Occasionally a name is so fitting it seems almost comical. Exhibit one – Simon Smart. As aerodynamicists go he may be the gold standard in cycling. Formula One is as cutting edge as it gets when it comes to sculpting shapes the can work magic with airflow (sorry aerospace, but F1 does more in a week than you guys do in a year) and Mr. Smart cut his teeth in F1. He has since tuned his attention to road cycling. Take a look at World Tour TT results. Chances are he had a hand in developing half of the bikes in the top ten. Simon Smart is, well, smart.
When ENVE Composites was ready to develop new rim shapes and take a crack at the wider shapes Zipp, HED and Bontrager are producing they contacted Mr. Smart. An unlikely marriage was born- Ogden, Utah collaborating with Brackley, UK. Hours of tunnel time at the Mercedes GP wind tunnel resulted in the Smart ENVE System, which we first saw last spring. Like some other wide rims, the shape is optimized for incredible performance in all wind angles and features a much wider and blunter rim shape than the traditional NACA inspired airfoil. Where ENVEs SES really sets itself apart is with front and rear specific shapes. While mixing rim depths has been the after market reality for many seasons, ENVE has taken this even farther. More than just pairing a shallow front with a deep rear, the rim shapes themselves are totally different, front to back.
The flow regimes each wheel encounters are completely different. Wind input on the front wheel clearly impacts handling more than at the rear, but this isnt the only difference. The front sees clean air, while the rear gets turbulent from the rider. The front is shallower and wide to handle clean air and minimize cross wind input while the rear is deeper and narrower to help clean up dirty air from the frame and rider. It also ensures no issues with frame interference will occur as well as limiting brake rub when you get out of the saddle and hit the gas. In addition to all this the wheels have been designed to function best under the turbulence created with a rider in the saddle. It is for these reasons that ENVE calls the whole set a system. It also makes using the same depth and rim shape, front to back, seem quite simplistic.
For 2012 ENVE is turning SES into a full wheel line, complete with carbon clinchers and more rim depths. The SES 3.4 clincher is already in bike shops with another clincher, the 6.7 and a super deep 8.9 tubular right on the 3.4s heels. Look for an SES 8.9 clincher before the year is out as well. While these wheels may have benefited from a windtunnel in the UK, they are still manufactured, from raw carbon to final build, in Utah. Another nice touch? The spoke holes are molded, not drilled, and as many riders know, carbon fibers dont like being drilled very much.
• Smart ENVE System 3.4 Clinchers – 435 gram 35mm deep front rim and a 450 gram 45mm deep rear rim.
• Smart ENVE System 6.7 Clinchers – 495 gram 60mm deep front rim and a 530 gram 70mm deep rear rim.
• Smart ENVE System 8.9 Tubulars – 530 gram 85mm deep front rim.
SES Clinchers built with DT Aerolite spokes and DT Swiss or Chris King hubs will start at MSRP US$2900, and US$975/rim, SES Tubulars in the same configuration start at MSRP US$2700, and US$899/rim.