Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The boutique carbon brand known for its wheels and components now builds custom road bikes. Handmade in the same Ogden, Utah factory where its wheels are made, the Enve road bikes come dressed head to toe in Enve parts.
You can choose between a faster-handling Road geometry built for 25-31mm tires, or a gravel-lite-ready All Road configuration built for 30-35mm tires, and the team at Enve will configure the dimensions to your exact specifications — or, to what a professional fitter recommends for you.
Further, Enve will paint the frame, fork, integrated bar/stem and seatmast to your choice from a deep menu of colors and styles — and then paint on a little custom mojo to the center of the bar/stem, too.
In keeping with Enve’s high-end and high-dollar reputation, the bikes run between $9,950 and $12,500.
Why Build a Frame?
Enve decided to get into framesets for a few reasons. For starters, many bike brands now make their own wheels, and often quite good ones at that. Trek has Bontrager, Specialized has Roval, Giant has Cadex, Cervélo has Reserve. Cannondale, Cervélo, Orbea, and Santa Cruz used to buy wheels from Enve, but that wing of their business has evaporated.
Enve also works with bike brands on the other end of the size scale, supplying tubing, forks, bars, stems, seatposts, and of course wheels to small custom builders, who specialize in custom-built bikes in both geometry and paint.
With its own custom road bikes, Enve sees opportunity at the intersection of the high-touch offerings of the custom builders and the high-tech machines of the big bike brands.
While Enve has never made its own complete bicycle since going into business in 2007, the brand has done plenty of work with others’ bikes, from building the first carbon swing arm for Santa Cruz’s famed V10 downhill bike, to crafting the front end and fork on the Cervélo P5x.
The Goal: A Balanced Bike
Jack Pantone, vice president of product and consumer experience at Enve, said his company’s long experience with bike brands gave them a leg up when it came to building a race bike.
“For 10 years we were in the wind tunnel trying to figure out how to make the flagship bikes from other brands faster,” Pantone said. “We have seen how our wheels interact with a huge variety of frames and frame shapes, and we were always making notes of what works and what doesn’t. It’s not just drag figures we studied but stability, looking at the gap between the tire, rim, fork leg and down tube; all these things affect stability of the bike at speed.”
Armed with that knowledge, Enve incorporated elements into its bikes, such as an hourglass head tube, a truncated kamm tail on the down tube, a V-shaped seat tube, and of course the fully integrated front end, built in house with a new Aeroset headset, developed with Chris King.
While aerodynamics were a priority with the Enve road bike, it wasn’t the priority. Enve benchmarked against Specialized’s Tarmac and Scott’s Foil.
“We did a lot of aero work on our bike, first CFD work, then with prototypes in the wind tunnel,” Pantone said. “We did redesigns that got 7-8w gains and put us close to the Foil. But for real-world riding, we want the bike to be as aero as you need without compromising on comfort, efficiency, stability, and weight.”
The idea for a bike began when Enve launched its AR wheels in 2016, the wide, aero hoops designed for racing the cobbles of the spring classics. Many race bikes at the time didn’t fit the wide rims. After moving into its current facility four years ago and expanding its R&D capabilities, Enve officially started the bike program two years ago.
Pantone said Enve believes riders today don’t fixate solely on aerodynamics, but also look for good ride quality and handling.
“We know customers expect aero, but it’s not a myopic singular focus,” Pantone said. “It’s about striking a balance of all the things people are looking for in a bike.”
As far as geometry, while customers can tweak the lengths and dimensions of the main and rear triangles, the handling geometry is fixed for both models. “You don’t get to mess with that,” Pantone said. “We made a bike with plenty of versatility that still feels like a racer.”
All the Enve Pieces
Enve recently began selling tubeless road tires made by Tufo, in 25 to 31mm widths, and with the bike launch is debuted branded saddles from Selle Italia.
Now, having everything but the drivetrain on a bike puts Enve in the same space — albeit at a wildly different scale — as Specialized, Trek, and Giant, which all have the same tip-to-tail branded product. Branding vs. building products are different tasks, of course. Specialized, while equipped with massive engineering resources, does not manufacture anything; everything is purchased from trusted vendors. Trek makes some of its wheels and a select few frames in-house. Giant, meanwhile, makes all of its frames (and many of its competitors) in house in Taiwan. All three outsource saddles and tires — something Enve does, too.
