Today marks a first. My first time trying carbon wheels off road. I have being riding countless iterations of alloy mtb wheels but i have never tried a carbon wheel set. I didn’t want to beat around the bush so i went straight to what is probably and currently the best carbon mtb wheelset manufacture on the market.
I was tossing up between either the enve xc or am variant and at 65g difference for the rim weight, there isn’t a whole lot in it. What cinched it for me was the extra wide profile of am rims. I like a light build but given the nature of the bike and the technical ability i felt that for a small penalty of 50g i can forego the weight advantage and chase for other qualities which i value in a wheelset.
The am rim has an inner measurement of 24mm vs the xc rim’s 19mm. To the layman, what this means is the tyre sits better on the rim and therefore provides better grip. It also provides bigger volume inside the tyre which helps with a few different things. I must say that i could have gone both ways and i reckon i would still be happy but in the end i opted to focus on the above mentioned qualities. I know Kevin rides on the xc rim’s and have found them to be everything he has looked for so i know it is by no means a lesser choice. All about priorities and needs i guess at the end of the day.
I opted to go for the wheelset and have them built up with the King hubs. Why? No particular reason i must say. The only slight reason i had to chose the CK hubset was probably the excellent engagement which for sure would be useful in technical situations and the other reason was the variety of colours i could choose (but i ended up choosing black anyways).
I decided to ride MD today as i like to mix it up between MD and APPIN. From the first few meters i picked up on the ride quality improvement that comes from this wheelset. So SMOOTHHHHHHHH. I had my pressure set at the same as my race gold podium’s which is 17.5-18 front and 25-26 rear and the feel is completely different. The small bump feel on the bike has completely changed. I was complaining about my fork not being set properly and that the small bump performance was horrid, well, after i chucked these wheels on, the forks felt normal. The fork felt like the way it should be after a fresh service. Such is the transformation in ride quality. Thinking about it, this could be to do with either the carbon rims or the increase in volume of the am rims. Maybe it is a bit of both but this was the first improvement i picked up with this wheelset.
The second improvement was felt the first corner i came across. Ok, this is what a really stiff, unbudging set of wheels feel like. I always read reviews of people saying enve wheels are so stiff and how in the corners they do not bend at all but to be honest, i always ignored it. What a load of crap i thought….not only that, these guys are many kgs greater than myself so what they experience might not apply to my weight at all…..so i thought
I know 29er’s are already point and shoot in corners but these wheels makes it ridiculous. The easiest way to describe it is this. Think about a corner littered with tree roots. Think about how you would approach that corner. Think about how you would approach the corner without those tree roots. Now apply how you would ride into that corner without tree roots to the corner with tree roots. The wheels ignore mid corner obstacles and tracks over them as if you are rolling straight. Very weird. Such is the weirdness that i realise that it requires a pretty massive change in style to my riding. In fact i nearly crashed 2-3 times today due to the new wheels because i am not used to the way they work.
I realise i have come accustomed to riding my previous wheels which i realise now is twangy. The way i previously rode on my set of podium’s was to go into the corner and then load up the front wheel and then most likely bounce out of the corner. Sounds weird but i can’t really explain it in any other way. I also know now that i might have previously used that twanginess to factor a little bit of slip in the front wheel when i go in at extreme angles and relied on the wheels to give in a little to allow me that degree of slip before the wheelset biting in again. Another way i can describe it is this. Think of race car. Think of how you would drift in that. Stiff suspension, setup for pure grip, you can imagine how, when it starts to slide, it would not be a subtle affair. It would be a sharp bite. Now think of an old american muscle car. Leaf suspension and all. You can hang the tail out in that all day long and the slide would be soft/slow and controllable.
I feel that this is the same with the enve wheelset and that is why i will need to change certain parts of my riding to suit it. I went into a few corners today riding exactly the way i do (after all i am programmed to ride like that now) and holy crap i nearly got chucked over the bars for a couple of corners. I did not do anything drasticly weird but it is clear to me the bite and the stifness of the enve wheels have completely taken out any chance of me utilising the wheels twanginess to drift into the corner a little. Now they just bite. This happened to me a couple of times today and the unforgiving stiffness of the wheels didnt care what angle of lean i had the bike at, it still held its shape and the tyres hooked in and my pants might have gotten a little wetter but alas ….
It isn’t a negative point though, more grip is never a bad thing. It just requires me to get used to it.
On the really steep stuff, i could definitely feel the extra heft of the wheels vs the podiums but the funny thing is it really only showed up in the steepest parts of MD like heartbreak hill. Everywhere else the wheelset felt like it was slightly faster. I guess the more weight, the better it rolls too. It also felt like the hub was very smooth from a pickup the bike and spin the rear wheel test. I also enjoyed the extra engagement of the CK hub. It isn’t a massive difference but it is a difference that can definitely be felt over the ZTR hubs. Great feeling to be able to put the pedal down and feel instant power.
Still early days but i can kinda see where my money went. I can’t say it is exactly worth what they are charging for these wheels but if you want the best, this has to be it. Oh yeah, the bike looks a million bucks now too and that’s important too right?
How’s the niner? The suspension can be better, the brakes can be bled a little and the rear brake cable could be extended. The cabling i think is already sticking. I can feel the suspension movement starting to effect the shifts and that the cabling is already sticking a little on the downshifts (sigh). I might take it to a niner specific dealer and let them handle the pain that is rerouting RDO”s internal cabling. I am probably going to switch to the MRP spiderless chainring soon as i now know that most of the creaking sound comes from the carbon spider on the x0 crankset. Super annoying. I tighten it pre ride and it is smooth for 1-2 kms and then it all comes back.