ENVE Composites Twenty9 XC rims £1500

A sublime ride-enhancing experience

BikeRadar score4/5

At £750 each, these carbon fibre rims don't come cheap. The wheels shown here, built on Chris King hubs, come in at £2,000 a set. Compare the specs and performance characteristics against a pair of Stan’s alloy wheels and you’ll be left scratching your head wondering why anyone would spend four or five times as much money.

Our 32-hole Twenty9 XC clincher rims, set up with an ENVE rim strip to be tubeless, weigh 1,534g – merely ballpark in weight terms. We rate them because of something less tangible: they feel nice off-road. That’s a lot of cash for a word as woolly as nice. However, for nice you could also use fast, forgiving, comfortable, springy, soft and precise.

Soft and precise? While those words don’t sound like natural bedfellows, the ENVE rims transmit vibration and bumps in a different way to alloy ones. You feel everything as a rounder, less harsh ride, like running softer tyres – so yes, soft – only without the low-pressure mushy handling. Precise because the bare rims are very stiff, and as a result of the way they are designed can be built extremely tightly without damage to the rim. 

Both factors make a wheel which demonstrates less deflection in turns, resulting in them going nearer to your ideal line than with less stiff-feeling alloy wheels of similar weight and specs. Even rim fragility isn’t an issue, as our numerous off trail escapades and the Santa Cruz Syndicate downhill team's use of the 26in all-mountain version has proven. That said, any wheel is breakable.

If you're a rider with a sorted £4-5k bike plugging serious mileage where the bike is set up as much for precision as it is for long-range comfort then a plan to save for these ENVE rims at £750 each doesn’t work out to be all that extreme. (There are also 26in versions for £100 less.)

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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