ENVE M60 Forty – Long Term Review

Words Cam McRae
Date Dec 8, 2015

I was amazed by the point and shoot precision. The first time I rode ENVE wheels they weren’t even called ENVE wheels. Out of the gate the company was called Edge Composites, but a Euro trademark issue forced them to become ENVE. It was 2010 and the wheels were strapped to a prototype Santa Cruz V10 carbon and at first they were the most striking thing about the bike. The accuracy and control delivered by these odd-looking and incredibly stiff carbon circles was a revelation. 

s1600_m60forty_wheelset

Unmistakable. ENVE has taken full advantage of the large billboard with their triple decal treatment.

At the time we heard that the Syndicate could use these rims over and over again, while most aluminum rims lasted one or two race-speed runs. They were strong and light of course. What’s the third thing? Since that time carbon rims have evolved and most manufacturers who joined the game since have taken ENVE’s lead, incorporating a deep, wide structure for strength and stiffness, and more recently a hookless bead.

ENVE_m60hv_vs_standard

The HV models are the newest addition to the ENVE line – and based on my tire preferences they’d be in my wheelhouse – but I have been testing the standard M60. There is a small weight penalty of approx 75 g per rim but the HV versions can tolerate lower pressures.

Despite an increase in popularity, carbon rims haven’t dropped in price enough to become ubiquitous. Here in Canada you can get a bike with a carbon frame for under $4000, but a complete bike with carbon rims usually starts at twice that number. And while cheap carbon rims from China have begun to appear, and more and more manufacturers have entered the fray, ENVE hasn’t yet been priced out of the market or forced to shift production overseas. And the pricing makes it clear these rims are not for everyone. A set of 27.5” M60 40 wheels with DT Swiss 240 hubs will set you back US$2718. But you get rim tape and bladed spokes for that. The same configuration on Chris King hubs is only $30 more, but you’ll also pay a 100 gram weight penalty. If you opt for DT Swiss 180 hubs you’ll drop the price down to US$2400. You may be wondering what in the name of Jeebus would possess anyone to spend the price of a new top-of-the line refrigerator on a pair of mountain bike wheels, besides vanity, obsessiveness and sheer idiocy. There are actually some pretty solid reasons, but I’m not sure I can come up with 2700 of them.

not_always_rocky

The last big test of my long term review was a two week riding trip to Peru. Most of it was spent on rocky terrain near Huaraz, above 3000 metres, but this dusty descent was near Lima. Photo – Matt Warburton

Consistent with my experience ten years ago, Enve wheels remain the stiffest rims I’ve ridden. My skill level isn’t going to push most rims to the limit, but the Enve stiffness advantage is easily felt. The harder you ride the more you’ll appreciate their robust feel but any experienced rider will notice the difference immediately. 

The rims are backed by a five year warranty against defects in materials and manufacturing and a lifetime crash replacement policy. If you run over your wheel in the driveway you can purchase a new rim at 50% off local retail (rims are approximately $1000 US at retail).

mseries-application-chart

The names of the M series wheels refer to the sort of riding you plan to do. The M60 Forty wheels are aimed at riders who emphasize descending (60%) over climbing (40%).

My experience has been close to flawless. After close to a year’s use, which has included loaning my personal bike to irresponsible hacks, (ie riders who are faster than me) I haven’t had any reason to true or tension the front or rear wheel – despite one exception I’ve noted below. I’ve run pressure that was far too low in nasty conditions, and heard the crack of rear rim bottoming on jagged granite many times. I’ve crashed and run into trees, bashed bike park laps and generally mistreated these poor wheels, all the while expecting issues to crop up. 

