"Road fast, mountain tough" claims Enve. Before now, we've often had to choose one or the other for a gravel wheelset, but with the introduction of the new Enve G Series hoops, the Utah-based company is looking to eliminate that decision altogether.
As we know, gravel riding has blown up in recent years, but it's not until recently that we've witnessed gravel-specific products coming to market in abundance.
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In Utah, gravel riding is serious – the road structure just doesn't offer the same level of riding as here in Europe, and so the locals have turned to the rougher stuff in search of the miles. What's evolved is a group of riders with a genuine need for a product that serves them beyond the compromise of something designed for less challenging terrain or simply modified for rough stuff.
Step forward the G Series – the direct result of Enve employees and their riding habits. Sitting firmly between the wide-rimmed Enve 4.5 AR Disc road wheelset and the M525 G (a mountain bike rim repurposed for gravel), the G Series wheels come with a promise super low weight, great acceleration and gravel-ready toughness. The G Series line-up consists of the 700c G23 we've got here and the G27 - a build that shares a similar rim design, but in a wider 650b size.
The rim design started with Enve analysing its current range; riders perceived immensely strong mountain product as overkill for the needs of gravel riding, while road product didn't offer quite enough. Adaptations and repurposed gear led to a compromised ride quality, according to Enve.
With the slower speeds of gravel riding and the varying tyre sizes on offer, aerodynamics are of less importance. Furthermore, gravel riding is nowhere near as harsh on wheels as mountain biking, allowing Enve engineers to experiment with new rim designs to try and squeeze the most gravel-relevant performance possible out of the product.
The result is the rather individual looking 'Bell' profile - Enve claims the thick 4.5mm flared rim edge will practically eliminate pinch flats. Of course, the rims are suitably wide, measuring 23mm and 27mm (internally) for the G23 and G27 respectively.
The rim itself is unbelievably light (just 330g for the G23), helped by the shallow 25mm depth - lighter than any other clincher rim that Enve has ever produced, in fact. This translates to a complete wheelset weighing as little as 1,305g, depending on hub option.
"The rim itself is unbelievably light (just 330g for the G23) - lighter than any other clincher rim that Enve has ever produced, in fact"
Apparently strength hasn't been compromised despite the feathery weight. The wheel has been tested to Enve's mountain bike standards, and while still not as outright strong as their own mountain range, we're informed the G23 wheels outperform many other brands' carbon offerings designed for the rigours of enduro racing.
One thing to consider is compliance – often the afterthought of cheaper, less-engineered carbon rims. The G Series has been designed to offer significant compliance in a way that enhances the ride quality on rugged terrain, helped by the carbon layup and the flared rim's ability to dissipate energy, Enve says. As a result, the wheel is also apparently less likely to require truing.
That's not to say stiffness has been neglected - they're carbon after all - and the cross-laced 24-spoke build is tried and tested. The spoke holes are also moulded instead of drilled, meaning the carbon fibres themselves are unbroken and spread their tensile strength throughout the rim.
Let's talk a little bit more of that pinch-flat performance. Pinch flats can be pretty prolific with a hookless rim and lightweight tyre combinations, even when running tubeless.
On the G Series wheels, the rim edge is far thicker than anything we've ever encountered, which not only aims to absorb and dissipate energy should the rim make contact with something solid, helping in the compliance stakes, but it's also less likely to damage the tyre, too.
According to Enve, in ten months of prototype testing not a single pinch flat has been recorded.
The rims have been optimised for tyres measuring 35-45mm – a reflection of the choices made by many long-distance gravel racers at the moment. The large volume is ensure by the generous internal rim width, which in turn provides a stable platform and helps eliminate the tyre roll one can experience cornering on a large tyre at low pressure.
As it's Enve, the price is likely to be at a premium (UK pricing still TBC). However, the G Series wheels come with a five-year, no-hassle warranty, enabling you to thrash them as hard as Enve intends you to.
That's all the top-line information from Enve for now. Needless to say, we're looking forward to slotting these into our gravel rig for a review - will they live up to Enve's lofty claims?