Whether you’re heading out for the weekend road race, midweek crit practice or your next gran fondo, the right wheels can inspire confidence in yourself and put a little fear into your competition. The ENVE 4.5s will do both.
The ENVEs are instantly recognized by your competition, even if you thought you were flying under the radar with the blackout stickers. At ride after ride during our recent test of the 4.5s we heard: “Oh great, you brought the ENVEs, so it’s going to be fast.” In the riders’ minds, we had come to destroy the group simply because of our wheel selection.
We loved the blackout decal option. You’re already riding aero carbon with King R45 hubs, so do you really need to advertise ENVE with glowing stickers? ENVE’s SES system uses front- and rear-specific rims, and the 4.5s occupy the middle ground between climber and pure aero wheel. They are a respectable 1,511 grams and ultra-slippery at 48mm and 56mm respectively. In fact, ENVE claims the new shape delivers the same aero advantage as the deeper 6.7s. They are wide, 27mm up front and 25.5mm in back. It’s a design that optimizes aero in the clean air up front and deals with messy air in back. The wide front rim also helps your front tire spread out for plenty of stick.
The durability of the wheels is next level, better than any other carbon clincher we have ridden. They survived fast crits, gravel roads and the 142 miles of torture called the Belgian Waffle Ride in Southern California. They are more than just straight, they look brand new.
The real question is: “Are they fast, light and stiff?” We know a wheel is fast when we forget about it and just feel fast on the bike. With the ENVE 4.5, every test day felt fast. Light? At 1,511grams they don’t break any records but don’t blame them if you get dropped. Stiffness is more nuanced. We noticed a little wheel-slap during sprint efforts similar to what we see with Zipp 303s. This isn’t always a bad thing because that slap allows the wheel to handle deflection when you ride in and out of corners aggressively.
ENVE 4.5 wheels absorb violent efforts and cornering loads, but hold and track beneath you without slipping or sliding away through the apex; not all carbon wheels can do this. If you do need to touch the brakes in the corners, from slight initial contact to full-on threshold braking, the stopping was even, powerful, and noise free. No carbon stops better and very few stop as well.