The biggest test however was two weeks in Peru this past November. We did twelve days of riding and descended something like 12 miles of vertical. To say that conditions were rough is like saying Donald Trump lacks diplomacy. Baby heads, elephant heads, dead heads; we encountered every type of nasty sharp rock you could imagine. One section of trail above Huaraz, referred to as The Dentist, was like riding down a river of partially jack-hammered tombstones. We were riding too fast at this point in the trip and hitting rock boners was inevitable. In the beginning I’d reach down and squeeze parallel spoke pairs to check for tension and spin to check for true, but since there was never anything to report, I stopped looking.

rocky_james

James Wilson sampling the rocky goodness above Huaraz. The trails were rarely this wide but often this rocky. Photo – Cam McRae

And then there was something to report. At the end of our hardest day (more on that soon) after nine hours of hiking, climbing to 4700 metres (15,400 feet) and eventually descending, there was one last short climb to finish off. Halfway up I heard a crack. A non-drive side rear spoke had snapped where the bladed portion ended. The loose spoke played a tune when I spun the wheel but the rim was still dead true. Rather than risk opening things up to replace it, which would have involved compromising the rim tape and starting from scratch on the tubeless, I taped the spoke in place and rode with 31 for our remaining three rides. Long, nasty rides. It continued to stay true, one spoke down.

rocky_mw

It was easy to see why the trail conditions were so rough, but this was a short reprieve. Photo – Matt Warburton

My reluctance to perform surgery was also related to the challenges of removing and mounting tires on ENVE rims. The hookless bead of the rims often forges an almost unbreakable bond with your tire of choice. In my experience the M70s were much worse, but the M60s can still be nasty. That said, the tire removal and replacement went smoothly when I finally got around to swapping a spoke,. Which was an adventure of its own.

Adventures in proprietary mechanics (I am an idiot) 

Having never had a problem with an Enve wheel before, I didn’t know what I was dealing with. I didn’t know, for example, that the nipples go in with the flange pointed toward the rim, leaving the square head pointing out toward the opening in the tire side of the rim. I thought I might be able to tension with a screwdriver, like conventional spokes but I was far from certain.

Once I got home with my non-bladed replacement spoke, I learned that ENVE has a proprietary spoke wrench that pushes on like a socket. I didn’t want to go back to the bike shop because A) I didn’t want the mechanic to realize I am an idiot who didn’t know this tool existed and B) Because I didn’t want to deal with traffic and leave the house again. So it was Mickey Mouse time.

NipWrench_enve

Of course there’s a proprietary spoke wrench ($30). You’d have to be an idiot not to realize that.

I managed to get the nipple to thread on using my finger and then started looking around my shop. I tried various needle nose pliers and even bent one set hoping the mod would work. It did not. Next I took the old spoke and threaded the nipple on until it bottomed out. Then I threaded the exposed end of the old spoke into the top of the nipple I was trying to tighten. I spun it tight and then used a wrench (bladed spoke!) to turn both nipples in the right direction until the old spoke bottomed out. From there I again tried the pliers and was again unsuccessful. I kept digging in drawers and eventually found an old plastic spoke key from some long lost DT wheels. I cut the plastic end, split it vertically and forced it onto the brass nipple. Unable to tell if it was turning or not, I pushed harder, modified further, and eventually the spoke seemed to be gaining tension. I got about a quarter turn from the nipple for every two complete turns of input. It was slow but eventually I got to the required tension. But at least I didn’t have to go back to the shop. Don’t be an idiot; buy the tool.

The Bad
It’s not all roses. Even with the proper tool, truing these wheels involves removing the tire and the rim tape. Gorilla tape is challenging to apply perfectly, it leaves messy residue, and sometimes it takes more than one shot. Easton’s carbon wheels (as one example) can be trued from the outside and, because the rims aren’t perforated at all apart from the valve hole, no rim tape is necessary. Less mess and a much more reliable seal. Removing and mounting tires can be a pain, and you’ll need a long valve presta valve tube in your pack when you get a flat. And if you need to true a wheel on a ride, which I admit is unlikely, you are probably shit out of luck.

