I was eagerly awaiting the newest iteration of Enve’s carbon road hubs. In fact I was on the phone with the guys at Enve just prior to their public debut talking to them about this very subject. They even asked me what I thought they should include in the new hubs set. After a moments consideration I said they should at very least provide the option of a titanium freehub. Did that happen? Not this time.
So, whats actually new about their latest design? I’ll attempt to break down the many changes. The hub shell is 100% carbon and is made in the USA. The front hub is for a typical j-bend spoke and comes only on 20 holes for a radial lacing pattern. Its design is not really much different in those respects. It’s quite light at a mere 70 grams. The bearings are a high grade stainless version as well as stainless end caps. It’s quite petite with a 34.5 mm flange diameter. This small flange will introduce some more compliance in an other wise very stiff front radial wheel. A good call on Enve’s part.
Its the rear hub where we see some new designs. It weighs in at an incredible 185 grams for those of you who insist on uber light gear. It’s 24 holes and has departed from a standard equal distance spoke spacing on the flange. Instead it sports pairs of spokes. Enve chose to use a 55mm flange diameter, which I think is an excellent idea, especially for low spoke counts. It will improve lateral stiffness which is a good thing for a rear wheel with a typical 11 speed dish requirement. It appears that you have the option of two different lacing patterns. A 2 cross x 2 cross or a 2 cross drive side and a 1 cross non drive side. Personally I would be inclined to choose the double 2 cross option. Enve claims a 16% increase in lateral wheel stiffness from the previous generation of their carbon hubs. That’s significant. They have stated that there is no need for any pre-load adjustment on the bearings. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. In fact, several high end hub makers offer no pre-load adjustment on their hubs and this doesn’t seem to present any real problems. So, Enve has adopted this approach as well. I imagine it will be fine. At this time there is no offer for a ceramic bearing upgrade. Many hub manufacturers do offer ceramic bearings as an upgrade. Should this concern you? Probably not. If their stainless bearings are top notch, you’ll be rolling plenty fast.
Big changes with the freehub and drive system were implemented. Enve has decided upon a ratchet system with 40 teeth which is a significant change from the previous generations 18T version. No more pawls and increased engagement! Sounds like a win win situation to me!
Since their debut I have built two sets of wheels with these hubs. Both wheels were with Enve carbon road rims and Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes. I was able to build the rear wheel up to almost 120 kgf of spoke tension on the drive side with no issues. I had initially some reservations about the carbon fibre hub shells holding up under that much spoke pull but so far so good. Enve claims that the spoke holes are not drilled but rather molded. This is a big difference as molding does not disturb the fibres as much as drilling would, potentially compromising the integrity of the hub flanges. One rider in my cycling club rides one of these pairs of wheels and thus far they are holding up well.
So, will we see them ever in the pro peloton? Maybe, as only time will tell. For the time being I think they will have plenty of appeal to those who are searching for the lighest components available.