ENVE’s Foundation Series of carbon mountain bike wheels, launched earlier this year, is something entirely new for the Utah based company, who design and manufacture all their own carbon fibre rims in the US. They have a reputation for high end wheels, and with that come high end prices. The Foundation series though, including these AM30 mountain wheels, is aimed at providing Enve’s design at a lower price point.
In this overview, we’re going to take a look at all the features of the Foundation Series AM30 wheels, and one of the most notable is that they’re carbon wheels with a lifetime warranty attached.
These were sent to us unbuilt so we could get a detailed look at every component. It’s important to note that, if you buy some from UK distributor Saddleback, they’ll come fully built and thoroughly checked over by Saddlebacks own team of wheelbuilders. That’s the case whether they ship from ENVE to Saddleback as components, or as fully built wheels.
ENVE AM30 Features: Rim
These carbon enduro wheels are still made in the US, and available in 27.5in or 29in, but look a little more conventional than ENVE’s other offerings. For a start, they’re ENVE’s first ever wheelset to use external spoke nipples, rather than internal.
This involves a different carbon layup for the rim, which ENVE have built a unique, patented feature into: molded spoke holes. Conventional carbon rim layups are made as a continuous piece of carbon laminate, which then has holes drilled in it, cutting some of the fibres and reducing strength. ENVE’s process actually lays up the carbon around the spoke holes, meaning continuous, unbroken fibres surround every hole, giving more strength for a given rim weight.
The rims are also wide at 39mm external, 30mm internal. That internal width seems to be the new standard for mountain bike rims, with tyre manufacturers also designing for it. The AM30 rims are specificed for tyres 2.3in to 2.6in wide. Vertically, the rims have a 20mm depth to give compliance and absorb chatter.
The bead seats are a twofold upgrade on a conventional rim. Firstly, they’re hookless, which is something we’ve seen done for strength on many rims now. On a standard hooked rim, before joining the main rim section, the sides thin out, creating a stress riser, likely to fold over or, in the case of carbon, crack.
That’s only half the problem though, because a narrow hookless bead can still snakebite a tyre, or even break. To solve it, ENVE have significantly widened theirs for these AM30 rims (we measured them at 4.5mm). What this does is distribute any impact forces over a larger surface area, reducing the chances of any impact cracking or damaging the rim.
In ENVE’s words: “As a dull knife makes it hard to slice a tomato, so too the Wide Hookless Bead makes it hard to slice a tire”. Overall, this means you can run the tyres and pressures you want to, rather than going to a burlier tyre casing or higher pressure than you’d like.
If you do manage to break a rim, for any reason, it’s also covered by ENVE’s Lifetime Incident Protection Program. Under that, they’ll replace any damaged AM30 rim free of charge (note this is lifetime of the product, and you must be the original owner with proof of purchase).
ENVE also specify “no inserts required”, and are really not fans of them. They cite the weight penalty, installation hassle, and claim that in some cases they can actually reduce the impact resistance of a rim. Nonetheless, they do also state that even if someone uses their wheels with inserts, they will honour the warranty.
The final feature to discuss on ENVE’s AM30 rim is that it’s asymmetric. This isn’t unique to ENVE’s rims, but it does make for a stronger wheel build. By offsetting the spoke holes 3mm from the centre line of the wheel dish, the spokes are better triangulated.
What does this mean? Well, your tyres and rims need to be centred on the bike, because if not, it’ll be better at leaning and steering one way than the other. The hubs also need to accommodate brake discs and gears too though, which means hub flanges are always offset. As such, in order to correctly position the rim and tyre relative to the hub, spokes on wheels running conventional centre-drilled rims end up forming a lopsided triangle. Such a spoke triangulation puts much more tension on one side than the other, which can lead to premature spoke wear and be more difficult to maintain.
By designing their rims asymmetrically, ENVE significantly reduce this effect, bringing the spokes from each flange into more closely matching angles. This makes for stronger, more symmetrical builds, and longer wheel life.
