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ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset

Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
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ENVE Composites Foundation AM30
 ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset  ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset  ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset  ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset
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Tested: ENVE AM30 Wheelset

ENVE's new Foundation Collection delivers plenty of useful technology and features at a lower price point.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: ENVE AM30 Wheelset

ENVE’s original AM wheelset was what put the company on the mountain bike map. 13 years later, the AM30 is here to carry forward the original one-wheel-do-all concept in a more affordable package than we are used to seeing from the Utah-based outfit. But don’t go thinking that this is just some play to reuse old tech to squeeze out a few more dollars from some old molds, quite the contrary – the AM30 is an all-new wheel developed from the ground up to deliver the ride quality and toughness that ENVE wanted for this wheelset. Read on to find out what we think of it after three months on the trail.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • High-quality rim and wheel build
  • Wide rim bead delivers real puncture protection
  • Fast engagement of rear hub
  • External spoke nipples for easier maintenance
  • Good mix of stiffness and compliance on the trail
  • Good durability
  • 5-yr warranty and lifetime protection plan
  • Still relatively pricey

ENVE AM30 Highlights

  • Application: Trail, All-Mountain, Enduro
  • Handmade in Ogden, Utah
  • 30mm internal rim width
  • Molded spoke holes
  • Wide hookless bead
  • External nipples
  • Industry Nine 1/1 hubs
  • Sapim Race spokes
  • Gravity rated impact strength
  • Rim shape tuned for compliance and damping
  • Lifetime Incident Protection and 5 Year Factory Warranty
  • 27.5″ weights: 823g (F) + 965g (R) = 1788g (boost, center lock, verified)
  • Custom decal builder available
  • MSRP: $1600 USD

Initial Impressions

The AM30 is part of the all-new “Foundation Collection” family of products from ENVE, which aims to deliver ENVE tech at a new, lower price point while still keeping all the production in the company’s factory in Utah, USA. Inspecting the new wheels for this first time, the heritage is obvious but a few aspects stand out as different: the nipples are now external, which makes for a slightly less clean look compared to the company’s flagship wheels, but also makes adjusting spoke tension a lot easier. The rim is also not as tall as we’re used to seeing from ENVE, which the company says helped them create a more vertically compliant rim.

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Diving deeper, the attention to detail remains impressive. The spoke holes are molded, not drilled, which ENVE claims creates a stronger spoke hole. The reason for this is that the carbon fibers can run uninterrupted around the hole, as opposed to being cut when a hole is drilled out. The spoke holes also feature a conical seat to allow the nipple to align itself perfectly with the spoke to avoid any unwanted torsion or tension.

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The spoke holes are offset on the rim, which helps even out the spoke tension between the two sides of the wheel. We previously mentioned the external nipples being a bit of a departure from the ENVE norm – this design was chosen not to save on cost, but rather as a consequence of the shallow rim profile which does not leave enough room for the internal nipple. On the topic of the rim, it features a wide, hookless bead which the company says helps drastically reduce the risk of pinch flats, by distributing impact forces over a wider area.

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The AM30 wheelset is built on Industry Nine’s new 1/1 hubs. The 1/1 is the workhorse hub in the Industry Nine range, but it still boasts some pretty impressive specs: a dual-phased pawl drive mechanism delivers 90 points of engagement (which translates to a very speedy four degrees) by way of six pawls and a 45-tooth drive ring. The hubs are laced to the rims with Sapim’s Race spokes, for a total wheelset weight of 1788 grams in the 27.5” Boost version.

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On The Trail

We received our wheelset with ENVE’s rim strip and tubeless valves included in the box. Taping up the rims was uneventful, even if you do have to clean and dry the rims and pay attention to make sure the rim tape adheres to the rim properly. Carbon rims often have a bit of greasy residue on them when they are new, which can be a challenge for the tape. We tested the wheels with several tires, all of which were easy to seat with just a floor pump.

