ENVE Composites M730 Wheelset

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ENVE M730 Wheelset
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Under Pressure: Beating Up ENVE’s New M730 Wheelset

ENVE brings a lot of innovation to the table with the latest M-series carbon wheelsets - we put them to the test to see what it all adds up to on the trail.

Rating: Vital Review
Under Pressure: Beating Up ENVE’s New M730 Wheelset

There is no doubt that $3000 is a lot of money to spend on a carbon wheelset, especially for a mountain bike. First, because you can easily find a perfectly good ENTIRE BIKE for that kind of money, and second, because on a mountain bike you know the wheels are going to have a tough life. That hasn’t stopped ENVE from making such an expensive product, and it hasn’t stopped them from selling it either. For 2018 ENVE decided to go back to the drawing board and look for solutions to a couple of common complaints with the previous generation of M-series wheels: they were sometimes criticized for being too stiff and for having a tendency to cause pinch flats. What they came up with looks like nothing else on the market currently, which left us curious as to what that would translate to on the

There is no doubt that $3000 is a lot of money to spend on a carbon wheelset, especially for a mountain bike. First, because you can easily find a perfectly good ENTIRE BIKE for that kind of money, and second, because on a mountain bike you know the wheels are going to have a tough life. That hasn’t stopped ENVE from making such an expensive product, and it hasn’t stopped them from selling it either. For 2018 ENVE decided to go back to the drawing board and look for solutions to a couple of common complaints with the previous generation of M-series wheels: they were sometimes criticized for being too stiff and for having a tendency to cause pinch flats. What they came up with looks like nothing else on the market currently, which left us curious as to what that would translate to on the trail. Read on to find out!

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Weight to stiffness ratio
  • Rolling speed
  • Protective rim strip really makes a difference in terms of tubeless set up, tubeless seal longevity, and impact/pinch flat protection
  • Dynamic performance on trail
  • Price
  • Heavy hubs (Chris King)
  • Difficult to adjust spoke tension

ENVE M730 Highlights

  • Rim material: 100% unidirectional carbon, “application specific layup”
  • Patent pending protective rim strip
  • Rim Depth: 27 mm
  • External Width: 36 mm (38 mm with rim strip)
  • Internal Width: 30 mm
  • Hole Count: 32
  • Hub: Chris King ISO (tested), DT Swiss 240 or 240 CL
  • Effective Rim Diameter: 559 mm (27.5 in), 599 mm (29 in)
  • Recommended Tire Size: 2.3 in - 2.5 in
  • Weight: 1955 grams (27.5, verified)
  • MSRP: Starting at $2900 ($3080 as tested)

Initial Impressions

The ENVE wheels show up in a fairly standard box, with just the logo indicating to those in the know that something a bit out of the ordinary is hiding inside. A small pouch holds a manual and a couple of basic tools, including a special lever used to install and remove the protective rim strips. The pouch also includes a business card that tells you the serial number of your wheels and who built them – shout out to Wyatt who put together our set, a classic white/grey on black rim laced to Chris King hubs (other colors can be specific at the time of ordering).

Holding the M730 wheels in your hand for the first time could easily be a bit underwhelming, given the resolutely overwhelming impression left by the invoice – the name on the stickers aside, these look just like many other carbon wheels. But closer inspection revealed impeccable build quality and of course, a few unique features (also don’t forget that these wheels are handmade in Ogden, Utah, USA). For example, the internal nipples make for a very clean look, and the bladed spokes were all perfectly aligned. Plucking at the spokes for an acoustic test revealed impressively even spoke tension as well.

This unique design covers the whole rim, from rim bed to rim bead, with two specific goals: providing a better tubeless experience, and protecting the tire and rim from impact.

The standout feature of this new wheel is of course the protective rim strip, which ENVE has applied for a patent on. This unique design covers the whole rim, from rim bed to rim bead, with two specific goals: providing a better tubeless experience, and protecting the tire and rim from impact. Protection is provided by the impact-absorbing qualities of the material in question (a somewhat flexible plastic) as well as the shape of the strip itself. By entirely covering the rim bead the rim strip also provides a much wider surface for the tire to compress onto under heavy impacts – typically about twice as wide (a rim bead is generally about 2.5 mm wide, while the ENVE protective rim strip is 4 mm).

Our set came laced to a pair of Chris King ISO hubs, which adds a couple of hundred dollars to the price tag and a couple of hundred grams to the wheelset weight. 1955 grams is quite a lot for a carbon wheelset we hear you saying, but bear in mind that the M7 series is the second-most aggressive series made by ENVE, so it needs to be able to take a beating.

If you want the same M7 wheelset at 1750 grams, opt for the DT Swiss 240 CL hubs, or step down to the M6 series if your riding warrants it (in which case you'll have to forego the protective rim strip).

On The Trail

Mounting up a pair of tubeless tires using nothing but a floor pump was so easy that we wondered if somebody had snuck a pair of inner tubes in there while we weren’t looking. Fit the tire on the rim strip, and start pumping – job done. The beads snapped in place with a reassuring pop, and held air really well from the start (we still added sealant of course, for protection against thorns and to perfect the seal even further). We paired the M730s with a Minion DHF/DHR II WT combo, 2.5/2.4 inches wide respectively, which in our experience is just about the sweet spot for a 30 mm internal width rim. If you want to go wider, there’s a M735 available as well.

Rolling out, the M730s felt great. The rear hub engages quickly and solidly, and the wheels roll fast. With a fair amount of grease in the DriveRing, the famous “Chris King Buzz” was nowhere to be heard, but that’s an easy fix if you prefer having a swarm of angry bees on your tail at all times – just run a lighter grease or even 10wt oil instead.

