ENVE AM30 CARBON WHEELSET REVIEW
Review By Mike Wirth/GooseWorks
ENVE’s AM30 Carbon wheels are designed to be the brand’s versatile, all mountain wheelset for riders looking to take advantage of ENVE’s impressive carbon technology at a more affordable price. ENVE has an elite image and provides wheels for some of the fastest riders in the world and partners with the most prominent frame builders. Their wheels are a combination of the ultimate in materials, technology, and workmanship. They have also become an ultimate status symbol in the riding world, adorning the bikes of riders who have the means or the need to make a statement. The new AM 30 looks to change that last bit and bring ENVE’s carbon technology to more riders with a price that is over a $1k less than their flagship wheelsets.
It all started back in the mid-2000’s, when a little composites company in Northern Utah named EDGE Composites began making some radically advanced bike parts for some of the fastest riders in the area. It was not long before the word spread, and EDGE became synonymous with The Best when it came to any kind of carbon wheel discussion. In 2007, the company went through a rebrand, changed the letters around and became ENVE. Although the letters may be different, the image and mission remain, elite-level wheels for riders wanting more.
ENVE AM30 wheels are meant to handle the rigors of a wide variety of terrain and would be right at home on short travel trailbikes as well as enduro race rigs. The rims are molded at ENVE’s carbon factory in Ogden Utah, and then built with Industry Nine’s 1/1 hubs and double butted SAPIM spokes to complete a $1,600, mostly-made-in-America wheelset.
The AM30 rims sport a 30-millimeter internal rim profile and a lower profile than most ENVE rims. ENVE claims this reduction in material and rim height results in a more compliant ride quality. The aesthetics are more conventional than previous ENVE wheels, with the spoke nipples on the outside of the rim rather than hidden inside, a design change that every mechanic will appreciate, since this change means it is no longer necessary to remove the tire and rim tape just to tighten a spoke or true the rim. The rim utilizes a hookless bead and its wide profile to spread the tire carcass for a large tire contact patch, improved traction, and reduced chance of pinch flats.
The Industry Nine 1/1 hubs use a 45-tooth, 6-pawl engagement driver with 4-degrees between hub clicks. There are 28 spokes front and rear. The hubs can be configured to fit any modern standard with options for Boost and SuperBoost+ axle spacing and Shimano or SRAM driver body, making the ENVE AM30 wheels very versatile.
ENVE delivers a lower price tag with the AM30, but this is still a high-end wheel set with an attention to detail that shows right out of the box. The rims come with everything you need to set them up tubeless. Be sure to take the time to tape the rims properly, and your tires should inflate without much fuss. Our first set of Versus All Mountain Trail tires had months of use on them already but seated and snapped into place using a compressor. Later in the test, we were able to fit a brand-new pair of Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires with a floor pump, confirming that the hookless bead serves dutifully.
Once on the dirt, you can feel the care and precision of the wheel builder’s hand as soon as your weight hits the spokes, as the wheels accelerate smoothly without any of the pinging and popping you hear with machine-built wheels. After a few miles pointed uphill, we noted the smooth and snappy acceleration that is quite familiar from any of ENVE’s wheels. What feels noticeably absent, however, is the unforgiving stiffness that feels like you are riding 29-inch solid rigid sawmill blade down the trail. These ENVE AM30 wheels are what I would call “comfortably stiff” and deliver plenty of lateral stiffness for cornering and handling but have a softer overall feel on trail chatter and square-edge obstacles. It feels as if you give up the slightest bit of acceleration in the name of smoothness. While this smoother ride quality felt as if the bike had lost a bit of its top end speed on the rough stuff, it actually gave me a couple personal best times on descents I ride often, proving stiffer isn’t always better. By taking the edge off in rough terrain, the AM30 feels as if it can offer more control and had a “calming” effect on the bike overall. The reality is that by the bike and my body feeling smoother and more in control, it felt like I was going slower rather than riding the ragged (and rigid) edge.
The Industry Nine 1/1 hubs feel precise in hand as the six pawls engage 90 times through each revolution and provide a satisfyingly muted buzz as the rim coasts in the repair stand. When they are working properly, these hubs provide quick and reliable engagement that nearly eliminates the “dead spot” that lesser wheels have when ratcheting the pedals back for a quick burst of power. However, after a couple rides, we parked the bike for a few days, only to return and find that the free hub was not engaging at all. While this was a mystery at first, we tracked the source to some heavier than spec grease that had been used to swap the free hub body before we installed them. The thicker greaser then probably coagulated and prevented the pawls from working properly. Once we rebuilt the hubs with a lighter oil to prevent the sticking, the hubs performed without issue. This is a common issue with all pawl-style designs, as they are relatively delicate by nature. Like ANY precision high end bike component, the AM requires the right installation and maintenance to work properly. However we encountered another small issue after several months of use. We removed the freehub to perform a service on the pawl system, and discovered the rubber seal between it and the hub body had either been damaged during assembly, or during the riding that followed. This likely contributed to our freehub drag issue, so pay special attention to the rubber seal when servicing, changing cassettes or otherwise working on your wheels.
On the trail, the ENVE AM30 wheels feel lightweight and fast. They are much stiffer and more robust-feeling than a gram-pinching XC wheelset, yet softer than some carbon enduro wheels we have tried. While flex in a wheelset may seem like a negative to some, ENVE delivers a tuned feel that is stiff enough to transfer power effectively but not so harsh they transmit unwanted vibrations or cause the bike to hang-up on square-edges. Some aggressive riders may prefer more lateral stiffness, but chances are most riders will be very happy with these all around. We put these wheels through the wringer on some of our most aggressive trails, and they held up to the abuse. After several hundred miles of tough terrain, we are happy to report the spokes are still evenly tensioned, the rims are still true, and the hookless rim beads kept our tires seated without any sealant burps or other issues.
The Wolf’s Last Word
ENVE still makes their flagship M series wheels for those who want the stiffest, raciest hoops possible, however, ENVE’s AM30 come to the trail with a ride quality that is more compliant, arguably better suited for most trail riders, and keeps things more affordable in the process. The top-notch construction quality and materials make for a wheelset that is worth making the upgrade to. Overall, the AM30 is a flashy carbon hop-up that is actually relatively sensible compared to the other options. With the addition of user-friendly refinements like the nipple on the outside, a more compliant rim design and a five-year incident protection and limited warranty, riders can be confident this is an upgrade that will last.
Weight: 1,868 grams