Having all of thse components separate was a great opportunity to get confirmed weights, which I did for each rim at 518g.
Graphics are a little more subtle than you may be used to seeing from ENVE, partly due to the lower profile rim, meaning the logo faces up toward the hub more than it faces outward to the side. They also only come in the default silver grey, though US riders can design and order their own sets of custom replacement decals direct from ENVE (if you’re in the UK, you can still go have a play with the decal designer here).
ENVE Spokes and Spoke Nipples:
The spokes themselves are Sapim Race double butted, J-bend, so conventional round spokes. As previously mentioned, Foundation Series AM30 wheels use external spoke nipples, making it easy to true them with a conventional spoke key if you need to, with no need to remove the tubeless tape.
What you wont see if you buy some prebuilt and taped though, is that these nipples are Sapim’s Double Square ones. As well as conventional flats, they also have a square head on the back. This means you can use a square driver tool, which not only leaves the visible portion pristine, but is easier to use than a spoke key and, because you’re always looking at it the same way, means never losing track of lefty-loosy righty-tighty. I’ve used these exact nipples for all of my recent wheel builds, and think ENVE have made a good choice with them.
The nipples are also brass, which may be cheaper and slightly heavier than alloy, but is an excellent, corrosion resistant choice for UK weather, especially if you sometimes have to contend with salted roads.
For each set of 28 spokes, I recorded a confirmed weight of 189g, with nipples adding 31g per wheel.
For hubs, ENVE have opted for Industry Nine’s budget 1/1 hubs. By budget, I mean relative to Industry Nine’s other hubs. At a confirmed weight of 272g, the rear 1/1 hub shaves off between thirty and fifty grams compared to many other go-to rear hubs, and at 138g the front makes similar weight savings. A 28 spoke drilling rather than 32 also saves a bit of weight on the wheelset.
The hubs are conventionally flanged for J-bend spokes, but the internals are a bit less conventional, with the rear hub mechanism giving four degree engagement. Seven to eight tends to be seen as good, and truly budget hubs will give fifteen to twenty, sometimes creating an enormous dead spot in your pedal stroke before the freehub picks up and starts turning the rear wheel.
Industry Nine use a 45 tooth ratchet ring, which would normally give 8 degree engagement, but by putting two sets of pawls in the freehub, each slightly offset from the other, they can keep the strength of 45 teeth while getting the engagement of 90. Neat.
The ENVE AM30 Range:
So what are the differences between these AM30 budget carbon mountain bike wheels, and ENVE’s other wheels? Well, the AM30s don’t use the protective rim strips of the M7 and M9 wheels, but do have the wide hookless bead.
The AM30’s are also limited to one internal width (30mm) aimed at most applications, whereas many of ENVE’s other wheels are available in internal widths from 25mm to 40mm.
The Sapim Double butted spokes and external nipples of the AM30’s aren’t the fanciest build possible, of course, and change the aesthetics. They do make maintenance easier though, leaving your tubeless tape in place, and as noted already, the nipples are Sapim Double Square.
Finally, Industry Nine’s 1/1 hubs aren’t the fanciest out there, espcially compared to the Chris King and I9 Hydras ENVE also ship, but 1/1’s are still plenty fancy with a four degree engagement angle and decent weight savings.
Once built, I verified the weight of these AM30 wheels at 867g front and 1008g back, including valves. That makes a total of 1875g, which is a tiny bit higher than claimed for the 29er version of this wheelset, but only by 23g (these are of course available as 27.5in wheels too, with a claimed weight of 1748g). Of ENVE’s range, the AM30’s weight sits between the M730 (Designated All-mountain/Enduro, 1951g claimed weight) and M930 (Designated trail, 1516g claimed).
That covers all the technical features of these wheels, but it isn’t the last you’ll see of them on Singletrack. Keep an eye out for Ross’ impressions of riding these 29er carbon mountain bike wheels soon.