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    ENVE M-Series Rim Launch – BikePark Wales

       Words by Soho Bikes

       on 14/09/2017 11:24:53

    A couple of weeks ago we were invited to BikePark Wales to ride ENVE’s updated M-Series rims. It’s fair to say we had our reservations about the ride quality of the original M-Series rims, so we approached the day expecting to be polite to the visiting Americans, but to be privately underwhelmed by the updates. Read our thoughts below…

    What’s new

    The new M-Series rims come in four flavours, M5 (xc), M6 (trail), M7 (#enduro) and M9 (downhill), and in a range of internal rim widths; 25mm (M5 only), 30mm, 35mm and 40mm. And in both 27.5” and 29er, of course. A whopping 14 different rims variations in total. Loads of options then.

    We were told all the rims have been totally redesigned to improve ride quality (read: more compliance), reduce weight, increase rim bead strength and to reduce pinch flats. Pinch flats are usually caused when the tyre is trapped between a rock and the (relatively thin) rim bead under impact, causing the rim bead to act like a knife and cut into the tyre.

    Visually the result is a flatter profile to all the rims, with the M5 and M6 gaining an approximately 1mm wider bead than previous generation M50 and M60 rims (1mm is about a 35% increase in width, so quite a lot). The wider bead is claimed to be both stronger and less inclined to cut into tyres.

    The M7 and M9 rims take this idea step further and now include an integrated plastic protective rim strip that overlaps the rim bead. This plastic strip further widens the rim bead to 5mm, adds a degree of impact protection, and keeps the rim/tyre sealed in the event you do manage to crack the underlying rim.

    Overall rim impact strength has also been increased across the range according to ENVE’s in-house testing (see the charts).

    And lastly, those oh-so distinctive ENVE rim graphics have been refreshed for a more subtle, toned down look. We liked these!

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    The new M730 with rim strip showing

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    The rim strip overlaps the rim bead and removes the need for rim tape.

    A few thoughts on rim and wheel weight

    One reason carbon rims are often touted as ‘better’ is because they are lighter than an alloy rim of similar strength. The new ENVE rims are certainly lighter than our benchmark 30mm alloy rims from DT Swiss: In 29er incarnation the new M630 is 420g and M730 is 520g, compared to the DT XM481 at 525g and the DT EX511 at 570g (the Santa Cruz Reserve 29 is 490g – more on them later). Other things being equal (namely strength), the carbon M-Series rims might be saving you somewhere in the region of 50-100g per wheel over an alloy rim.

    That’s not to be sniffed at, but ENVE also pointed to the potential for weight saving on tyres that the new rims allowed: Due to the improve pinch flat protection of the M-Series rims, ENVE suggested you could likely get away with running lighter tyres than you might normally choose. To put that in context, if you usually run a 29er Schwalbe Magic Mary with Super Gravity casing at 1,165g, you might be able to get away with the Snakeskin casing weighing 885g, a saving of 280g. Combined with the weight saving on the rim you could easily be shedding upwards of 300g per wheel, which is actually a bit of a game changer.

    Of course pinch flats aren’t the only way a tyre can be damaged, but ENVE’s broad point remains; tyres are much heavier than rims, and weight savings here are likely to make more difference than weight saving on rims.

    What we rode

    We spent the day riding the two M-Series rims that are expected to be the most popular with UK riders, the M630 the M730. These were fitted to our own bikes (Hightower and Bronson) replacing wheels with alloy DT Swiss rims and heavier weight trail tyres.

    The ENVE rims were built onto Chris King hubs using Sapin CX-Ray spokes, and fitted with Maxxis tyres, a Minion DHF on the front and Aggressor on the back. Both tyres were dual compound and with EXO casing. Pressures were set at 23psi front and 25psi rear, a fair bit softer than we’d usually be happy running with these tyres on the rocky Welsh terrain. But hey ho, they weren’t our wheels!

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    New M6 series rims.  Convert to M9s if you put them in upside down.

