U.S. Made Carbon Fiber Rim
ENVE debuted their new M Series lineup of wheels earlier this year, with the range consisting of four options that are all designed to suit the varying needs of different riders. The M60 Forty wheelset reviewed here is a step in a more all around direction than their cross-country race inspired M50 Fifty wheels, and ENVE's naming convention implies how they are intended to be used: 60% down and 40% up. In other words, the M60 Forty wheelset is your do-it-all option that, at 1,495 grams for the 29er rims laced to DT Swiss' 240 Center Lock hubs, is still feathery enough to not hold back even the most serious of cross-country racers out there. The wispy weight figure doesn't mean that the M60s sport an old school, anorexic rim shape, though, as their 23mm internal width is wider than a lot of contemporary rims on the market, and their 32mm height and 29mm external width certainly have them looking like they're ready for battle. ENVE says that a bare M60 rim weighs 397 grams in 29er form, or 347 grams for the 27.5'' version, and that manufacturing the rims and assembling the wheels at their Ogden, Utah, facility gives them maximum control over the $2718 USD finished product that comes with the assurance of a five year warranty and a lifetime crash replacement policy.
M60 Forty wheelset
• Intended use: XC/ trail / enduro
• Rim: 397 grams (29''), 347 grams (27.5'')
• Rim width: 23mm internal, 29mm external
• Diameter: 29'', 27.5''
• Hookless rim bead
• Handmade in Ogden, Utah
• Hubs: DT Swiss 240
• Spokes: 28, 32 (tested)
• Weight: 1,495 grams (29er w/ DT Swiss 240)
• MSRP $2718 USD
The big talking point with the M60 wheelset is obviously ENVE's handmade carbon rims that are constructed at their factory in the United States, and while them being handmade isn't really anything to brag about (carbon rims, frames and other bits are laid up by hand, after all
), the fact that they're manufactured at their own factory plays a big role in the $999 USD retail price for each rim. That approach does give them quite a lot of control over the finished product, as it not only allows them to have better quality control than they would if they went the overseas route, but also the ability to make quick changes to the carbon layup on a rim for either production or prototype units. This is highlighted by rumors that ENVE was supplying the Santa Cruz Syndicate team with a radical downhill rim to be used with equally radical and very custom tubular tires. No word on if we'll see anything of the such in the near future, but, if true, it underlines what ENVE is both capable of and willing to do. In the same vein, ENVE actually produces four very different carbon rims that, while looking similar to each other, are actually quite unique.
The M60 rim is 23mm wide internally, which is 2mm wider than the lighter and more cross-country oriented M50, and 2mm skinnier than the enduro focused M70. ''Rim width is determined by pairing each rim model with the predominant tire widths used for the defined ride application,
'' ENVE explains. ''By optimizing the rim and tire interface, handling predictability and traction are improved.
'' It isn't just the dimensions that set each model of rim apart, though, as they also each sport a unique carbon layup compared to the others, with the idea being to tune both the amount of vertical compliance and lateral rigidity to how each rim is intended to be used. Impact resistance also comes into play, and the downhill oriented M90s have a different makeup compared to the M60s that won't likely see the same sort of abuse.
Giving the rim a closer look reveals two things: one, there's no hook shape to the rim bead. And two, there doesn't appear to be any nipples. There are nipples, of course, but they're located inside the rim rather where you'd usually spot them. ENVE explained that going with an internal nipple design "produces a more consistent build, and a stronger structure. This process yields a superior build quality and virtually eliminates the need to true the wheel assuming the builder does a thorough and quality build.
" It also means that you can't perform a quick wheel truing, however, as you'll have to pull the tire and rim tape off in order to access the socket heads of the nipples. The rim's nipple holes have been designed with this in mind, and ENVE has actually molded each hole in place rather than drilling them through after the fact. The hookless design is also said to allow for a rim that is easier to manufacture consistently to the exact same size, as well as make for a stronger finished product due to the sidewall being quite thick throughout its entire height rather than having to have a hook shape.