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The first thing we noticed on the trail was the engagement provided by the I9 hubs. Four degrees of engagement is quick by any standards, and when coupled with a sturdy carbon rim and good spoke tension, it makes for a very snappy feel under the pedals. On the topic of spoke tension, we noticed that it was very even out of the box, and that it was a bit lower than on our ENVE M730 wheelset. Together with the lower rim profile of the AM30, this creates a more forgiving ride feel. The AM30 is still a stiff and responsive wheelset, but it is slightly less jarring on direct, vertical impacts than its M-series counterpart.

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One of the stand-out aspects of the aforementioned M730 wheelset is the integrated, protective rim strip which does wonders for tubeless performance and pinch flat protection. Moving over to the AM30 we were slightly worried that we would now have to forego that peace of mind, but it turned out that our concerns were unfounded. The wider top section of the AM30 rim bead does indeed work as advertised – try as we might, short of running 15 psi and riding like a moron, we have not been able to cause pinch flats on any of the tires tested with the AM30 (Maxxis, Michelin, and e*thirteen). Throughout testing, the rims have also put up with all kinds of terrain and a fair amount of abuse, with no scars to show for it so far.

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Things That Could Be Improved

One of the first things that pops up in any ENVE discussion is money, and some will scoff when they read that $1600 is ENVE’s version of a lower price. Yes, $1600 still a lot of money for a wheelset, but to be fair it’s not like ENVE cut any corners to achieve it (and plenty of other companies charge that kind of money and more for carbon wheelsets). There is plenty of useful technology in these wheels, some of which delivers very tangible benefits. We’re still holding out hope that the excellent protective rim strip found on the M7 and M9 wheels will eventually trickle its way down to the AM30 level as well, but that is perhaps asking too much.

Long Term Durability

We’ve had the AM30 wheelset out on the trails for over three months now. During that time, we have not had any tubeless issues, and the spoke tension has remained true and even. The finish of the rim seems particularly resistant to rock strikes and similar, with neither the rim itself nor the decals showing much scuffing at this point. We have good previous experiences with the durability of ENVE’s wheels, and their lifetime incident protection plan and 5-year warranty do help put the purchase price in perspective.

What’s The Bottom Line?

ENVE has made a concerted effort to not only deliver a wheelset at a much lower price point than any of their previous offerings, but also to deliver on some specific design goals regarding ride feel. At $1600 the AM30 is still not a cheap wheel by any means, but it certainly provides value for money. Offset and molded spoke holes, wide rim beads and an excellent choice of hub all contribute to a great rider experience, with tangible benefits out on the trail. The more compliant rim profile translates to a little extra comfort in action, and the excellent warranty and lifetime incident protection plan also help justify the price tag.

More information at: www.enve.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 47 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Weight: 190-pounds (87-kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Specifications

Product ENVE Composites Foundation AM30 Wheelset
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Rim Material Carbon
Rim ENVE AM30
Inner Rim Width 30mm
Hole Count 28
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Industry Nine 1/1
Rear Axle 12mm x 148mm (Boost), 12mm x 157mm, Other (12x157 (SuperBoost))
Front Hub Industry Nine 1/1
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Disc Mount Type Centerlock, 6 Bolt
Spokes Sapim Race
Nipples Sapim Dual Brass
Colors Black with Stock Silver Decals
Weight
  • 4 lb 1.3 oz (1,852 g)
  • 3 lb 13.7 oz (1,748 g)
Miscellaneous Recommended Tire Size: 2.3-2.6"
Wide Hookless Bead for Reduced Pinch Flats
3mm Offset for Improved Wheel Build
Molded Spoke Holes and External Spoke Nipples
Handmade in the USA
5-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty and Lifetime Incident Protection
Price $1,600
More Info

ENVE Introduces the Foundation Collection and the All-New AM30 (Press Release)

For more info and to purchase, visit the ENVE website.

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