to use cheap hubs on rims of such quality. Nothing is worse than a good, strong wheel that becomes useless after the hub craps out. Good hubs rarely come cheap, but we’re not talking about bargain shopping today. I suspect that most ENVE rims end up getting built on DT hubs, but I think that a premium American-made hub would be more appropriate. I considered using White Industries T11 hubs, since I use those hubs on 70-90% of my custom wheelbuilds. White Industries hubs are light, come in a variety of colours and spoke counts, have a titanium cassette body that resists cogs digging in (DT hubs suffer badly from this), and have easily replaceable bearings. The bearing preload can be adjusted with just a 2mm Allen wrench, but so far in my experience the T11 have rarely required adjustment. But I just happened to have a Chris King R45 hubset with the necessary 20/24H drilling, sitting unused in my cache. Introduced a few years ago, the R45 hubs use a newer, lighter version of King’s unique “Ring Drive” freehub mechanism. It’s the Ring Drive that gives King hubs their characteristic (some say annoying) mechanical whine while coasting, though the R45 version is definitely quieter than the older version, still used on their mtb hubs. The newer Ring Drive is only available in aluminium, which means that the cogs’ splines can notch the the body more easily than the White Industries hubs, but the R45 hubset is also slightly lighter because of it. One annoying aspect of King hubs is that the bearings generally loosen up 1-3 times after you build the wheel. More on that later.
I could have ordered the same spec wheel assembled in-house from ENVE, but you see, my R45 hubs are turquoise and ENVE use black King hubs….and turquoise looks cooler. Obviously. And getting the pre-built wheels from ENVE wouldn’t give me anything to say about building the rims.
Carbon rims in the rain and muck? No problem