Wheels quiver when they hear the name ‘Ross’. Will these ENVE AM30 Foundation wheels survive the double onslaught of a Northern winter and our Ross?
There’s no doubt that ENVE is a premium brand, with hand built precision and price tags to match. Earlier this year though they launched a new range – the ENVE Foundation Range – designed to increase their market and offer premium US made carbon wheels, incorporating their product and design knowledge, at a more affordable price.
Based around three wheelsets, the Foundation range offers two road options and one for mountain biking – the AM30’s. Available in both 29” and 27.5” versions, the AM30 are also available with Boost or Super Boost spacing and retail for £1,850. The AM30’s are designed for everything from trail, to all mountain, to enduro riding and ENVE says they are suitable for bikes with travel ranging from 110mm, all the way up to a whopping 180mm.
While the AM30’s are designed as a more budget friendly wheelset, the rims are still handmade in Ogden, Utah and the wheels still benefit from ENVE’s Lifetime Incident Protection and 5 year factory warranty. Weight for the fully built wheels with valves is 867g for the front and 1008g for the rear, giving a combined weight of a fully respectable 1875g for the pair.
ENVE AM30 Rims
As mentioned, the AM30 rim is still handmade in Utah like ENVE’s other wheelsets, but that’s where the similarities end. The AM30’s use a shallower rim profile at 20mm deep, that ENVE says has been tuned for ‘compliance and damping and has gravity rated impact strength.
The AM30 rim features a 30mm internal width and is suitable for tyres ranging from 2.3” to 2.6”. Each wheel has 28 Sapim Race J bend double butted spokes laced in a four cross pattern and for the first time ENVE has also used external black brass nipples. ENVE also uses a patented technique for creating moulded spoke holes. Rather than traditional drilling, ENVE actually lays the carbon around the holes creating a stronger rim for the weight. Those holes are also asymmetric to create more evenly tensioned, stronger wheels.
The AM30’s also feature a wide hookless bead that is designed to again increase strength, but also add puncture protection from snakebites. The idea is to allow you to run the choice of tyres you want, at the pressures you like, rather than having to up your casing or pressures for demanding terrain.
ENVE AM30 Hubs
The hubs on the AM30’s are Industry Nine 1/1 are only available in the UK with centre lock disc mounting. While Industry Nine bills them as their ‘budget’ hubs, they are also designed to offer top end performance, at a more attainable price. The 1/1 hubs feature a 45 tooth driving and six pawls, which engage in what Industry Nine call ‘dual phased pawl drive’. This split engagement gives the hub a much higher 90 points and 4 degrees of engagement.
ENVE AM30 Set up
These wheels were originally sent to us for a feature about them and arrived to us in kit form so we could scrutinise each individual component and build them (read that feature here). When I got my hands on them all that needed to be done was taping the rim with the red tape that was provided by ENVE, which went on nice and easily and has stayed secure.
The wheels were then shod with tyres from Schwalbe with a Magic Mary Addix Soft in Super Trail casing going on the front, and a Big Betty Addix Soft in Super Gravity casing on the rear. While the front tyre went on relatively easy, the sturdier Super Gravity casing of the Big Betty made it a bit more of a challenge. Once on the tyres went up first time with a pressurised inflater and have kept pressure well throughout the test. The front tyre was run at 23psi and the rear at 26psi.
The wheels were fitted to a Santa Cruz Megatower – a bike with intentions to match – and have stayed there for a couple of months and been ridden anywhere from three to six times a week. During that time they’ve been ridden on a wide variety of trails – from local DH tracks, rocky sunken paths, to steep slithery ruts, with plenty of pedalling up to match.
Spinning the cranks for the first time it’s immediately noticeable how quickly the AM30’s gets up to speed. The lightweight and high engagement make for instant power transfer and forward motion.
The hubs have spun quickly and freely from day one and that 4 degree engagement never missed a beat, whether see-sawing the cranks on techy climbing sections or stamping on the pedals mid descent, the AM30’s get up to speed nice and quickly and do a good job of maintaining that momentum.
Where some carbon wheels can feel wooden when hitting rough trails the AM30 has a much more damped and less skittish feel. Through big rocky sections they hold a line well and carry speed, without deflecting off course easily like some overly stiff wheels. The same can be said about off camber root sections where the wheels again do a good job of tracking, with the new rim profile helping to mute the smaller hits and keep things on line.
The AM30’s certainly still have a carbon feel about them though, with a directness to the handling. They have a solid, reassuring feel whether that’s inside lining a fast turn or sprinting into your next descent. They’ve got a nice tight feel with no lateral flex and so far they’ve stood up to everything they’ve been tasked with, whether that’s fast rocky gullies, off piste slithers or flat landing shady jumps and drops.
My history with carbon wheels isn’t great (as in, they’ve all broken) and while this has been a relatively short test the AM30’s have given no cause for concern. On one of the first rides I’d been rushing to get out and after checking the tyre pressures I hadn’t fully closed the valve (I know!), leading to the tyre slowly deflating due to the pressure from the dustcap. With no pump on hand (it was supposed to be a quick lunchtime ride) I had no choice but to carry on with a ‘lower than ideal’ tyre pressure.
The first trail I rode that day is a fast, rocky track that starts with a few little drops, and turns before straightening up and getting rougher and faster, and has claimed its fair share of wheels. I decided that faster was ultimately better in this case and let the bike run through the roughest sections. Despite some pretty worrying noise, the sort that would usually make you stop and check your wheel, after inspecting the wheel at the bottom of the trail the rim was still perfect and the tyre still up. I checked the pressure when I got back and it had dropped to 12psi. Two months later (I have pumped it up since then) the rims are still running true and crack free with just the odd scuff mark from rocks.
Similarly the i9 hubs are still spinning freely and quickly, despite spending the best part of two months submerged in Northern Filth. Towards the end of the test I removed the freehub to check it over and while there were signs that some water and dirt had got past the outer seal, all the bearings were still spinning nice and smooth with no notchiness. A quick clean and re-grease and it was good as new
ENVE AM30 – Overall
The AM30’s are impressive and both look and feel like a quality bit of kit. They retain a precise and direct carbon feel, without the harshness of some other offerings, feeling sprightly while still taking the sting out of small trail chatter and have proven to be tough and durable. Some people will moan about the price – and £1,850 is still a chunk of cash – but cost is subjective to the buyer and on performance alone I can’t fault the AM30’s.
|Tested:||by Ross for 1 month|
Try Singletrack digital membership for only 99p for the first month.
Or only £2.99 with a copy of the latest Singletrack magazine, worth £10.