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ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 wheelset review

Does ENVE’s flagship carbon wheelset perform when the going gets tough?

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £1,850.00 RRP
ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 mountain bike wheelset

Our review

Deep pockets are required, but you’ll get a strong, snappy wheelset in return
Pros: Excellent hubs; direct feel will appeal to many; very good backup and warranty; wide rim wall does seem to help with tyre safety
Cons: Expensive; I'd like them to come pre-taped
Skip to view product specifications

The AM30 is the headline mountain bike wheel from ENVE’s Foundation range of hoops, which covers everything from road to MTB via gravel.

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The carbon rims are laid up in the US, and these wheels are built with Industry Nine’s 1/1 hubs.

They’re pricey, but do come with ENVE’s ‘Lifetime Incident Protection’. This means damage to the ENVE product is covered, regardless of how the damage happened (yes, including driving into a height-restricted barrier or your dog chewing on them). So, at least you’re covered if it all goes wrong!

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 specifications and details

The rim is hand-built in the US from unidirectional carbon fibre with an asymmetrical design, whereby the spokes are offset by 3mm to the non-driveside, to help with spoke triangulation. Spoke beds are reinforced.

My wheels came with tape and valve in the box – this leaves you to tape the rim yourself.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 mountain bike wheelset
I had to apply the rim tape myseld and, for the cash, I’d rather it was pre-applied.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

For the money, I’d rather this was done pre-sale because the process is a bit of a hassle, and the inflexible tape supplied makes the job a little tricky to get really neat, especially because the off-centre rim well makes getting the tape evenly placed between the rim walls a bit hit and miss.

I noticed that the valve hole had some carbon strands visible. When I spoke to distributor Saddleback in the UK it assured me that this was normal and not something to worry about.

The spoke holes are moulded and the valve access hole is drilled, so a few strands showing is common. The rims are built onto the hubs in the UK, so I was told any manufacturing defects would be picked up at that time.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 mountain bike wheelset
Very smooth rolling, it’s nice to have premium hubs wrapped in premium rims.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Getting the tyres on and off the rim was a doddle – arguably the easiest on test.

This is thanks to a generous central rim well and an outer rim wall shape that makes slipping the tyre bead over the edge nice and easy. I never needed tyre levers, even with the tightest tyres I tried.

The rim is fairly shallow, which helps keep the overall weight low. I also appreciated the thick rim walls because with carbon wheels there’s often less ‘give’ when you whack a tyre over a rock.

I measured the ENVE’s rim walls at 4mm thick, almost double the width of some others on test. This, in my experience, helps reduce the risk of the carbon rim damaging the tyre, and helps keep the hookless rim wall strong.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 mountain bike wheelset
Industry Nine’s freehub, in the ENVE wheels, was nigh-on silent, which I loved.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Both wheels use 28 Sapim Race double-butted spokes, while the hubs are Industry Nine 1/1, which have a quick (but not as quick as its Hydra) 4-degree freehub engagement angle.

They’re also almost silent – a real plus for riders who like a quiet bike, despite their dual-phase, six-pawl system clicking into a 45-point of engagement ratchet.

There are 29in and 27.5in wheel options with Shimano HG, Shimano Micro Spline or SRAM XD drivers, all with a Center Lock rotor attachment.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 performance

Once the wheels were taped, the Foundation AM30s proved a very easy pair of wheels to live with. Swapping tyres, inflating them and maintenance access to the hubs is all second to none – as you’d hope from a nigh-on £2k wheelset.

They weigh little too and, with that thick rim wall, should hopefully prove reliable over time. With their exceptional warranty, one would also hope they’d last a long time.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 mountain bike wheelset
The wide rim sidewalls should help ward off punctures.
Alex Evans / Immediate Media

On the trail, they felt as expected for a carbon wheelset, with a refined, snappy ride quality. Much like Reserve’s wheels, the AM30s are direct and accurate.

There’s no vagueness in steering accuracy and when you lay them into a berm there’s no squirrelling as you put all your weight through one side’s spokes.

They don’t give the smoothest ride ever – certainly compared to the carbon Zipp or alloy Hunt wheelsets on test – but neither do they rattle all your teeth out. They communicate what’s happening under the tyres, but seem to dull the edges just a touch.

Long gone are the days when ENVE’s wheels were considered harsh, and that’s a good thing in my book.

ENVE MTB Foundation AM30 bottom line

You don’t buy a pair of ENVE wheels to get the absolute best value for money.

The Foundation AM30s are expensive, but you get a pair of well-considered rims built in the UK onto some beautiful hubs. At the same time, they come with a seemingly no-quibble replacement policy.

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They ride very much like most of the other carbon wheels tested – they’re light, the hub pickup is excellent and they have a communicative, firm ride that avoids being jarring.

How we tested

Wheels are a pretty pricey upgrade, so we put 12 trail/enduro sets to the test to find out if there’s an inherent benefit to pricey carbon fibre hoops or is alloy better for hard-hitting rims?

The wheelsets were taken on back-to-back runs down selected tracks in the Welsh woods and at BikePark Wales. They were pummelled over and into rocks and drops, turns and berms, and off-camber roots.

To keep things fair, all our testing was done on the same bikes, both hardtail and full-sus, with the same tyres (thanks Specialized!) at the same pressures.

We tested 29in wheels, but most are offered in 650b versions too. While we predominantly ran 2.6in rubber, we also slung some 2.3in tyres on, and we varied the pressures between test sessions to see what difference we could feel.

Bikes shouldn’t be a pain to live with, so we took into account the ease with which tyres could be fitted and inflated. Likewise, we considered how easy it was to access bearings and swap freehubs, too.

Also on test

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1850.00
Weight 1,902g (29") – as tested for set
Brand Enve composites

Features

Features Weight (f): 885g
Weight (r): 1,017g
External width: 39mm
Engagement angle: 4 degrees
Brake type Disc
Rim depth 20mm
Rim internal width 29.9mm
Rim material Carbon
Spoke count 28 front, 28 rear
Spokes Sapim Race double-butted
Wheel size 29in/700c