This made-in-the-USA wheelset lets those with Enve envy get into a pair of tubeless-compatible, disc-brake-only hoops for far less.
Great amount of tech for the money
Relatively low weight considering their depth
Wide inner width
Hookless rim bead and the tight fit requirements of tubeless compatibility make for tricker tire installation and removal
ENVE has made a mark on the bike industry more rapidly than just about any other manufacturer. As a brand, they increased their number of wheels in Kona between 2011 and 2019 more than tenfold from 41 to 460—only bested in popularity by the much more established Zipp. ENVE’s products have always been lust-worthy and correctly named—it’s hard not to want a set of those dark, sexy, handmade carbon wheels. With aerodynamics, handling, comfort, and style second to none, it’s easy to see why these wheels have risen to the top. Enve wheels are known to be über expensive: A set of Enve’s flagship SES wheels would generally cost between $2,600-$3,100 depending on the hub, but the relatively new Foundation series greatly reduces the barrier to entry to the luxe wheel brand.
Enve Foundation 45 Wheels: Basics
Our first instinct when we saw the price tag on the Enve Foundation series was that Enve had moved manufacturing overseas, but just like the higher priced SES series, the Foundation series are also made in Ogden, Utah, USA. No doubt, these wheels share a lot of the tech from the SES, but there are some differences which cut the price down. The Foundation series uses the same rim front and rear while the SES uses slightly different rims which gives the SES a slight aero advantage at higher yaw angles, based on Enve’s own data. The Foundation series uses different, less-expensive bearings and spokes than the SES. The Foundation wheels have a hookless bead which keeps rim weight down and reduces the occurrence of flats, but that means they are compatible with tubeless tires only—be sure to check out the tire compatibility chart at Enve.com. These also only come in disc-brake models, so rim-brake folks are out of luck.
Enve Foundation 45 Wheels: The Good
These wheels are all that 99% of triathletes could ask for out of a 45mm deep carbon aero rim—at a great price. The wheels ride extremely well, and we had to pay very close attention when riding to notice any difference between these wheels and the Enve SES wheels that we know and love. Potholes and rough roads were maybe just a bit more noticeable on these wheels than with the SES, but the real-world differences are minimal. These wheels are versatile; they could be at home on a tri bike, a road bike, or even a gravel bike thanks to their wide inner width. We also liked how Enve has taken the guesswork out of tire compatibility and tire pressure with their well-researched online guide. There is an extensive chart on Enve’s website with a list of compatible tires and recommended inflation pressures based on rider weight, tire width, and intended use.
Enve Foundation 45 Wheels: The Alright
We tested these wheels with Enve’s own 29mm tubeless tires—which are unsurprisingly at the top of Enve’s list of approved tires. We found this tire exceptionally hard to mount on these wheels, despite having a great deal of experience installing tubeless tires. While installing a tubeless tire is usually a bike shop’s problem and not a consumer’s problem (thanks to the need of an air compressor or specialized chambered pump), the difficult nature of mounting or removing tires could pose a real problem for a triathlete. While tubeless technology works well and seals most punctures so that you never even knew you had it, there are times when a puncture doesn’t seal, and in that case, you’ll need to install a tube in the tire to continue your ride or race. In this situation, the incredibly tight fit between the tire and rim could become a pretty significant issue. We also tested installing a Schwalbe Pro One 28mm tubeless-compatible tire on these rims (also on the approved list), and thankfully this was a breeze.
Enve Foundation 45 Wheels: Conclusion
This is a fantastic wheelset at a fantastic price. The trickle-down technology found in these wheels makes for an amazing value, and the fact that they’re still made in Enve’s factory in the U.S. is not only comforting, economically, but also a good sign for quality control. While there are some limitations related to the tubeless tire only compatibility, this is still an amazingly aero, versatile, lightweight, and excellent performing wheel. We wouldn’t hesitate for a second to trust in this wheelset for our most important events—just with a tire that doesn’t require near-superhuman strength to install or remove.
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