Reviewed: Enve SES 3.4 Wheels
Enve's SES 3.4 wheels combine impressive aero features, light weight, and wide rims, but they are an expensive upgrade.
674 grams front/802 grams rear
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Spoke count: 20 front/24 rear
Rim width: 21mm internal/27.5mm external
Rim depth: 38mm front/42mm rear
Rim type: Tubeless-ready clincher
In just over a decade, Enve has established itself as a company that rarely makes mistakes when it comes to carbon wheel construction, and expectations are always high when the Utah-based company launches a new product. The SES 3.4 wheels have been a part of the Enve lineup for years and recently got a revamp that included a new brake track, revised rim width and depth, and a new design that adds aerodynamic shaping and efficiencies to a low-profile rim. So of course, we expect them to be perfect. They’re not, but they’re pretty close.
I’ve ridden these wheels through blustery early spring winds and I’m surprised at how stable they felt. A good crosswind blast will get them wobbly — as is the case with most high-profile wheels I’ve ridden — but in headwinds and yaw angles you’re likely to encounter on daily rides, especially on fast descents, the SES 3.4s hold their ground.
A couple factors might produce this stability: The wide rim (21mm inner width) and the truncated airfoil shape bridge the gap between Enve’s deep-profile aero wheels and low-profile climbing wheels. A wider tire profile may help, as this sculpts wind around the sides of the rim and sloughs off the spoke bed side of the wheel with minimal wind eddying. While we did not send the SES 3.4 wheels to an independent wind tunnel for testing, in the real world, it seems Enve is onto something.
The revised brake track has good bite. It’s deeply textured, more than previous iterations of Enve brake tracks. Enve also uses a new resin that it claims is more resistant to heat build-up. This isn’t an entirely new brake track, as the company launched it in 2015, but the resin update is new for these SES 3.4 wheels. Be sure to use Enve’s black brake pads, not the gray ones, to ensure a good bite and longer pad life.
A sticker on the rims states that they’re subject to wear. There were some obvious signs of use after about six rides, but not excessively so. It appears some of the brake pad material has embedded itself into the diamond-shaped texturing. So far, braking has been consistent, though they haven’t seen much wet weather
Adding those updates while keeping weight down to 871 grams (front and rear rims combined) is no small feat. “The goal of the 3.4 is to get as near to the weight of the SES 2.2 wheels as we could while maintaining aerodynamic efficiencies,” says Jake Pantone, Enve’s director of marketing. “That should translate into confident handling even in windy conditions, while maintaining a weight that won’t have climbers trading off watts for weight.”
What I really like about these wheels is the versatility. Beyond the light weight and medium aerodynamic profile, they’re wide at 21 millimeters (inner width), great for 28mm tires and dirt roads. (Enve says these wheels are optimized for 25mm tires, but 28mm tires worked just fine for us.)
I’m also a big fan of Chris King hubs. Sure, they sound like a swarm of bees, about to engulf you while you’re coasting, but engagement feels super-positive and the hubs are bombproof. I once rode a set of King hubs for five years without any maintenance, and I probably could have ridden another year without any. You can also choose the less-expensive but also durable DT Swiss 240s hubs, or the super-light but pricey Enve hubs.
These sound like the perfect wheels, don’t they? Perhaps, but again, we didn’t send them to an independent wind tunnel to verify Enve’s aerodynamic claims. And at $3,200, they’re hardly a cheap upgrade. They are competitively priced when compared to similar wheels in this category, but man, you could buy a decent bike for that money. These are versatile, do-everything wheels, but they have a race-day-only price tag. For those of us who operate on real-world salaries, Enve’s SES 3.4 wheels are tough to justify, which is a shame because they excel in so many situations.