ENVE_MSERIES_50_60_specs

Some specs for you. I was riding 32 hole, 6 bolt DT Swiss 240 Hubs with an XD freehub.

The Good
In Huaraz, Peru there isn’t a full service bike shop. If I had needed a replacement 27.5” wheel it would have had to come from Lima, a 9-hour bus ride away. I had absolute faith in the Enve rims being able to take the abuse – and that adds value. I also didn’t have a single flat in 12 days of riding. These wheels are incredibly light at 1433 grams a pair, and as mentioned earlier, their strength and stiffness are second to none. You should be able to pass these wheels from bike to bike… assuming standards don’t continue to change. These are incredible wheels without a doubt. In fact they are the best I have ridden.

IMG_1942

Don’t judge my extravagance. This was my Peruvian ride. These wheels weighed 1405 grams without rim tape or valve stems. Or so. . Photo – Cam McRae

ENVE rims are made in The USA and they use processes that others don’t. Instead of drilling spoke holes, Enve moulds them so there are no broken carbon fibres. They also use removable bladders in the layup for clean, smooth inner structures, improved strength and lower weight. And while I’ve ridden other excellent carbon wheels, none have the stiffness or strength I’ve experienced with Enves, and none are as light for the intended use.

Pure Luxury
It’s impossible to talk about ENVE wheels without discussing the value proposition, but let’s be frank; these are a luxury item. Nobody needs wheels that cost almost 3G. Nobody needs a mountain bike either. Our sport, while it can be done economically, is one big extravagance, so there’s not much percentage in arguing about which extravagance pushes things too far. But keep in mind that these are the best of the best. We aren’t talking about Porsche, Ferrari or even Bugatti; Enve wheels are like getting Formula One or WRC-level equipment for your bike. Is that outrageous? Of course it is, but you’ll have to decide what that’s worth to you.


Do you appreciate luxury, or are you a value-conscious rider?

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Comments

andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - Dec. 11, 2015, 6:31 p.m.

I think you have a factual error in the third paragraph there is no chance a wheel build with DT180 hubs is ever going to be cheaper than the DT240 option. Ceramic bearings alone add $200 to the price. Perhaps you meant DT350 hubs, which are a good option especially if you are never going to want to change axle size and upgrade the bearings to Stainless or Hybrid at the first rebuild and they are essentially the same as 240s anyway? Good write up though and I am very happy with both of my ENVE wheelsets: three year old ENVE DH 26″ 32H on DT240S (at 100+ days per year in Whistler Bike Park) and one year old M70 27.7″ 32H on DT240S. One broken spoke in three years (due to a stick) and easy enough to replace if somewhat of a pain to find the correct nipple and nipple driver (could not buy either in Whistler or Vancouver in August - had to get it from Wheelbuilder) and having to remove the Stans tape etc in order to install it. Wheel stayed true despite broken spoke though.

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jon-rollason
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Jon Rollason  - Dec. 10, 2015, 10:41 p.m.

I don't mind spending money, but I've stopped short of carbon wheels. I entirely believe they're great, and all power to anyone buying them. But for me the sheer cost of them simply cannot be worth it.

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mrbungle
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Mr.Bungle  - Dec. 10, 2015, 9:38 a.m.

I am tired of going into debt for bike parts that are phased out year after year just to keep up with the Jones'
Next year it will 28″ wheels.

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kirk
0
Kirk  - Dec. 9, 2015, 1:42 p.m.

I have ridden the AM versions in both 26″ and 27.5″. I'll never forget the feeling I experienced in the first few minutes of riding them. They are extremely stiff (laterally) and somehow felt faster and more lively. Industry Nine wheels (aluminum straight pull spokes) feel vertically stiff and unpleasant. I've also ridden the new Light Bicycle rims with 31.6mm internal width, and that's all I buy now. I can't justify the cost of the Enve's, particularly because the internal spoke nipples don't allow for adjustment without removing tires, sealant and rim tape. Although you rarely, if ever, need to touch them. I think the Enve's are stiffer too. Lastly, Park makes an internal nipple wrench to fit Enve's (SW15 or SW16).

