Choosing a set of tubular race wheels is often a process fraught with second-guesses and concessions to either weight or aerodynamics. That is, unless you have ENVE's SES 3.4 Carbon Tubular Road Wheelset with ENVE Ceramic Hubs at the top of your list. It has earned a reputation as something of a unicorn among race wheels with its ability to climb like an eagle and slice through the wind with an aerodynamic prowess that puts many deeper-profile wheels to shame.
This 3.4's lightweight carbon hubs feature DT Swiss' star ratchet internals for lightning fast engagement and silky smoot speed, while the versatile 3.4 rim gets an update for 2017. With a wider profile than its predecessor, the 3.4's updated rim shape expands the platform's famed versatility with claims of increased stability, more confident handling, and an overall faster, smoother ride.
The new rim profile features a mammoth 27.5mm external rim width for both front and rear in comparison to the previous 3.4's 26mm front and 24mm rear combination. ENVE says this wide stance optimizes aerodynamics with a 25mm tire, which in turn allows lower tire pressure for a smoother, more efficient ride than old-school 23mm options.
The rim depth continues ENVE's commitment to a shallower front and deeper rear rim pairing, but brings the numbers closer together with the front rim gaining 3mm to a 38mm depth and the rear dropping 3mm to land at a 42mm depth compared to the previous rim profile. ENVE claims that this new combination improves handling and stability in variable wind conditions without sacrificing any aerodynamics, which means you'll be riding smooth instead of wrestling to keep your bike in line at speed. At the brake track, the 3.4 carries over 2016's in-molded Gen 2 brake track, which offers 30% stronger stopping power and the ability to retain 95% of its braking power when being used in sloppy, wet conditions.
As with all its SES wheels, ENVE uses its most sophisticated technology and engineering techniques to create this fast, stiff, and aerodynamic wheelset. The ENVE SES series boasts the highest strength-to-weight ratio on the market, due in part to ENVE's patented process of molding in spoke holes, nipple seats, and valve stem holes. Knowing that carbon fiber gains strength from continuous fibers, ENVE routes the fibers around each hole in a 100% intact design, which allows a lower weight at the spoke face and adds overall rigidity to the rim. ENVE also removes the rim-shaping inflatable bladder in the rim, which, while time-consuming, serves to reduce rim weight and makes for a perfectly tensioned wheel build.