Out With The Old
I'm going to be brutally honest here: Up until now, the only thing that has turned me green with Enve Composites is the company's ability to convince so many people to covet its astronomically priced mountain hoops. My confusion around why anyone would spend $1,000 on a single bare rim started years before I even rode a set.
It was my experience building wheels with Enve rims (back then the company was still called Edge) that first turned me off. They were a pain. The proprietary internal nipples made the entire process, from spoke calculation to lacing to final tensioning, more difficult. An $80 Mavic rim would take half the time to build and would come out rounder, more true and with more even spoke tension. The Enves didn't even win on weight. I was not impressed.
And I was not shy about telling people as much. "Wait 'till you ride them," they'd say. "They're so stiff." That was something Enve was definitely winning at. Winning too hard. I swear, when I finally rode a set, I kept reaching down to make sure my shock wasn't locked out. Man, I could've sworn left was open. Then I flatted. And my spare tube's valve stem wasn't long enough for the deep rim profile. Awesome.
Turns out, it's possible to make a wheel too stiff. This has finally become common knowledge, thanks in part to Enve's early offerings. If you take away all the radial compliance--the wheel's ability to flex up and down a bit--there's no place for the energy to go, so tires pinch flat and rims break. These downsides are secondary to the first major issue of ride quality. When a wheel is too stiff, it tends to deflect and ricochet off stuff. This means reduced traction, less control and harsh feel. All less than ideal.
Here's the thing, though: Enve's whole reason for existence is to push limits, and that deserves recognition. When you walk out on a limb, you expose yourself to lots of criticism. What I genuinely respect about Enve is the company's drive to innovate and its persistence to continually push the envelope. I think it's rad that they work exclusively at the highest level, free from price limitations, free to do radical things. I love that they actually make their rims themselves, at their facility in Ogden, Utah. Enve doesn't just make rims, they make the stuff it takes to make rims. They're constantly working on manufacturing techniques to improve quality, consistency and their ability to continue moving the needle forward.
In With The New
The new M series of rims is proof that Enve is listening to criticism and learning lessons from each product it releases. The previous generation of mountain rims was all about building a brick wall to combat rim breakage. That caused its own set of issues. The new stuff is more focused on dissipating energy, resisting flats and providing more width options for riders.
Here's a very brief rundown of the new hoops, just so you know where the M630 falls: There's the M525. That's an XC rim. Then there's the M6 rim for trail riding. These come in 3 widths: 30, 35 and 40 millimeters wide. Next up is the M7 for all-mountain and enduro-ing. They come in the same three widths and have an integrated protective rim strip. Finally, the M930 is the downhill rim. It also has the new rim strip.
I chose the M630 because I care a lot about ride feel, and because I generally ride trail bikes with 2.3- to 2.5-inch tires. I had the opportunity to do back-to-back laps with these and a set of the new M730 wheels last July and was blown away with how much more comfortable the M630 wheels were through chunky rock gardens. The M7s got markedly better at resisting flats, but they're still radially stiff little buggers.
Still, I was a bit skeptical to go with the M630. They're feathery light, so I had this nagging feeling that maybe I should over-rim to the M730s for their added strength and flat protection--the M6 rims don't have the protective rim stip. But I was really intrigued by how smooth the M630s felt on those runs back in July, plus Enve assured me they had the same impact strength as the previous generation M7 rims, so I went for it.
I'm glad I did, because Enve completely nailed it with this rim. The wheels are a dream to ride, perfectly blending agility, responsiveness, security, and forgiveness. They ride so well, I've completely forgotten they're there. They stay under me during hard side-loading, track well through rough corners and don't ping off stuff when the trail gets chundery like the old ones did. Finally, they're not too flexy. When trying to correct something, the pendulum often swings too far in the other direction. You might think that with the shallower rim depth, 28-hole spoke count and rim weighing just 420 grams (29-inch. 27.5-inch rims are 390 grams) that there'd be too much flex, but they feel just about perfect to me.
Durability has been impressive so far, too. I've reduced tire pressure and slammed them into rocks but haven't been successful at pinch flatting a tire so far. I'm sure it's possible--the M6 rims have just one of Enve's two new flat-preventing technologies. As I noted earlier, there's no protective strip, but the hookless rim wall has been made wider so there's less chance of it piercing through the tire. It's sort of like a duller knife. It's astounding how much progress has been made on that front. The previous M-series rim destroyed tires like its life depended on it--the new one won't pinch a tire to save it.
Enve still uses those internal nipples, but shops don't need to build Enve wheels as much anymore. One of Enve's best moves was to become a wheel building house, because the internal nipple thing is really just inconvenient for wheel builders. These things don't come out of true, so you're not likely to have to take a spoke wrench to them, ever.
Enve sells complete wheels with either DT Swiss 240 or Chris King hubs, but your local shop can still get ahold of bare rims if you're not stoked about those options. Retail pricing for rims is still $1,000 apiece.
There are a ton of carbon wheels out there these days. Many of them are much more affordable than the stuff Enve is making. So are they worth it? The new and improved ride quality and flat resistance of the M630 is impressive, for sure. But is that enough by itself? I'd like to say so, but three grand is a lot of dough. The thing that makes them worth every penny is Enve's warranty. If a rim breaks from impact damage, Enve will rebuild your wheel with a new one free of charge, as many times as you need for five years.
I'm glad Enve has kept with it, because they've finally made a product worth being envious of.
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