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Dec. 10, 2015, 12:36 a.m.

Park tool is a great tip! Thanks!

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andrewbikeguide
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AndrewR  - Jan. 9, 2016, 1:03 p.m.

SW-16 for 3.2mm square nipple. There is an SW-16.3 so be careful when ordering.

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pepe-lepau
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Pepe Lepau  - Dec. 9, 2015, 1:07 p.m.

I love cars too and I always watch those car racing drivers reviewing the latest Lamborghini with 800hp vs the latest McClaren with 900 hp. They say the rigidity, torsion of the chassis, bla bla bla, this one is 0.1 milliseconds faster, bla bla bla and I think, not a lot of mortals will notice any difference at all. The same with Carbon vs Alu wheels. I just went thru the process/research in order to get a new wheelset and the obvious question came out: Carbon vs Alu. I decided to go for an Industry nine enduro set. Why? Well, they are cheaper than carbon, 200grs heavier but super rigid, excelent hub and exquisite quality. Most of the reviews and videos that I've seen say that carbon is better but you don't really need it. Pro riders are a different beast, they do need them. Do you need a 1001hp Bugatti Veyron to go to work?. I understand the luxury stuff and agree, but come on, how many of us, mortal riders need to spend 3k on wheels.
What pisses me off, is that companies are just taking advantage of the buyers and charging ridiculous prices for some items. We are taking about spending almost 3k on a set of carbon wheels, where for 3k you can buy a complete Santa Cruz carbon bike. Doesn't make sense. My next wheelset would probably be carbon though. LOL

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kain0m
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kain0m  - Dec. 9, 2015, 10:33 p.m.

One part is - do you need it
the other is - do you want it

Very few of us "need" what we buy. But many "like" what we buy. And like you said - companies like to capitalize on this. It's the same story why people like to buy completely overpriced smartphones at almost a thousand bucks a piece every year, where you could get 99% of the value for 150$. Or with many, many other things in our lifes…
But I do agree. Companies should try and get some more value at a lower price range into the market - and not by artificially worsening a product (Take SLX brakes as an example: Their free stroke adjustment is just replaced by a bolt without a standard interface, whereas the XT has a Phillips head bolt in there - no cost savings, but a worse product).

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Dec. 10, 2015, 10:37 a.m.

Pepe, I hear you but no one is saying that you or any other rider 'needs' carbon wheels, right? In fact there are still plenty of pro racers on alloy wheels (and frames - look at GT) who are succeeding. Companies aren't taking advantage of buyers if buyers will pay the price they set, and it seems like there is an appetite out there for $3k wheelsets. There are carbon wheel sets that cost less (as you well know having recently done the research) and we are testing some of them and will report on where we think they fit in the hierarchy.

I can't find a Santa Cruz carbon complete bike for anywhere near 3k. Which one were you referring to? There are a few other brands that offer carbon completes for around 3k US. There will be some component sacrifices but yes, it is possible. Back to your car analogy, though - you can buy 3 great pickup trucks for the price of a Land Rover, but Land Rover still sells a lot of trucks to people that certainly don't need them.

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andy-eunson
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Andy Eunson  - Dec. 9, 2015, 12:29 p.m.

Similar to my experience. I did buy the spoke wrench and did have to dial up the tension on the rear wheel after a few months on the new pair I bought. This spring I bought a pair used from a local enduro racer for a substantial discount from new. I had to crank up the tension on that rear wheel too. They do cost an obscene amount of money, but the way I look at it, some folks spend tons of money travelling to boring places to sit on a beach, or buy too much clothing or other stuff that doesn't do a heck of lot for ones life. Bike stuff I buy gets used and used hard. I am willing to pay a premium to obtain better performance. But I can afford it.

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