Fill the void.
Before the introduction of the SES 4.5s, ENVE undeniably had an impressively strong lineup of carbon wheels, but it lacked one all-around wheelset that could be used in almost any situation, a design that could adapt seamlessly to different rides. We aren't surprised that ENVE identified that gap and set out to fill it, creating the 4.5s to fill the void so perfectly between the 3.4s and 6.7s that it would appear as if it planned it that way all along. This year, the 4.5s continue to offer the same ability to dance up climbs and blast through the flats as when they debuted, now with even more control delivered by ENVE's Generation 2 brake track.
New this year, ENVE graces the SES 4.5 with the Generation 2 brake track, a carbon fiber surface that first appeared on the SES 2.2 and claims equally improved stopping power in both wet and dry conditions. The more rugged texture of the track gives it an increase in power of up to 30%, according to ENVE, and is designed to pair with a new brake pad as well.
For the rim itself, ENVE continues to trust the demonstrated success of the original wheel dimensions on the SES 4.5, which doesn't follow static, arbitrary widths and shapes. Rather, ENVE's engineers designed the rims' dimensions with the goal of reducing lateral forces and increasing aerodynamic benefits across a wide range of yaw angles to create what we see as their most versatile wheelset yet. The front wheel and rear wheel each has its own individual dimensions to account for differences in their behavior, translating to a front wheel that measures 48mm deep and 27mm wide, and a deeper, slimmer rear wheel shaped to 56mm deep and 25.5mm wide. This design lends stability to the more exposed front wheel, while the rear wheel uses its more protected position to deliver strong aerodynamic gains.
Number aside, these dimensions allow the SES 4.5 to handle crosswinds and gusts with the confident stability of a wheelset half its depth by building up a side-force equal to the changing angle of the wind. We're aware of the boldness of this claim, and we commend ENVE for backing it up by subjecting its wheels to rigorous testing borrowed from the Formula One industry, which involves subjecting the wheels to rapidly changing wind degrees at a variety of yaw angles. Much like making a sharp turn that radically changes your orientation to the wind, this realistic simulation ensures the wheelset won't unpredictably pull you across the road or knock you off-balance.
While shaping and dimensions are the brand's calling card, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge ENVE's careful construction of the rim itself, and though an obsessively clean construction has become an expected element of the ENVE experience, it's still impressive. ENVE wraps carbon fiber continuously around a removable bladder to construct the rims, routing the fibers around each hole for a completely intact, precise design that boasts the highest claimed strength-to-weight ratio on the market. Since the bladder is removable, the final product is both lighter and more structurally sound than rims that remain packed with molding material. The extra step of removing the mold adds time and expense to the manufacturing process, but the end result is worth it.
We also think it's worth noting that the 4.5s' generous interior widths grant your tires a lower rolling resistance at a lower PSI, so you can enjoy a ride that's both faster and more comfortable. Because of this, the tires will also deform less while cornering, so they'll keep a better grip on the road and let you carry more speed through turns. More good news: the rims come laced to DT Swiss' revered 240 hubs, complete with their incredibly satisfying star ratchet system and indisputable durability.
- A versatile wheelset for nearly any road discipline
- Light yet strong carbon fiber rim construction
- 48mm front and 56mm rear rim depth balance light weight and aerodynamics
- New Generation 2 textured brake track improves control
- 17mm front and 18.5mm rear internal rim widths provide stable tire platform
- Unmistakable rim shaping and clean carbon finish
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Reviews & Community
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
These are my first full carbon clinchers. I've ridden Mavic's aluminum, non-aero Ksyrium series for 10 years, so my perspective naturally has these as a baseline. My rides with the ENVEs to this point have been in hilly areas with lots of 10+% grade and with one ride having 20 mph crosswinds. Nothing in the rain yet but, besides rain, I've ridden these wheels in all the situations where any weaknesses should show. So, what are my thoughts?
First, the wheels are very quiet. The DT Swiss 240 freehub is extremely quiet -- so quiet that one rider riding beside me commented that he couldn't hear the ratchet at all. The quietness means you get almost no vibration from the freehub, which contributes to . . .
