Verdict: ENVE’s SES 3.4 Disc wheelset has superb performance with endless speed on tap
Pros: Low weight, acceleration, aero assistance, braking
Cons: These cost more than the average bike
ENVE’s most popular wheelset for the last decade has been the rim brake SES 3.4, but the popularity of disc brakes brings an all-new SES 3.4 Disc wheelset.
The name stands for Smart ENVE System, after former F1 aerodynamicist Simon Smart, while the 3.4 relates to the wheels’ differential rim heights: 38mm front and 42mm rear, which has remained unchanged.
When released, these rim heights seemed bold and as much as we’d ever need, but in today’s aero-is-everything market, they’re relatively shallow.
The bespoke profiles used on each rim account for the specific airflow at each end of the bike, meaning the front rim is 27.5mm externally, 21mm internally for crosswind stability and the rear is more narrow to improve aerodynamics.
They’re optimised for 25mm tyres and make my Schwalbe Pro One tyres measure 27.5mm.
By doing away with the braking track, and its necessary extra material, ENVE made the rims lighter while maintaining stiffness and strength.
Handbuilt in Utah, USA, the spoke holes are moulded, not drilled and the UD carbon finish of the rims is very attractive. Supplied with 12mm thru-axle end caps fitted to the Chris King R45D hubs, ENVE tubeless tape and valves, my pair (including these) weighed in at an impressive 1,491g (1,458g without).
Replacing shallow alloy-rimmed wheels with these made us feel like we were back in our twenties with boundless power and speed on tap. Minimal rotational mass, added to the lowest rolling resistance possible thanks to tubeless tyres, seriously boosted acceleration while great lateral stiffness means they hold true without deflecting when sprinting, ensuring your efforts only drive the bike forwards.
Climbing is massively enhanced by the ENVE’s directness and competitive mass.
Although it’s hard to comment on aerodynamics, it’s very noticeable how quickly the ENVEs pick up speed on a familiar bike on known descents and also the ease with which we could maintain speeds well in excess of 25mph on local roads, speeds that aren’t regularly sustainable.
During this test, they literally sailed through every type of potential wind disturbance with a calm stability.
Although ENVE’s rim braking surface was effective before, discs keep everything under control more consistently without wearing those expensive rims out.
The only negative to the ENVEs is (as per usual) their astronomical price.
ENVE SES 3.4 Disc specifications
- Rim material: UD Carbon
- Internal width: 21mm
- External width: 27.5mm
- Spokes: 24 front and rear
- Price: £3,150 / $2,550