For months I have been wondering out loud where the high-zoot disc-brake cyclocross wheels are.
Zipp has some prototype 303s floating around with Rise60 hubs, and U.S. national ‘cross champion Jeremy Powers has been on Easton EC90 rims with M1 hubs, but neither of these is for sale. This isn’t a problem for a ’cross pro, but for mere mortals there’s a gaping hole where the high-performance race wheels should be.
Sure, there are tons of repurposed rim-brake hoops that have been laced up on mountain bike hubs, and some of them are quite good. But it still seems like everyone is just dipping their toes in the water. I wanted to know when we’d be seeing light, fast and tough race wheels.
Turns out they were here all along. Enve’s 29XC wheelset, while built with mountain bike racing in mind, could well be the best set of disc-ready ’cross wheels available now.
Ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been set.
I guess it’s not really rocket science. If you take the finest hubs, high-end spokes and quite possibly the best carbon rims on the market, and build a pair of wheels that is mountain-bike tough, the results are sure to be spectacular, albeit expensive. This wheelset is a feathery 1200 grams of brilliant engineering.
Take the DT Swiss 240s hubs, arguably the best out there. Light, tough and reliable, they stand up to the rigors of ‘cross by having amazing, almost physics-defying bearings and seals that are unusually resistant to contamination. (I have an older set of 240s hubs that has never been serviced and runs as smoothly as the day the wheels were built.) Then there are DT’s own Aerolite spokes, 28 of them front and rear, two-cross, simple, reliable, done.
That’s all well and good, but it’s the rims that make these wheels stand out. Enve’s attention to detail is what makes a rim this light that strong.
Enve’s spoke and valve holes are molded into the rim during production, not drilled afterward, which ensures every carbon fiber in the rim is continuous and an uncompromised part of the whole.
The end result of that improved structural integrity is a rim that can contain less material while retaining strength. Such a rim can be lighter — in this case, 280g or less for the tubular version — while remaining battle ready. The rims are 31mm deep and 25mm wide by my caliper and have a distinctly triangular look due to the lack of brake track.
The rim bed is also perfect for a ’cross tire. It is a little shallower to accommodate mountain bike tires, so there’s no building up of the center track to get glue contact — just do the usual 3×3 layers and mount up. The tires have excellent adhesion all the way across the base tape.
And speaking of base tape, be prepared for it to almost disappear. The rim bed is wider, so there’s lots of surface area. In short, the tires aren’t coming off — maybe not even when you want them to.
Enve has a history, albeit a brief one, of outstanding talent and a commitment to products that rank among the best in the world. True, it comes at a price — $2,542 for the wheels I tested — and that’s some serious loot.
But consider this: These wheels would be tough and reliable enough to race and train on. And in the summer you could peel off your CX treads and mount up some fatties for the mountain bike.
It might be unrealistic to order two pair, one for each of your ’cross bikes (wouldn’t it be nice, though?). But with wheels like these, one set may be all you need.
Enve sells direct online at www.enve.com and has dealers worldwide.