ENVE 7.8 aero clinchers the ‘fastest SES wheels yet’

Asymmetric rims for road racers and triathletes

Think you know fast? You don’t know fast, not until you’ve tried these new SES 7.8 aero wheels. That’s what ENVE says anyway, and while we haven’t hit the road with them yet, we can say that they bring some interesting thinking for road racers and triathletes.

You see, they aren’t the deepest wheels ENVE have ever produced, nor the lightest, but they are designed to offer maximum aero performance and stability. Particularly when paired with a modern aero frame and large 25mm tyres.

Related: Enve's new SES 2.2 tubs with carbon hubs may need tying down

Here comes the science

You see, it's their asymmetric rim design that makes them faster – the front is 9mm shallower than the rear: you see, it's their asymmetric rim design that makes them faster – the front is 9mm shallower than the rear
You see, it's their asymmetric rim design that makes them faster – the front is 9mm shallower than the rear: you see, it's their asymmetric rim design that makes them faster – the front is 9mm shallower than the rear

The SES 7.8 features asymmetric rim geometries front to back, with a front rim that’s 71mm deep and 29mm wide, while the rear rim is 80mm deep and 27.5mm wide. What’s more, they also have dissimilar sidewall curvatures, due to their differing depths (see cross section above).

Wait, what? "Wheels only work in a bicycle frame," said SES founder and aerodynamicist Simon Smart. "To test and develop wheels in isolation from the rest of the system does not answer the right question. The question we are answering is: how do you make the entire system more efficient?

"When developing a front rim shape we are looking for the best compromise between steering stability and drag reduction from the relatively clean on coming flow. In contrast, the rear wheel is seeing more turbulent flow, a larger frame interaction and we do not need to consider steering stability. It therefore stands to reason that a more efficient solution can be achieved by developing unique front and rear rim shapes."

So proud is ENVE of these new wheels that the brand claims them to be ‘as fast or faster’ than the deeper SES 8.9, but with stability and handling characteristics to rival the shallower SES 6.7 wheelset.

Related: Buyer's guide to road bike wheels

The numbers

There's a new carbon brake track, which promises to improve stopping by up to 30%: there's a new carbon brake track, which promises to improve stopping by up to 30%
There's a new carbon brake track, which promises to improve stopping by up to 30%: there's a new carbon brake track, which promises to improve stopping by up to 30%

Okay, enough with the claims already – what are the specifics? Well the pair we’ve been sent – first in the UK – are built on ENVE’s Carbon Hubs with 20/24 lacing. They feature the company’s latest moulded-in carbon brake track texture, previously seen on the SES 2.2, which promises to improve stopping by as much as 30% and to perform equally well in the wet.

Each pair is handmade in Ogden, Utah from 100% raw, uni-directional carbon. As with all ENVE wheels, they don't have any cosmetic layers, paint or fillers, and cosmetic finishing is limited to removing excess resin, and drilling spoke access holes.

The new ENVE SES 7.8 is available as a tubular or tubeless-compatible clincher – we were sent the latter variety, and weighed it at 1,751g for the pair (805g front, 946g rear), including titanium skewers.

Price? Hold onto your hats, Ironman racers… It’s £3,100 / $3,500 for the clinchers that were sent to us built on Enve Carbon Hubs, or £2,900 / $3,300 for the tubular version, with Aussie pricing to be confirmed. If you want them built on Chris King hubs, they're £2,500 for the clinchers.

Top 5 dream wheelsets
Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Brompton M3L
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Moots Routt
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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