Specifically the wind. A series of fairly rash decisions over the past couple of weeks has resulted in me being the owner of a brand new set of Enve Composites Smart series 3.4 Tubular wheels. I say rash decisions only because of the price, as I’ve wanted this specific wheelset ever since they announced them more than a year ago and wanted a set of Enve wheels longer than that. Want fulfilled. Wheels obtained.
Yesterday was the perfect day to test them. A perfect Spring day with 15-20 mph wind gusts and a sustained blow of 10mph heading directly North. I thought it best to start out by heading South and earn my tailwind. The sound of carbon rims on pavement is unmistakable. The Enve 3.4s deliver the typical whoosh, but are far more subdued than a lot of deeper section rims. They are light. 1230 grams built up with Chris King R45 hubs for Campagnolo and Sapim CX-Ray spokes. Final weight came in at 1900 grams after gluing up Vittoria Corsa Evo CX tires, Enve skewers, and a Campy Chorus cassette. To put that in perspective, my clincher wheelset that I have ridden and raced on for several years weighs near 1900 grams without tires, tubes, skewers, or cassette.
I rode South on backroads, hitting a few of our local climbs – Burke Hollow, Pulltight, etc. Climbing was still climbing. Something I am not great at and didn’t expect these or any wheels to fix. Braking on the descents felt as smooth and controlled as any aluminum rim. The Enve-supplied gray brake pad compound is a perfect match to the textured braking surface of the rims. Crosswinds on the downhills pushed me sideways, but the wheels didn’t try to steer or change direction. They feel like normal wheels in most conditions.
Most conditions. After a few hours of working my way South into the headwinds and West into a crosswind, I turned North and headed towards home. An extended flat on Arno Rd after a short descent let me see how the wheels felt when held at speed. This is where they start to feel like more than a normal wheelset. I spun them up and held onto a high gear and cadence until I could hold it no longer. Looking at the trip segment shows that I averaged 25mph for 7 miles of flat-to-rolling terrain. How much of that speed was perceived vs actual I can’t tell just yet.
I will be riding these wheels tomorrow in our local version of the “Tuesday Night World’s” where everyone comes out and pins invisible numbers on their jerseys so they can race on open streets for no prize money after a day at the office. It’s usually fast, with a few rolling hills over a fairly short 26 mile distance. Most weeks I have to work really hard to keep up with the front group. If there’s an advantage to be had by simply bolting on a new set of wheels, well then maybe I won’t have to work quite so hard tomorrow.
Aero carbon tubulars are expensive. A luxury, definitely. These are built to be ridden hard and that’s how I intend to use them. One of my personal tenets of cycling is that the bicycle is always to be treated with respect, but never reverence. If it’s not used it was a waste. Use, but not abuse. (and lack of use is abuse) I have more to say about the everyday practicality of tubular tires, but it will have to wait. Right now I have headwinds to cheat.