ENVE’s latest 6.7 wheelset
The recent rim announcement from ENVE Composites has been building with a fair breath of rumor, speculation and excitement. Now that ENVE has released official documents on the new “Smart” wheels I feel like it’s time to touch on a few of the worthwhile points and talk a bit of tech. For now we’ll stick to model 6.7 and touch briefly on the 3.4 and 8.9 without saying too much before the official release of those wheels.
First, this could be an announcement that’s past you by so I’ll fill some of you in on the major points. Rumors of ENVE working with Simon Smart started floating around the industry in early 2010. Simon Smart, for those of you not familiar, is a former Formula 1 aerodynamics consultant and has been a go-to-guy in the cycling industry for a bit now. His continued use of the Mercedes wind tunnel and previous work allowed him to move into a consultant position for ProTour teams as well as triathletes and anyone else with a bit of money and some common sense toward TT speed. His first major mark on the world of race tech made a splash when Giant and Scott (both former HTC / Highroad sponsors) came out with prototype bikes that looked very similar. These prototypes would eventually roll out as the marquee TT bike for each company. Hence a similar design and release date for the Scott Plasma 3 and Giant’s Trinity Advanced.
As the story goes reported by ENVE and Simon, a relationship quickly grew out of ENVE’s desire to release a HED / Zipp slayer aero-wheelset and Simon’s personal ambition toward aerodynamics. Simon brought a wealth of testing experience and capability as well as a desire to apply his knowledge to an all-around wheel that would be both aerodynamic and stable on a wide range of bikes. I’ve had access to quite a few of the companies’ stories and development processes and this one seemed driven, focused and fast. ENVE’s saying that first prototyping was done in May 2010, and we know that Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare) was racing them by Mid-August during the Tour of Utah.
Notably, what Smart and ENVE did with this project was to move beyond the rims themselves and to look at their interaction with the entire aerodynamic and handling profile of a rider and bike. The wheels were designed to not only meet certain aerodynamic benchmarks, but also handling predictability with Cervélo’s P3 and Trek’s Speed Concept, and two road bikes, the Cannondale SuperSix and Specialized Tarmac. The range of bikes and companies used in the design process leaves both parties confident that the wheels will outperform their competitors on a range of bikes. Further proof of the Smart wheels being designed to integrate themselves into the entire bike is the difference in rim depths. The front rim and rear rim provide different amounts of input into the riders steering and stability and are designed to be used together.
The first set that’s been released and talked about in full detail is the 6.7 set of wheels. The front wheel is 60mm deep and the rear is 70mm deep. You can expect the naming structure to stay similar throughout the new lineup with a 3.4 (35 / 45 mm) and an 8.9 release coming soon. Wheels won’t be available until Mid July but expect more media and racers to be getting wheels soon. The 3.4 version is meant to be ENVE’s ideal climbing wheelset combining light weight with an aerodynamics and stability. The 6.7 is their all around wheelset and is intended for those who race on the already popular 65 model. The 8.9 is new for ENVE in that it’s going to be deeper than anything they’ve released and is directly targeted at the TT / Tri crowd.
The 6.7 is slightly heavier than the 65 model. The front is 440 grams (60mm) and the rear is 480 grams (70mm) while the 68 weighs in at 360g. Wheel builders will be happy to know that the tension limits on the rear is unchanged (130kgf) but the front does drop to 110kgf, though this is hardly a worry in most cases. There will still be no weight limit on the rims. Also, tire choice is often a question when it comes to aerodynamics. Although ENVE has yet to release a full list of suggested tires, recommended widths are between 21 and 22mm measured, which can vary greatly from a manufacturers’ claimed widths. As for clinchers, don’t wait. There’s minimal talk about them and it seems like waiting over a year may not be out of the question.
– Emiliano Jordan (Het Fairwheel Podium)