ENVE Composites have launched their first downhill-specific carbon rim. Prototypes have been in use by the Santa Cruz Syndicate team for the better part of two years, during which time they rode them to more than 50 podium placings.
The company say they’re proud to have claimed the first World Cup win with a carbon clincher rim; Greg Minnaar took the honor at the 2010 season opener in Maribor, Slovenia. They also report that the final prototypes – a single set of rims – incredibly carried Steve Peat through the entire 2011 World Cup season's race runs.
Since the wheels first made their way onto the Syndicate’s rigs they’ve undergone major revisions, both in terms of profile and material. During the 2010 season, the Syndicate’s first on the carbon rims, they replaced 53 wheels, which was down from a reported 180 wheels per season when the team was on alloy. In 2011, the team had to replace just 11 wheels.
Over both seasons, ENVE say there wasn’t a single catastrophic failure. “It was only eight up until the world champs,” Jason Schiers, ENVE’s founder told BikeRadar. “We were hoping to keep it under double digits for the year, which would have been huge. Steve Peat raced the same set of wheels all year long, which was unheard of [he used a separate set of practice wheels].”
Steve Peat rode the same race wheels over the course of the entire World Cup series in 2011
Of last season’s 11 broken wheels, not one lost air pressure or warranted their rider to slow before the finish line. “They were cracking hook beads,” said Schiers of the failures. “We made some more tweaks over the off-season, again, and the ones we’re releasing are even stronger than the ones they raced on last year. We’re excited to see if we can get through a year without a broken rim on the DH circuit, which would be huge.”
Such durability comes at an incredible cost, however, as each rim costs US$999. “I realize that the price is exorbitant,” said Schiers. “But we’re using the most expensive resin system on the planet; it’s stuff that’s meant to stop bullets and ballistics, and the processing of the rim is just incredibly hard – it goes well outside what other resin systems are like.”
ENVE's new DH wheelset; US$2,750 as pictured
The production ENVE DH rim is 31mm deep and features a 21mm inner bead-to-bead width (30mm external). It includes structural modifications said to improve ride performance and strength without any notable weight penalties. The rim is only available in a 26in, 32-hole configuration and weighs a claimed 475g, compared to 580-660g for an equivalent alloy rim.
“It was a real challenge to get a rim that looked good,” said Schiers. “The ones they ran last year were built with the right resin system but they’re ugly as hell. If there were ever a close-up picture, I think people would be surprised at how poor of quality the surface appeared. Structurally they were fine but to get that resin to play nice it took us almost [the whole] two years – and that was working on them every day to try and come up with something better.”
Currently, ENVE’s DH rims are for tube-type tires only, but Schiers says that they’re working on a rim strip for tubeless conversion. However, he offered no timeline as to when it will be available. Wheelsets are priced at $2,750 with Chris King or DT Swiss hubs and DT Swiss Competition spokes. “I tend to push the stuff that I think is game changing, but not really financially responsible,” said Schiers.
Schiers says the carbon rims can withstand much more of an impact than a standard alloy rim