    IMG_3121

    The test wheels were built onto Chris King hubs, some of the loveliest out there.  In for a penny…

    How they rode

    We only had a day riding the new rims, but on familiar trails at BikePark Wales that is time enough to get a good idea of a new product, although maybe not a conclusive opinion.

    With that caveat, our impression of the new M-Series rims was overwhelmingly positive. The weight saving and lateral stiffness are immediately apparent, and our bikes accelerated on the flat and out of corners with a new sense of urgency. Gone is the harsh feeling of the old M60 and M70 rims, and instead the wheels felt stiff in the turns but much smoother over the rough stuff. Our bikes felt noticeably more precise and playful, encouraging us to pop off every lip, slam into those big bike park berms and explore new lines.

    On the blue graded trails we felt compelled to double-up every possible trail feature, working the ground and picking up speed at a rate we hadn’t experienced from our regular wheels. On the red and black trails, the ENVEs allowed a new level of accuracy to hit lines, inspiring confidence and in turn more speed. In short, we were having more fun and riding faster!

    Running mid-weight trail tyres at softer-than-normal pressures is clearly going to flatter the performance of any wheels. And if they were our wheels we would definitely have run higher tyre pressures as the rims were taking a proper beating – we felt rock hit rim several times on each run. But we didn’t suffer from any punctures all day, which on Maxxis EXO casing at BPW is good going. The puncture protection offered by the M-Series rims is something we are keen to test further. If you really can run lighter tyres (even only some of the time) that is a great improvement.

    We didn’t find a massive difference in ride feel between the M630 and M730 rims, they both felt lively and direct but without being harsh. The rim strip adds a chunk of the 100g weight difference between the two rims and is probably the main feature to separate them: Shuttling runs at the bike park and smashing through rocks, then go for the improved impact resistance of the M7. Want a more general trail rim, it’s the M6.

     

    IMG_3156

    Maxxis EXO casing and Welsh rocks: Not normally a happy mix.

    What about the warranty?

    Ah yes, the inevitable topic when talking carbon rims… what happens if (or when) they break? If you dent or crack your alloy rim, it’s usually around £80 for a new rim and the cost of the rebuild.

    If you break an ENVE rim while riding in the first five years of ownership, your only cost will be the inconvenience; ENVE will rebuild your wheel with a new rim for free. It’s not the lifetime warranty offered by Santa Cruz on the Reserve rim, but it’s better than pretty much everyone else out there. And in our experience at Soho Bikes it’s a warranty that ENVE definitely stand by, we’ve never had any issues here.

    What next…

    Judged purely on ride quality we felt the M-Series rims were a noticeable improvement over the alloy rims we are used to, and the previous generation of M-Series rims. They enhance the handling of your bike, inspire confidence and faster, more playful riding. Do we want them on our bikes now? In short, yes.

    The catch? Well it’s hard to ignore the price, or more specifically, the price of alternatives. There was a time when ENVE was pretty much the only game in town when it came to carbon mountain bike rims. Now most major wheel brands offer carbon rims, as well as some bike brands (nod, Santa Cruz – which we haven’t had a chance to ride yet), plus there are a host of ‘direct’ offerings too. ENVE rims are the most expensive out there by several hundred pounds.

    Do we think the new M-Series rims are worth the outlay over alloy rims, or the premium over their carbon competitors?

    In terms of performance the honest answer is that we haven’t ridden enough other carbon rims back-to-back on similar terrain to give a truly objective ride comparison. We thought the ENVEs were excellent, which has never been our feeling after riding carbon rims before. Make of that what you will!

    We think the best thing you can do is try the new M-Series rims for yourself. At Soho Bikes we have access to a range of ENVE demo wheels that we can arrange for customers to try for a weekend. BikePark Wales also have their own selection of ENVE demo wheels you can ride for a day in the park. If you are looking to extract the most performance from you bike, the M-Series rims are certainly worth serious consideration.

     

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