Aero wheels are being purchased more and more by triathletes and cyclists who think they can buy speed. I am in the school of thought that believes you need to work on the engine before you start trying to buy speed. So before I start this product review, I want you to know I in no wise feel like I deserve aero wheels on my bike. I do try and upgrade one major piece of my bike every year, and I just happened on the ENVE 45’s this winter by accident.
Locally a police officer was shot and killed as he served a drug related warrant. The story was a tragedy from beginning to end. Being the totally awesome and local company that they are, ENVE donated a set of 45’s, their 45 mm aero all carbon road wheel. I got them for a really good deal off of the eBay auction that the company sponsored. Once I had paid, the company sent me the wheels immediately. Right out of the box they looked great, but I wanted some changes to mine.
You guys know I am addicted to data, so I bought a PowerTap G3 from CycleOps to use for the rear hub. This is the new hub CycleOps has put together for 2012 and it does feature ceramic bearings. It is all black and it looks sick. I took my PowerTap and rear wheel to the ENVE factory that is within an hour drive from my house.
I gotta say I absolutely loved working with these guys. I worked with Matt at ENVE who typically works with dealers and he absolutely made sure I had an outstanding experience with the company. I had them rebuild my rear wheel with the PowerTap G3 and put black stickers on my rims instead of the typical white ones that are standard issue. ENVE sent my rear wheel back to me within a week and I was ready to ride.
To be fair, I was riding Zipp 101’s. These are fantastic training wheels. I have a 12-27 cassette on my Zipp’s and it has served me well. I feel like these wheels are stiff and worked well enough to get me in the top 10 in the King of the Mountain Contest up Salt River Pass at LOTOJA in 2011. The problem I have with these wheels is really the cassette. The 12-27 sort of tops out at 35 mph and there are times that I wish I had a little more. There are mountains where I ride, and if you push the downhills, you can really get moving. I put a Dura-Ace 11-28 cassette on the Enve 45’s and they are much, much quicker at the top end because of the cassette. I haven’t ridden a ton of hills yet, so I haven’t been in the 28. I am sure I will need it sometime this season.
My first ride on the ENVE’45’s was a hard ride in the wind. I didn’t experience any of the “push” in crosswinds that I wouldn’t get with another wheel. In the past I have used a Zipp 404 in races and did get pushed around in a crosswind, but to be fair I understand that Zipp has worked to diminish the amount of force put on their rims during a crosswind.
The wheels are extremely stiff and very responsive when I stomped on the pedals. I thought they responded best when I was pushing 300-500 watts. I thought at a couple of points they wanted to pull my bike out from under me because they are so fast. On the small hills I have climbed they have not been a drag at all. Remember these are all carbon wheels, so their weight is fairly low. I got the clincher set so their advertised weight is 1,443 grams. I have a PowerTap G3 hub on mine, so they do weigh a little more.
Now do they work? Objectively I can’t really say. I didn’t really establish a watts baseline before so I can’t compare my current performance with my performance using the Zipp 101’s. But subjectively, I would say they absolutely do. They feel faster starting at 22 mph. I actually really start to cruise with them beginning right around 28 mph. Now I only have about 290 miles on them in the last two weeks, but I am really starting to get a feel for them. I gotta think if you are averaging 15 mph during a flat olympic triathlon, you probably should work on your engine before you bother purchasing aero wheels. But if you are averaging 20+ mph on your solo training rides, you may want to consider adding aero wheels to your stable of equipment.
The ENVE 45’s do not have an aluminum braking surface, which is a concern for some people. I have purposely really gotten on my brakes to see if the rims heat up. I did install the brake pads that ENVE sends out with each of their wheels. If you purchase your wheels from a dealer, make sure you get brake pads built for carbon rims. I have stopped after long, hard brake usage and the rims are not noticeably hotter. I know some people who have had tires literally fall off during a descent, which puts them right down on the pavement and they have road rash that makes them look like processed hamburger. But so far so good with the ENVE 45’s.
So are they a buy? ENVE 45’s are not cheap, but I feel they are worth every penny. Besides, what else are you going to use your tax return for? Your kid’s college fund? I have met your kids and that is a waste of money. When it comes to an aero wheelset, I think ENVE 45’s are amazing. The service levels the company provides are fantastic and it feels good to support a local company. I will continue to use the 45’s as my everyday training wheel and I will post soon about how they are holding up.
Anyone else rocking aero wheels? What brand do you use/want and why? Do you think they work or are they a marketing gimmick?
And since our entry today is cycling related, here is a great motivational image related to cycling. Feel free to take my man card and repin it on Pinterest. Make sure you follow me on Pinterest people. I know, it is a shameless plug, but it is MY blog…