On the other end of the scale, Enve is now competing against some of its own customers, the custom builders. But custom operations are often working in steel and titanium, such as Mosaic, where founder Aaron Barcheck said he doesn’t feel threatened by Enve’s move. Alchemy, Argonaut, Crumpton, and Parlee are a few of the builders to offer custom carbon bikes.
Construction Details: 742 Fit Models in Two Configurations
To guide the custom process, Enve created a fit database with frames from 47 to 63cm, in 1cm increments, and each having four different head tube things. The integrated bar/stem comes five widths, from 38 to 46cm, and the stem in 90 to 130mm, in 5mm increments.
There are two base geometries: a 73-degree head tube Race built around 25-30mm tires and a 72-degree head tube All Road built for 30-35mm tires. The trail and wheelbase are tuned towards those two experiences.
This all adds up to 742 different fit models — as a base point.
“Once we know your stack and reach from your bike’s dimensions or a bike fitter, we put that in the calculator, which pulls the best four options,” Pantone said. “Then we give you a consultation on the phone to talk about everything you like and dislike about your current bike to dial in your fit.”
If one of the fit models works, then great. If you want to tweak your frame to have, say, a slightly taller head tube so you don’t need any spacers, no problem.
The bike is built modularly, not as a monocoque. While this is a heavier and slower process, it allows for fine-tuning. A raw frame is 850g, and painted with small parts installed a 56cm frame comes to about 1,000g.
Forgoing a seatpost for a seatmast saves weight and, Pantone said, allows for better ride quality.
The bikes are built exclusively for electronic drivetrains. If buying a Shimano Di2 bike, the battery is tucked in the seatpost. The seatmast has about 40mm of height adjustment, to accommodate for the possibility of you changing saddles or cleats or position.
A computer mount is built into the underside of the bar, with a Shimano Di2 junction box/charging port hidden inside the mount.
The Ordering Experience: Custom Fit + Custom Paint
To demonstrate the process and the new product, Enve built me a test bike. We started with the fit. I’m a 56cm with a 120mm stem guy. This used to be pretty straightforward before road bikes started coming with integrated bars and stems. Now, such bikes often come with 100mm stems for 56cm frames, which is too short, and 110 to 120mm stems for 58cm frames, which is too long. So, the idea of an integrated cockpit that also fit perfectly was appealing.
I measured my personal bike, a 2013 Specialized Tarmac SL4, and sent all the stack and reach figures. The Tarmac came with a 20mm cone spacer, and the fit with a 120mm stem is perfect. Could we get that fit, but without the spacer and the setback seatpost?
Enve’s Shelby VanderSteen followed up with a spreadsheet with 13 fit options: five Race fits; five All Road fits; and three custom fits, ranging in size from 56, 57 and 58 cm frames with a host of modifications. On each, the fit stack and reach — and the saddle-clamp coordinates — were identical to that of my Tarmac. There were just zero spacers, and no setback on the seatpost. We settled on a version of a 57cm frame with a 115mm stem.
With a 73.2-degree head angle and 57.6mm of trail, on paper it looked to handle just like the Tarmac that I love.
I indulged in the custom paint process by selecting from two of three dozen or so colors and picking from the four paint templates from Enve’s look book. VanderSteen then sent me multiple renderings, showing the paint, the wheels, and the parts selection. For the stem art, I asked for the Zia symbol from the flag of my home state of New Mexico.
The bike arrived in a custom Enve x Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA travel case, with the wheels removed and tucked in their own pouches but the saddle and even the bar/stem mounted.
I was worried that the fit wouldn’t line up, despite all the careful measuring and analysis. So the first thing I did was measure against the Tarmac. Everything lined up to the millimeter — just without the 20mm cone spacer or setback post.
Riding was just a matter of putting on the wheels and pedals — and standing back to ogle the gorgeous machine — and hopping on.