The M60 wheelset is clearly a premium item, so it's not a surprise that the two hub options to choose from are equally high-end: either Chris King ($2750 USD
), DT Swiss 240s, or the ceramic bearing equipped 180s ($3298 USD, M50, 60, 70 only
) if you prefer Swiss over American. Those who want to go with Center Lock rotors have that option if they choose the 240s, and all are available with either 28 or 32 bladed spokes.
On The Trail
The M60s likely saw more tires mounted to them than any other wheelset I've had under me thanks to both changing conditions and me having a number of different rubber options to review. This includes a set of Schwalbe's Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic tires, a single Magic Mary up front, a set of Specialized's Purgatorys, and some XR4s from Bontrager, all of which felt like they fit just a touch tighter than on most other rims. It wasn't to the point of me losing my temper and throwing things, but I will admit to reaching for a set of plastic tire levers when it came time to install brand new rubber. I'd personally much prefer a slightly tight fit that gives me confidence that I won't pull a bead off mid-corner than a loose fitting interface, but that's me, so I'm okay with the snug connection. I also used the supplied tubeless rim tape from ENVE, which appears to just be Gorilla Tape from your local hardware store but in the correct width so you don't need to trim it down, as well as the long tubeless valve stems that are included. We've come a long way from the early days of tubeless tires that saw us making trips to the compressor with a spray bottle full of soapy water and safety glasses on, and all of the tires sealed up and seated with basically zero issues while using only a floor pump, which might be a big deal for anyone who's had to clean Stan's sealant off of everything within twenty feet of where they were standing.
The DT Swiss hubs at the center of my M60 test wheels sport Shimano's splined Center Lock rotor system but the XTR Trail brakes on my bike feature standard six-hole rotors, which means that I had to employ the Center Lock adapters that come with the wheels. These couldn't be any simpler: just slide the adapter down onto the splines, fit the rotors onto the six posts, and then tighten down the lock ring. I've literally had more trouble pouring myself a bowl of cereal than installing the rotors and Center Lock adapters onto the DT Swiss hubs, although they did give me some trouble down the road...
Big deal, the tires and rotors go on fine. It's how they feel on they perform on the trail that really counts, right? Of course it is, and while a lot of wheels can feel somewhat invisible so long as they tick off all of the requirements that we ask for these days, the M60s certainly standout as being noticeably different under me, and I mean that in both positive and negative ways. Let's hit on what I like about them first, though.
These things are light, especially when you factor in their 23mm internal width, and because of that they feel pretty damn sporty on the climbs and out of corners, especially when you compare them to a heavier (and admittedly much less expensive
) aluminum rimmed wheelset. It's not like you're going to be a gear higher everywhere on your ride or crush your local pro's KOM times, but they certainly do feel peppy all around. Just for reference sake, SRAM's carbon Roam 60s sport a skinnier 21mm internal width and a heavier 1,650 gram total weight, while Mavic's aluminum Crossmax SLs are even skinnier at 19mm but with a 1,530 gram weight (but don't require rim tape
). Neither of those options are too shabby for their intentions by any means, but they make the M60s, with their 23mm internal width and 1,496 gram weight, look pretty appealing if you're a numbers guy. The relatively low weight doesn't mean that the M60s feel like they're going to fold over every time you hold it open through a corner or happen to land a touch more sideways than how you took off, with just the opposite being the case - these things are supremely stiff. They're so flex-free that they made my already torsionally rigid bike feel like it had somewhere between zero and zilch millimeters of deflection, which clearly is one of the reasons that they feel so snappy and alive.
