The latest hoops from Enve, Industry Nine, Roval and RideFast
If there’s one thing that has changed a lot over the past five years, it’s wheels. First, it was wide rims and tubeless-ready designs. Then, more recently, disc brakes found their way to the road, and with that came a slew of options that targeted all the different types of riding one might want. We pulled together four wheelsets that represent the big, small and crafty brands out there that all share the aforementioned features, yet each targets a different kind of rider and experience.
Enve SES 4.5 AR DISC
At first glance, Enve’s new SES 4.5 AR Disc is a tough wheel to figure out. It has the depth of an aero racing wheel at 49mm in the front and 55mm in the rear, combined with an inner width of 25mm that’s equivalent to their M70 enduro mountain bike rim. So, who’s the customer that needs a deep-profile, ultra-wide road wheel?
The answer to that question lies with the WorldTour-program Team Dimension Data and the drive to deliver them a Spring Classics race wheel. Enve’s Jake Pantone told us, “The original goal wasn’t a wide road rim. The goal was a rim that reduced the aerodynamic losses that our professional racers on Team Dimension Data were experiencing when racing on our standard 4.5 using large 28–30mm tires. So, ultimately, the requirement for aerodynamic performance resulted in a wide rim. The width we netted out with provided the best flow transition from the 28mm tire to the sidewall of the rim.”
Just a handful of years ago few consumers would have any need for a road wheel designed around such a high-volume tire, but as road disc bikes are coming with greater tire clearance than their rim-brake brethren, all of a sudden there’s more demand for an aero wheel built to withstand any type of road surface. The rims come out of Enve’s own production facility in Ogden, Utah, and are entirely designed as a disc-brake rim, so even with a massive increase in width compared to their 4.5 rim-brake wheels, there’s a 40-gram weight decrease in the front and 50 grams in the rear for the clincher version. Much of the weight decrease is attributed to the elimination of the brake track, and in going to a hook-less bead design they’ve been using on their mountain bike rims. And of course, the rims are tubeless-ready, complete with rim tape and valve stems. There’s also a tubular version of the rim.
Enve does make their own hub, aptly named Carbon Road Hub, but since they don’t make it in a disc-brake version, the 4.5 AR comes with one of two hub options: Chris King R45 or DT 240. Our test set with King R45 hubs sell for $3200, with the DT 240 option at $2900.
It’s safe to say the 4.5 ARs have the widest rims we’ve ever ridden on the road, so going into the first ride on them was a bit of an unknown. The 28mm-wide tires that we mounted on them effectively turned into 30mm tires once installed, creating a massive contact patch on the road and a rather different ride quality than we were used to, especially for having fairly deep rim profiles. On the road we dropped the pressure down to around 70 to 80 psi, and the setup felt as fast as a deep rim with 25mm tires, but just with a much better ride quality. Taking another 15 to 20 psi out of the tires when hitting unmaintained pavement and dirt roads only increased the level of comfort. The rim width kept the tires from squirming under us as they would with pressure that low on a narrower rim.
For their depth, they are still quite light, so there wasn’t much of a sacrifice in order to get the aerodynamic benefit, which helps prevent them from being pigeonholed in their use. The growing number of roadies who are participating in events such as the Belgian Waffle Ride, Rouge Roubaix or Gran Fondos that feature courses with both pavement and dirt will be able to appreciate the 4.5 ARs, because up until now you could get a wide rim or a deep rim, but not one that combined both to the degree that Enve has done.
NDUSTRY NINE ULCX PILLAR CARBON DISC
Industry Nine isn’t yet quite as well known in the road circles as they are with mountain bikers, but that should be changing soon since many of the features of their mountain bike wheels are now becoming commonplace for adventure road riding. Industry Nine has a vast number of wheels in their line (13 road models) that range from disc- to rim-brake, carbon to aluminum and a number of rim-depth options. The ULCX Pillar Carbon fulfills the specific gravel/cyclocross segment with a rim designed around the use of wide tires at lower pressure than what a typical road wheel might offer.
The rims themselves are of Industry Nine’s own design, while Reynolds manages the engineering and production. Industry Nine’s Jacob McGahey says you won’t find these rims anywhere else: “Reynolds does exclusive tooling for us.” The proprietary rims use a 24mm inner width and ultra-shallow 22mm depth that result in a claimed 345-gram rim, creating a remarkably light, 1308-gram, complete wheelset that’s tubeless-ready.