Second, the wheels roll very smooth. Even at 90psi/100psi front/rear, the wheels seem to smooth out chipseal even riding winter training tires (Gatorskins). (I normally run 80psi front and rear.) I expected harshness, but these wheels are not harsh by any means and they roll smoother than my Ksyrium Pros on the same roads and even a little higher pressures.
Third, the braking. You get used to the jet engine sound on one ride. It's not loud. It's just different. (And it offers the added benefit of telling you when a brake is rubbing.) How good is the braking? It's not as good as with the aluminum Ksyriums but it's not bad. Certainly adequate. It's consistent. I never worried about lockup. (I have yet to ride these in the rain.)
Fourth, how about crosswinds? I rode these wheels on an extremely windy day with unpredictable crosswind gusts. I could feel the crosswinds push, but it was never uncontrollable or nervous. Not much more than it would have been with the low profile Ksyriums. I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn't shy away from these wheels for fear of crosswinds. It's not an issue.
Fifth, how stiff are the wheels? Hmmmmm. Historically, I have adjusted my brakes to ride about 1mm from the rim. With these wheels, that was too close. On level ground, I flexed the rear wheel enough to cause brake rub at two points in the pedal stroke. I couldn't do it one-leg pedaling, but casual two-leg pedaling flexed the rear wheel 1mm. I adjusted the brakes to sit about 4 or 5mm from the rim. Problem solved. Pretty much. After the adjustment, I intentionally put a lot of power down, standing, on a steep climb. I wanted to see if I could flex the rear wheel. I weigh 174 lbs. and I was intentionally trying to flex the wheel. I did. Even at 4 or 5mm clearance, I could cause the brakes to rub going up that climb. Is that too much? You have to decide that for yourself. For me, it's not a big deal. I'm not a climber and I usually ride more steadily up climbs. This wasn't my normal climbing style. (But aren't dedicated climbing wheels pretty flexy anyway?)
But what about aero? This is the question everyone wants to know the answer to: Are they faster? The only answer I can give you is, "maybe." One a long, flat road where I normally ride at about zone 3.9 to 4.5 power at a given speed, I rode these wheels at low- to mid-zone 3 at the same speed. Was that due to differences in wind direction/speed that I didn't notice? Maybe. Was it due to differences in tire inflation pressure? Maybe. I don't know. These wheels seemed a little faster there. But at certain yaw angles, these wheels are measurably, noticeably faster than my Ksyriums. I don't know how often you can count on getting those beneficial yaw angles but, at those angles, these wheels are amazing. Startlingly fast. But straight into a 20 mph headwind? Not so much. I'm not sure there's much benefit straight into a headwind.
Bottom line: I'm glad I bought them. Great wheel.
Money well spent
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I bought basically these same wheels (the 2015 model with a different brake track) in early March 2016. I have put just about 1,500 miles on them now. Bottom line is I love them! I had a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elites Clinchers. I had long planned on investing in a pair of carbon clinchers. After a lot of research I settled on the 4.5 SES Enve wheels. I immediately could tell the difference on the first ride. It took much less effort to hold speeds over 20mph. It just seems that once they are up and spinning at a decent speed they are very easy to keep spinning. I was a little worried how cross winds might affect these wheels and I have noticed practically no effect from crosswinds and I have ridden on several 20+ mph wind days. These wheels just want to spin and spin and spin. I can't compare them to a bunch of other carbon clincher models but coming from alloy clinchers there is no comparison. I was telling someone the other day that I'd rather spend the money on a set of these wheels than upgrade a bike. I don't have any mountains around me so I don't know how the 4.5s are on long climbs but I have done some small climbs in the Ozarks and lots and lots of rollers and I think they have performed great on these. Overall I would guestimate with the same perceived effort I can ride about 1 mph avg. faster over the course of a 30+ mile ride. It's not scientific of course but that's my guess.
I have only ridden in very light drizzle or with the roads still a little wet and I haven't felt the braking is a problem at all. Even on a few descents I have done I felt very confident in the braking and I understand the model now available has been improved. I can't speak to how they do on a really steep and curved downhill descent. However, very light rain/drizzle hasn't been too big of a problem. You just get a little bit of a squeaking noise when damp or wet.
If there is any downside which is probably true of any carbon clincher is you do have to be careful with potholes, etc. I have had a few more flats on these than my Ksyriums.