And what about any reliability issues? Nothing to report on this front, although the rear wheel did drop enough spoke tension over the first few months to have them pinging and popping under heavy pedalling loads, which would have been a quickly solved issue if it wasn't for the fact that I had to remove my freshly tubeless'd tire in order to access the internally located nipples. This is a royal pain in the ass, although I do appreciate the use of bladed spokes that allow me to grab ahold of each one during the operation in order to prevent spoke wind-up. The rims are certainly looking well used these days, with the large white ENVE decals peeling and scraped off in small spots, but the carbon itself shows no signs of buying the farm. I've seen ENVE rims crack in the past, just like I've seen a broken example of pretty much every other rim out there, but at $999 USD per rim, I feel like the ENVEs should be pretty much indestructible. Nothing is unbreakable, of course, but the M60 rims have brushed off everything I've thrown them at.
|The relatively low weight doesn't mean that the M60s feel like they're going to fold over every time you hold it open through a corner or happen to land a touch more sideways than how you took off, with just the opposite being the case - these things are supremely stiff.|
The vertical, non-hooked rim bead proved to me that traditional hooked rims do absolutely nothing to keep the tire on, with zero burping to report after months and months of use. The 23mm internal width no doubt helps matters on this front, especially with wider tires like the Hans Dampf and the super aggressive Magic Marry, and I couldn't even get them to release any pressure or sealant when run as low as 18 PSI. I pulled the front tire right off the bead of a competitor's slightly skinnier aluminum rim at 20 PSI while on the face of a jump just before swapping over to the M60s, a moment that led to a rather interesting flight pattern and ''landing'', but the ENVEs had my confidence back in short order and I never even had a hint of trouble. Issues
There's a lot to like about the M60s, but their price tag and U.S. made origins doesn't mean perfection, however, as I have a few issues to grumble about. Lets get right to my main criticism: these wheels are stiff and unforgiving. I'm well aware that many riders complain about wimpy wheels that feel like they're going to taco under them, especially those who don't shy away from an extra slice of cake or sign up for the Clydesdale class when they race, but the M60s feel like they could be almost a bit too far in the other direction. That's my observation after doing back-to-back tests on the same trails, riding the same bike, and with the same tires inflated to the same pressure on two different sets of aluminum rimmed wheelsets, and while many would say that you can't have a stiff enough set of wheels, handlebar, frame or whatever else, that's a complete delusion in my books. This is especially true when you're talking about a short-travel bike, with the ENVE wheelset feeling a touch harsher on my cross-country rig than other, more traditional options. This was most noticeable when the bike was either leaned over through a choppy corner, or when crossing rough, off-camber sections of trail, and I'd liken it to feeling as if there was an extra few PSI in my tires than what I'd ideally want. It's also best not to forget that your spare tube will either need to have a longer than normal valve stem or be supplemented by a valve extender - it'd be a shame to be way out there when you realize that you can't fix your flat.
The M60s saw some pretty rowdy terrain, and while the rims themselves came through with flying colours, the rear wheel did lose a bunch of spoke tension after several months of charging on them. That in itself isn't really a big issue, but I don't feel like I should have to take my tires off when the time does come to true or add tension to them, especially because pretty much all the tires that I fit to the M60s felt to be a touch tighter on them than some other rims. The internal nipples make for a clean look, I'll give ENVE that, but I much rather be able to tension and true them at a moment's notice, especially if it's required during a road trip.
DT Swiss' hubs have always been a favourite of mine, which is why I was so bummed to find out that their Center Lock rotor adapters do a better job of annoying the hell out of me than doing their actual job. Firstly, the lock rings want to back off, even when torqued correctly and with a touch of Loctite applied to the threads, which is obviously far from ideal. No, they never
backed way off, but they did loosen up enough that I'd make sure to check them once or twice a week, which isn't acceptable. Even more irritating, though, is how the adapter's fit onto the splined mount is sloppy enough that the entire assembly, rotor included, shifts slightly when you grab a handful of brake. This is undoubtedly connected to the lock rings backing off, but it would occur regardless of if I just tightened them up, and felt sort of like a loose headset on the trail. I'd rather go with the six-hole DT Swiss 240 hub option from ENVE and buy new rotors than deal with these cheesy adapters, and I suspect most of you would feel the same after dealing with them.