Product Test: ENVE Carbon 29er Wheelset

Like many cross-country racers, you may have traded in your full-suspension 26-inch bike for a 29-inch hardtail. If you are looking for the ultimate in race-day performance that can still handle the abuse of day-to-day riding, the guys at ENVE think their Twenty9 XC wheelset is the answer. These wheels carry a serious price tag of $2414, so they are intended for serious riders.

Tech features: If you are proud to be an American, rejoice, as the Twenty9 XC rims are handmade in the USA. The level of craftsmanship is remarkable. The smooth, unidirectional carbon fiber finish makes these wheels look like just as much a work of art as a killer mountain bike wheel. The double-walled, full-composite rims are 1.25 inches deep and feature a UST profile, which is set up via rim tape. Our Twenty9 XCs featured Sapim CX Ray spokes, noteworthy for their great strength-to-weight ratio and bladed design. This wheelset also features internal spoke nipples for increased aerodynamic performance. Our wheels featured 28 spokes front and rear. The rims were laced to DT Swiss 240s hubs, which feature the DT Swiss star-ratchet freehub body and legendary sealed bearings. Our front wheel weighed in at 1.5 pounds, and the rear wheel was 1.7 pounds. Our wheelset was set up for a 9-millimeter quick release up front and rear 135×10-millimeter spacing. You can contact ENVE at (801) 476-3363.

Field test results: Tire inflation and beading were simple; we were actually able to mount Specialized Fast Track tires using a floor pump. From the moment we rolled out on these wheels, it felt like cheating. Our race bike (a Specialized S-Works 29er Stumpjumper HT) instantly went on a diet. The star-ratchet freehub body on the DT 240s hubs engaged quickly and was very quiet when coasting. The Twenty9 XCs held their momentum remarkably well; it felt like they could roll up hills. Climbing in the saddle was awesome. We were able to run a slightly higher gear and attack steep inclines without hesitation. Out of the saddle, the wheels were equally impressive. The lateral and torsional stiffness were exceptional. These are without a doubt “cheater wheels.” They will make any rider noticeably faster going uphill. With race wheels, riders often sacrifice ride quality or descending capability to gain an advantage on the climbs. The Twenty9 XC rider does not have to contend with this compromise. Through gnarly terrain, they were comfortable and held loose rocky lines with ease. The relatively tall rim walls proved excellent in deep sand or loose terrain; these wheels cut through it with pure confidence, and the confidence carried over into the corners. Carbon mountain wheels aren’t anything new, but there are still plenty of skeptics?including us. We purposely hammered these things hard?really hard?and we couldn’t find a weak spot in their armor. We never had to true them throughout our 90-day testing period (and that’s good, because truing these wheels requires tire and rim tape removal). ENVE has agreed to let us hang on to the wheels for long-term abuse. If they hold up as claimed, the $2414 price tag won’t seem quite as crazy. If we can get two or three years out of them, the price of admission seems more palatable. If you are looking to up your game or feel like you are in a riding rut, the ENVE Twenty9 XC wheels will elevate your play and rejuvenate you. No question. If they are out of your price range, don’t even try them, because after one ride you’ll know what you’re missing out on.

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