One of the design cues coming over from the mountain bike side is the use of a hookless bead rim, and they aren’t alone in this, as the Enve 4.5 AR also features a hookless rim design that saves weight and reduces the chance of air loss under hard cornering when running them tubeless. Of note is the fact that with a rim as wide as the ULCX, 28mm is the minimum width tire you would want to run, and there’s an 80-psi limit for that tire width.
What truly separates Industry Nine wheels from the crowd are their hubs are manufactured at a facility in Asheville, North Carolina. Other than the bearings and pawl springs, every other part used on the Torch hubs comes from their own CNC machines, including the rear hub’s unique drive system that has two teeth per pawl, which is double the amount found on a typical hub. McGahey told us, “The high tooth-count ring provides 3-degree engagement, and because of the shallow ramp angle and tooth profiles, there isn’t a drag penalty.” The hubs can accommodate any axle design, be it quick release or 12mm or 15mm thru-axles. They are also available in six-bolt or Centerlock and can be used with a standard freehub body or an XD driver.
Sapim CX-Ray spokes are used throughout, with the rear having a 4x pattern on the drive side and with radial on the non-drive side, while the front uses 4x on the non-drive side and radial on the drive side. Industry Nine offers three standard color options for the hubs (silver, black and red), in addition to another six options for a $125 upcharge. A standard ULCX Pillar Carbon Disc wheelset runs for $2300.
The most immediate feedback from the ULCX is how quick they feel straight away when pedaling up to speed. Between the 3-degree engagement and their low weight, from a stop, they accelerated as well as a racing set of wheels. If you like a quiet rear hub, then you’re going to be disappointed with the Torch hub when coasting, since the freehub body’s audible ratchet is loud enough to get the attention of everyone around us when on the bike path.
Like all the wheels in this test, we used Hutchinson Sector 28mm-width tires set up tubeless. After initially talking with McGahey about tire pressure, we were disappointed that 80 psi was the max that could be used on the ULCX rim for a 28–32mm tire, but once riding we realized that even on smooth pavement 80 psi for a 165-pound rider was simply too much and a decreasing pressure was preferred. Because their intended purpose is as a gravel or cyclocross wheelset, we threw on some fatter tires as well and played with them in the dirt. As a cyclocross wheel, where constant accelerations are par for the course, the ULCX has a clear advantage over the others, since re-accelerating is notably easier. As a pure road wheel there are better options out there, since a tire narrower than 28mm is not recommended and the shallow depth does little for aerodynamics.
Of the three other wheel brands in the test, RideFast is without a doubt the smallest of the lot. They use a consumer-direct business model that allows them to provide a good value for the features they deliver. RideFast offers an assortment of wheel options for road and mountain, with the Hardline falling under the road banner, and oriented towards cyclocross and gravel use.
Because the Hardline is designed for cyclocross and gravel riding, it uses a more robust rim than the rest of their road line. Scott Parsons of RideFast told us, “The Hardline shares a mold with our 35mm road wheelset [Rouleur 3.5], but structurally it has a slightly different carbon configuration at the sidewall of the clincher version, which makes it more impact-resistant.” And even though Parsons said that adds a bit of weight to the rims, overall wheelset weight is a surprisingly low 1397 grams. RideFast offers the Hardline in a tubular version, in addition to the tubeless-ready clincher version we received that included valve stems and rim tape.
The hubs are RideFast-branded and feature Sapim CX-Ray Aero straight-pull spokes with a two cross-lacing pattern on each wheel. Interestingly, the wheel design allowed all the same-length spokes to be used rather than what would typically be three lengths—front, rear drive side and rear non-drive side. That makes for an easier time finding the correct spoke length if one happens to break down the road.
As far as compatibility goes, RideFast offers end caps to work with quick releases and 12x142mm on the rear, while the front can be used with quick- releases and 12mm and 15mm thru-axles. Unfortunately, there’s not an option for Centerlock rotors, so a six-bolt is the one and only way at this point. Also, being able to swap out the Shimano/SRAM hub body for an XD driver to use with a 1x drivetrain isn’t an option, either.
We ended up putting more miles on the Hardline wheels than any other in our test since we had them around the office for about six months and they made their way from rider to rider, bike to bike. Our biggest concern leading into the test was hub quality and overall durability, since we didn’t have any experience with the brand up until the test. What we found was that even absent of any special drive system in the freehub body to give it ultra-fast engagement like the other wheels had, it still did the job just fine. The bearings also held up, and to this day spin smooth and are free of lateral movement.
