Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Best known for its high-end carbon wheels, ENVE also makes stems, handlebars and now, road tubeless tires. Launched Aug. 6, the ENVE SES road tubeless tires come in four widths (25, 27, 29, 31mm) and are designed to be a solid all-round option with a real-world mix of durability, low rolling resistance, and aero shaping. According to ENVE, the semi-conical shape can shave as much as a watt off the aerodynamic drag of a wheelset.
ENVE branched into tires after seeing how much tires could affect the aero performance of its wheels, and also because of safety concerns with a variety of other tubeless tires on the market.
Tires: Watt’s the Difference?
Over the past decade, the ENVE team has spent a lot of time in wind tunnels and on the road testing wheels and, by default, tires. “As we went down the road with wheels, we quickly realized how much tires affect the overall system,” said Jake Pantone, ENVE vice president of product. And while different wheels of the same depth could return as much as a 3-watt difference, minute differences in tires of the same width could cause a watt’s difference, he said.
Design engineer Clint Child said they could see an aero difference between new and used tires of the same make, model, and width in the wind tunnel.
After considering an elliptical design for maximum aerodynamics versus a traditional round tire for predictable cornering, ENVE settled on a subtly pointed shape. Compared to a benchmark tire like the Continental GP 4000, the ENVE SES is a watt faster, ENVE claims.
The tread pattern, a deconstructed ENVE logo, is there as a trip layer for aerodynamics. “Tread pattern on road tires has nothing to do with traction,” Child said. “It just needs to trip the air to keep it flowing over the rim and reattach off the back of the wheel.”
Similar to the dimples on some of Zipp’s wheels, the tread on a tire only really comes into play at high speeds.
“The overall shape of the tire, and the wheel, has more of an effect at 20mph,” Child said. “The tread has more effect at 30mph.”
ENVE tested its tires on Hed, Zipp, Roval, and Bontrager wheels, as well as its own.
Low Rolling Resistance vs. Durability
ENVE aimed for a Goldilocks construction to balance low rolling resistance and durability. A layer of Vectran flat protection is incorporated into the tire under the tread blend of synthetic and natural rubber. ENVE partnered with Tufo for its tires. Tufo makes its own rubber compounds in the Czech Republic.
ENVE sent its tires to BicycleRollingResistance.com, which tested roughly in the middle of a batch of high-end clincher and tubeless tires from the likes of Schwalbe, Vittoria, and Continental.
“We are happy there in the middle,” Pantone said, referencing the durability of the ENVE tires.
For puncture resistance, tested by the same company at the tread and sidewall, the ENVE SES tires were second best overall, and lowest in weight for all but the time-trial specific ultra-light tires.
The tires are designed to work with hooked and hookless tubeless wheels.
While the tires come in a tan sidewall option, they are not cotton, and have a protection layer over the bead and sidewall. Child and Pantone said they have seen too many cotton sidewall tires end up with sidewall tears from friction with some carbon rims.
The Naughty List for Tires
As a manufacturer of tubeless wheels, ENVE is well versed in the variances of tubeless tires on the market in terms of diameter and bead stiffness. The company had done extensive testing (about 300 tires, Child said) and went so far as to create an approved and a non-approved list of tires for its wheels.
For proper tubeless functionality, a tire can’t be too loose or too stretchy on the rim, as that can potentially come off the rim in the case of a flat. On the other hand, a tire that is too tight can affect the trueness of a wheel—and can be maddeningly difficult to get on and off a wheel.
ENVE uses Zylon for its bead material, which is a synthetic polymer similar to Kevlar.
I got a set of 25mm tires and did a few rides with them on a Shimano Dura-Ace wheelset. I found the slightly elliptical shape to be undetectable as far as ride or cornering qualities; the tires feel like good, tubeless tires.
I did manage to pinch flat the front tire on a fast dirt descent. ENVE prides itself on making rims with a wide outer edge that disperses loads and, the company claims, reduces the chances of pinch flats. My older Dura-Ace rims have thinner outer edges. In any event, I’d like to get another set of tires and ride them on other wheels before doing a full review.
Pricing and Availability
The 25 and 29mm tires are available now, with the 27 and 31mm options coming soon.
ENVE says you should not use the 25mm tire on a wide internal rim (25mm), but the other tires can be used on any road wheel.
The ENVE SES tubeless tire costs $75, and weights start at a claimed 255g.
ENVE’s packaging will illustrate actual width of the given tire by inner rim width, and the company also has a handy chart of suggested air pressure for tires by tire width, inner rim width, and rider weight.