Mark V reviews: ENVE SES 2.2 carbon tubeless clincher rims

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

Suntour Cyclone

Decades ago, the best components outside of Europe were manufactured by Suntour of Japan, but today everyone knows that Shimano dominates the industry worldwide while Suntour is little more than name that was sold off years ago. The Suntour’s demise is generally attributed to a failure to develop worthy index shifting systems to compete against Shimano. The story is a little more complex than that. Index shifting necessitates developing the drivetrain as an integrated system, a concept that Suntour never really grasped until the company was already hopelessly behind. But in those last years before index shifting, Suntour made some of the finest friction shift derailleurs to ever grace a bicycle. And what’s interesting is that mid-level Cyclone series is often lauded as the best, rather than the racer’s flagship model, Superbe.

Recently a customer brought me a NOS Cyclone 7000 rear derailleur to replace his battered existing Suntour derailleur. This is the first new Suntour rear derailleur I have touched in over twenty years; I kept the box as a memento. The 7000 derailleur is actually from 1987, after the index revolution had already begun. For my own vintage bike project, a red 1983 Sannino, I hunted down a relatively clean Cyclone Mk.II (also known as model#3500). Aesthetically it was considered a little plain looking; nevertheless the dainty thing weighed a mere 176gr and shifted better than just about anything else.

I needed a front derailleur and I happened to find a NOS front Cyclone to match the rear. No box though.

Here is the stock Galli rear derailleur, as reasonable facsimile of a Campagnolo Nuovo Record. Not without its charm, but the Cyclone Mk.II outperforms it. Period.

Zolder Highlights

A Steady Wind

cjnf

Only real cycling talent I have is putting my face in the wind. Head down and pedaling, I push air out of the way with broad shoulders and chest. Today, just past the wind farm on Maui, heading towards Lahaina, the biggest gust I’ve been hit with stopped the bike for a millisecond, and threw me sideways. While correcting with a lean and getting back inline, Pam rolls up and says, “Hey that big gust of wind just then! I was taking a drink!”

“And you didn’t get blown off the road?”

“No!’

“Nice, I know I can trust you on my wheel.”

“A lot goes on back here.”

“And you got a steady wheel to follow.”

I’m riding a Scott Foil ‘till the end of the year, through tree tunnels, and will share the story once we’re back on the mainland.

Mark V reviews: Northwave Celsius Arctic 2 GTX winter MTB shoe

Now is the winter of my discontent

made glorious by these shoes of Yellow.

Well, if not glorious, then at least comfortable. Northwave has long offered competent winter cycling shoes, perhaps because the Italian company also has a successful line of snowboard products including boots. Of course, in the cycling world Northwave first made its reputation with completely over-the-top print ads featuring the stars of professional cycling in outlandish vignettes, like Mario Cipollini dressed as a musketeer and holding a naked blonde. Though I have known all that for years, I have never before owned Northwave shoes until now.

Northwave now actually makes three different levels of winter shoe, and each level in either road and mtb soles. The newest versions incorporate the thermal welded uppers that are carried over from Northwave’s regular cycling shoes. Though not imported into the US, the current entry-level Celsius 2 GTX (mtb) and Fahrenheit 2 GTX (road) both use the Gore-Tex Pique membrane, while the Arctic GTX versions use the Gore-Tex Koala membrane. The suggested temperature range for the Arctic versions is -25 to +5deg C (-13 to +41deg F). The top-of-the-line winter shoes from Northwave are the Extreme Winter GTX-M ($299, mtb) and GTX-R ($319, road). Though these models use a different Gore-Tex than the Arctic, I’m not sure if the shoes are designed for colder environments than the Artic shoes. In the Northwave lexicon, “Extreme” designates a flagship model rather than extreme weather. What makes it a flagship model is the dual twist-ratchet fasteners.

I chose to test the Celsius Artic 2 GTX shoe rather than the road shoe since I can count on using mtb pedals on my commute to work at least 5-6 times a week, whether or not I am motivated to train outdoors on my a bike with road pedals. And this shoe is great for commuting. Rather than clumsily adding booties to regular shoes, I can just pull on the Celsius Arctic 2 shoes, snug up the speed laces, and go. Cycling during the wet Pacific NW winters is already such a hassle that one appreciates anything that reduces the rituals of dressing for the weather.

The neoprene & velcro cuffs secure interior storm flaps, and the rest of the shoe’s upper is protected by the Gore-Tex Koala membrane. The first chance I got, I put my foot into an ankle deep puddle, and I was impressed that my foot was still dry after 20 seconds of immersion. Depending on the air temperature, the shoe can feel a little moist after a while of hard riding, but overall I feel like the Arctic 2 GTX is almost perfect in the 30-45deg F range with regular weight cycling socks. You’d definitely want warm socks if below 30deg F though, and there is no way that I would consider this shoe suited to -13deg F. If you already own Northwave standard cycling shoes, you may need to size up to wear thicker socks since their winter shoes have about the same internal volume as the rest of their shoes.

Actually for me, I find that the interior volume of Northwave shoes to be almost too much for my foot. The Celsius Arctic 2 GTX fits almost loose on me even when I have the speed laces draw all the way tight. I had to replace the stock insole with something a little thicker, though that did give an appreciated increase in arch support. I don’t consider these observations to be a complaint against Northwave so much as issues related to my foot shape. I wear a size 39.0 in Sidi and Giro shoes, and without a doubt 39.0 Northwave fitsbigger though not really longer. I generally like my shoes to fit snug and stiff, but maybe that’s not even possible with a high-top cycling shoe that still allows sufficient range of motion. A performance winter shoe needs to offer some support to one’s foot; otherwise it ends up being feeling like an UGG boot with a cleat attached, but if the whole shoe is both tall and stiff then one’s pedal stroke will be hampered. These Northwave winter shoes strike a decent balance between support and flexibility for near freezing temperatures. But despite the name of these shoes, the Northwave is not for arctic cold. If your winter riding is more about fatbiking in the snow all day than laying down base mileage before road season, then you should be looking at something from 45North. Such shoes are however much bulkier and massive.

If you consider combating water rather temperature, the achilles heel of any water-resistant cycling shoe is that there must be at least one large and difficult to seal hole: the hole into which your foot fits. The Northwave shoes have a well-shaped, supple neoprene ankle cuff that fits far better than the one on Sidi winter shoes, but in a downpour, the water will eventually wick into the shoe if your socks get wet. Or maybe it’s not a downpour but lots of deep puddles splashed by your front wheel. For commuters, this can be solved if you have rain pants that can overlap the top of the shoe and perhaps a full-coverage front fender. For rainy road training, maybe a rain booty over a regular shoe might be a better choice. If you actually plan to use the Celsius shoe for offroad biking where you might have to portage your bike through water, there probably is no setup that will keep you dry and warm while still giving the performance of a racing shoe.

The Celsius’ carbon-reinforced sole is reasonably stiff but not so much that it makes the upper seem flimsy by comparison; the shoe has a good balance both on and off the bike. The tread compound is just adequately grippy. I have definitely had shoes that could cope with cold, oily asphalt or linoleum floors better, but Northwave is far ahead of Sidi shoes, which will readily betray you on such surfaces.

Overall I would recommend the Northwave Celsius Arctic 2 GTX to commuters and other winter riders so long as the temperature is not too far below 30deg F. They are a worthy investment at $229. I chose the visually offensive fluorescent yellow version, but it is also available in black with minute accents of blue.

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