ENVE SES 4.5 Wheelset Review

ENVE SES 4.5 Wheelset Review

Thanks to Saddleback, I got the chance to ride the same wheels ridden by Tadej Pogacar to Giro d'Italia glory, the ENVE SES 4.5. Here's my humble review, having ridden them for 7 days in the cycling mecca of Girona, Spain...

At the top of Rocacorba, Girona

SET-UP

As modern wheelsets go, a greater internal width is generally considered better, allowing you to fit a wider tyre to the rim and not sacrifice the aerodynamics. The aerodynamic profile of the rim/tyre combination should be smooth and not suffer from 'the lightbulb effect'. This refers to when the tyre protrudes outside the width of the rim, which obviously isn't very aerodynamic in the world of 'marginal gains'. A wide tyre will fit flush to a wide rim creating less turbulence as it spins through the air.

With that said, the ENVE SES 4.5 brags a whopping internal rim width of 25mm which begs the question 'what size tyre should I run?'. I called the ENVE specialists at Saddleback and we discussed what would be best for the roads of Girona. I currently run 28mm Continental GP5000S TR tyres with latex tubes; I have ran tubeless set-ups before and had mixed experiences. I can honestly say I felt the benefits of running tubeless and any negatives were most likely user error on my part, e.g not topping up the sealant...

ENVE SES 4.5 with Continental GP5000S TR Tyres

 So, I had concerns about travelling with tubeless wheels but the team assured me they would be fine and that I would be best placed running a 28 or 30mm tyre at 60-70 PSI. Now this sounds super low, especially for someone my weight (around 97kg) so again I was hesitant, but trusted the experts and that our mechanic Jimmy would set them up to perfection. All ENVE wheels are hookless and I won't go into the hooked vs hookless wheels debate, but it is generally accepted that hookless rims are better for running a tubeless set-up.

I opted for my trusted 28mm Continental GP5000S TRs and they fit immaculately flush to the rims and comfortably within my Cannondale SystemSix's clearances. When on the rim, the tyres blew up to around 30mm which is normal. You could easily run 30 or 32mm tyres on these rims with little to no sacrifice on the aerodynamics and ENVE recommend a minimum tyre size of 27mm.

ENVE SES 4.5 with Continental GP5000S TR 28c

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Day one in Girona, and I opted for around 70 PSI as we took on one of the nicest and most famous local climbs, Els Angels. As we left our accomodation in the centre of Girona and rode across the cobbled streets, to my surprise I knew instantly I had put too much pressure in. With latex tubes, and the same size tyres, I usually run ~90 PSI, so this was a huge shock to me.
We rode out of Girona and shortly arrived at the foot of Els Angels and were greeted by a road surface you could only dream of in the UK - smooth, black tarmac for as far as the eye could see. As we started climbing, the legs felt a little suspect from the travel and 2am start, but the wheels responded beautifully to the power being put through the pedals. 
The ENVE SES 4.5 wheelset comes in at a depth of 50mm front, 56mm rear. Usually, wheels this deep tend to offer a disadvantage on the climbs - of course with more material, comes more weight but at no point did they feel at all cumbersome. Weighing in at 1432g, they are lighter than their similar depth rivals, making them just as at home on the climbs as they are on the flats.
I was pretty impressed at this point, but hadn't yet scratched the surface of how good these wheels are... 
 
Top top of Els Angels, Girona

ENVE SES 4.5 WHEELSET REVIEW

Day two and we were greeted by rain and thunderstorms (which were to become a bit of a theme). As we sat in Eat Sleep Cycle waiting for the latest storm to pass, I lowered my tyre pressure to around 60 PSI front and rear to accommodate for the wet roads. In hindsight, this first bout of rain was a blessing; reducing the PSI allowed me to experience these wheels as they were designed to be ran - at lower pressures, resulting in confidence in all conditions.
Over the next few days, we took on all the famous climbs of Girona in a multitude of conditions. I ran the same tyre pressure every day and could not fault the way the wheels rode come sun, wind or rain...or even hail! 
 
Riding through a hailstorm in Girona
 
As mentioned above, the 4.5s come in at 50/56mm deep making them exceptionally fast on the flats, as you'd expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they tackled the steeper gradients on climbs such as Rocacorba and Mare de Déu Del Mont but what blew my mind about these wheels was how much confidence they gave me on the descents.
 
I have ridden many sets of top-end wheels, and never have I felt the assurity I felt at high speed and cornering than I did with the ENVE SES 4.5s. Of course, this is largely due to tyre set-up but the stability and handling of the wheels was absolutely incredible. Amongst the ever-changing weather conditions, we encountered high speed winds. It's normal when riding anything deeper than ~40mm wheels to feel the front wheel catch the wind when riding through crosswinds, but the ENVEs are designed to handle wind gusts and I can honestly say I didn't feel the effects of them once - a massive tick in the box for someone who has crashed due to wind conditions previously.
 
I'm not usually the most confident of descenders (and can occasionally overcook a bend), but these wheels had me cornering and descending the best I had ever performed, with total confidence.
Having confidence in the wheels you're riding is a massively overlooked aspect of cycling. Everyone wants the lightest possible wheels for climbing and the deepest possible wheels for going faster on the flats, but what if I told you this...
As an amateur cyclist, or someone who rides as a hobby, being able to ride faster, safely should be one of our top priorities. Not to mention the more confident you are, the more energy you save due to taking corners more efficiently and being less affected by the wind.
 
My Cannondale SystemSix with the ENVE SES 4.5 Wheels

SUMMARY

If you're thinking about spending money on a new wheelset, there are a few things which you should consider, including what sort of riding you do and what style of wheel will best fit your needs.
 
As stated above, shallower wheels will usually be lighter and better for climbing and deeper wheels will be heavier and faster on the flats. Most of us are unlikely to need a specific wheelset for various terrains, and if you live in the UK the majority of the landscape is rolling. With that said, I would always recommend a good 'all round' wheelset would be the best bang for your buck and usually would suggest a wheel depth upto 50mm.
 
The pros of a deeper wheelset are sometimes met with the negatives that they are heavier and more difficult to handle but my experience of the ENVE SES 4.5s has really made me think that these could be the best all-round wheelset money can buy.
 
In my experience the ENVE SES 4.5s are;
As fast as any wheels I have ridden on the flats, including much deeper and heavier options.
As nimble and responsive as a wheelset half it's depth, with a 25mm tyre.
The most confidence inspiring wheels I have ridden by a long way.
One of the nicest designed and well respected brands in all of cycling. They can make any bike look world-tour worthy.
 
Of course, they are not cheap; designed for the best cyclists, to race the biggest events in the world - they really are a 'no stone left unturned' piece of technology. But if you have the budget and want the fastest possible option, then you really should look no further.
 
Thanks for reading!
 
Happy riding,
Luke
VB
 

As a 'thank you' for reading this review, we would like to offer you a free tyre and tubeless upgrade with any ENVE wheelset purchased through Velo Bavarian.

The full range of ENVE wheels and components are available to order now.

Please call 01332 841950 or message us now for more information.
 
The weather in Girona in May...rain
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