Another aspect of their durability we appreciated was the actual build, which is done by hand in California. Over the course of the test we didn’t have any spoke-tension issues or broken spokes. Despite not being a big-name brand, we were impressed with how much wheel they delivered for the money.
ROVAL CLX 32 DISC
As many people know, Roval is Specialized’s house brand of wheels, which is why a number of Specialized models come stock with Roval hoops. Over the past few years Specialized has worked hard to make Roval competitive with anything else out there, and the CLX 32 makes a strong case for just that. Even though it has a rim depth of just 32mm and is exceptionally light at 1375 grams, Specialized is selling it as more than just a climbing wheel. In addition to the tubeless-ready disc wheels we tested, the CLX 32 is available in a tubular model as well as a rim-brake version for both tubeless and tubular.
Compared to the CLX 40 that, up until now, has been the do-it-all road wheel for Roval, the CLX 32’s rim width increases by 4.4mm, going out to 20.7mm and was designed for optimized aerodynamics with a 26mm-wide tire. Of course, using a narrower or wider tire on the rims is fine, but for Specialized to design a wheel with that in mind, and that have already been raced by Etixx-Quick-Step, means even the racers have discovered that a wider rim and tire combo have their advantages.
For the hubs, a Roval-branded hub shell hides DT internals, with the 240 star-ratchet internals for the rear and CeramicSpeed bearings throughout. The ceramic bearings themselves are quite the high-end addition and tack on a considerable amount to the price considering on the CeramicSpeed website a set of bearings for the CLX 32 run for $624.
Both wheels use a combination of DT Swiss Aerolite and Aerocomp spokes in a 2:1 spoke pattern, with the rear having 24 spokes (16 drive side, 8 non-drive side) while the front has 21 (14 non-drive side, 7 drive side). Compatibility for the disc wheels isn’t a problem, since they come stock with end caps for use with 12mm
thru-axles or quick releases.
Before hitting the road on the CLX 32 Disc wheels, we set them up for tubeless using the included spoke-hole plugs rather than rim tape. Using the plugs was a first for us, but it was simple, and they did their job of keeping the air in the tire with the help of sealant. What we were reminded of after spending time on the wheels—first on the new Roubaix, then on other road bikes—was the performance of one of our favorite wheelsets on the market, Zipp’s 202.
They both share a very similar rim profile and depth that allows them to be aerodynamically equivalent to deeper-profile wheels in many situations, according to wind-tunnel testing. Yet, as similar as the two wheels are, the Rovals are about 200 grams lighter and are tubeless-ready, which in our opinion is an important option to give the consumer.
Out of the four wheelsets we tested, each fills a specific role in the ever-expanding subcategories of what’s considered road, which in reality encompasses just about any type of riding done on drop bars. Of all the wheels, Enve’s 4.5 AR was the most impressive in what performance they deliver, both in speed and comfort, which are two things that don’t typically go hand in hand. The only downside we found is that not all disc road bikes have adequate tire clearance, considering a 28mm tire is the narrowest that Enve says can be used. The price is also the highest in the group, but it’s also of note that they are the only ones of the lot to manufacture their own rims, and in the U.S. no less.
Roval’s new CLX 32 nailed it in terms of creating a wheel that does everything very well—it’s light and easy to handle in any condition. As a do-everything wheel, they’re tough to beat. We just hope they offer a CL version in the near future that uses standard bearings instead of high-dollar ceramics in order to bring the price down. The CLX 32 is light but still can’t match the weight of the Industry Nine ULCX wheels. The fact that the ULCX has a shallow-depth rim and a minimum tire width of 28mm, their best usage is mixed-surface and gravel riding. If you like a little eye candy and value some homegrown CNC machining, then the Industry Nine Torch ULCX hubs are in a league of their own.
Even against some big hitters, the RideFast Hardline wheels left us pleasantly surprised. They weren’t born in the wind tunnel and don’t have industry-leading technology, yet they delivered a dependable ride time and time again without any signs of wear after six months. Even though RideFast classifies them as a cyclocross/gravel wheel, there’s nothing keeping them from being a good-value, everyday road wheel as well.
|ENVE SES 4.5 AR DISC||INDUSTRY NINE ULCX PILLAR DISC||ROVAL CLX 32 DISC||RIDEFAST HARDLINE|
|PRICE||$3200 (as tested)||$2425 (as tested)||$2400||$1400|
|WEIGHT||1560 grams||1308 grams||1375 grams||1397 grams|