Are the M730s stiff? They sure are, but at the same time, not bone-jarringly so. Hit a turn hard, and you’re rewarded with a very snappy feeling of acceleration. Hit the pedals, and you’ll move out with purpose. Hit a rock garden, and you’ll know you did so, but without any real harshness. Yes, these wheels feel like an upgrade.

Starting out in the high 20s, we reached 15 psi without managing to cause a pinch flat nor break the rim.

After about 2 months on the trail with no issues, we decided to really put the protective rim strip to the test. One of our local trails features a sneaky root that has caused more than one dent or pinch flat over the years. To see just how well the new wheel would perform in this particular spot, we dropped our tire pressure incrementally while hitting the root over and over again in the same way, to see if we could fault the wheel. Starting out in the high 20s, we reached 15 psi without managing to cause a pinch flat nor break the rim. We carried out the same test with a 30 mm internal width alloy wheel, which suffered a couple of dents including one that caused the tubeless seal to fail at 15 psi. To show you what we are talking about, we recorded this particular test session on video:

The aftermath: the ENVE wheel showed no signs of what it had just been through. A couple of tiny indentations on the protective rim strip, but that’s it. The spoke tension was still near perfect, and the wheel was still dead true. The reference alloy wheel was in a whole other state, even though it was still perfectly ridable. Certainly a feather in the hat of this new technology as far as we are concerned. Note that you can only get the protective rim strip on the 7 and 9 series wheels (enduro and DH, respectively) - we wouldn’t consider it out of place on the 6 series either, but ENVE has chosen not to feature it there. Would we like to see something similar on other manufacturers’ rims/wheels at a much lower price point? Absolutely, but we have no idea how that might work, in light of ENVE’s pending patent. ENVE itself doesn’t make any cheaper wheelsets, so there can be no future internal “trickle-down” effect to speak of.

Things That Could Be Improved

At risk of sounding like a broken record, yes, $3000 USD is more than what many bikes cost. We should however note that there are in fact other carbon wheels out there that cost close to or about as much as ENVEs, so it’s not like it’s twice the price of the nearest competitor. Will a set of alloy rims laced to a pair of good hubs also serve you well? No doubt - carbon wheels in general remain very much a luxury item. The real issue here has to be what you get for your money. To fully answer that question you’d have to look deep into every aspect of the wheels, from design to manufacturing to assembly and beyond. The quality of the carbon layup, clever design features like minimizing the size of the spoke hole by using an internal nipple or molding the spoke holes into the rim as opposed to drilling them out afterwards, the new protective rim strip technology, tuning rim stiffness through the carbon layup – these are all features that add up to a high-performance piece of equipment. A 5-year warranty that claims to also cover “impact damage from riding” is fairly reassuring, while in a worst case scenario accidental damage can be fixed for 50% off retail value.

Other than the price tag, a couple of minor issues are worth pointing out:

  • Having to remove your tire and the rim strip to adjust spoke tension is a bit annoying (although after two months of heavy testing there is no need for it on our test set). We do understand the design choice behind the internal nipples, as they allow ENVE to use a smaller diameter spoke hole which in turns improves the strength in this critical area (as previously mentioned, they also mold the spoke hole into the carbon layup as opposed to drilling it out after the rim is finished, which avoids breaking up the fiber strands around the hole).
  • Those Chris King hubs are heavy! They do roll fast, and they are renowned for their long service life, so perhaps this outweighs the extra heft. The good news here is that if you want to save weight by opting for DT hubs, you’ll also save on the purchase price. That doesn’t happen every day in bike world.

Long Term Durability

We’ve not pulled any punches during our two months of testing the M730s, including a fairly brutal “smash test” as documented in an earlier section of this article. So far, not even a single spoke has gone out of tension. The graphics show a few scuffs, but that’s about it. We’ve had to adjust the preload of the Chris King hubs a couple of times during the early part of the test, but they’ve settled down since (standard fare for Chris King hubs). All signs point to happy days ahead – we’ll keep these rolling over the coming months, and we’ll come back and update this article if anything untoward should occur.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you want the best, perhaps price is not an issue. Money aside, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better wheel than the new M730 if you went looking for one. Can you get 90% of the performance for half the price? Sure you can, and that’s where every person has to decide for themselves if the extra cost is worth the marginal benefits. As far as ride quality and performance are concerned, the new ENVE M730 is absolutely a top-shelf product. Additionally, the protective rim strip is an awesome idea that provides clear and tangible benefits both in the workshop and on the trail, which really puts this wheelset in a category of its own. Does that make it worth the price tag? You decide!

More information at: www.enve.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 44 // Years Riding MTB: 12 // Weight: 200-pounds (90.7kg) // 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 M730 Wheelset
Riding Type Dirt Jump / Slopestyle, Freeride / Bike Park, Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Rim Material Carbon
Rim ENVE M730, 38mm External Width, 27mm Rim Depth, ERD: 559mm (27.5"), 599mm (29")
Inner Rim Width 30mm
Hole Count 32
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Chris King or DT Swiss 240
Rear Axle 12mm x 142mm, 12mm x 148mm (Boost)
Front Hub Chris King or DT Swiss 240
Front Axle 15mm x 100mm, 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Disc Mount Type Centerlock, 6 Bolt
Spokes Bladed, 2x Lacing
Nipples ENVE Internal Brass
Colors White, Black, Red, Blue, Turquoise, Green, Orange, Yellow
Weight
  • 3 lb 13.5 oz (1,744 g)
  • 3 lb 14.6 oz (1,774 g)
  • 4 lb 4 oz (1,927 g)
  • 4 lb 1 oz (1,843 g)
  • 4 lb 2.1 oz (1,873 g)
  • 4 lb 7.5 oz (2,026 g)
Miscellaneous Recommended Tire Size: 2.3" - 2.5"
Protective Rim Strip for Near Elimination of “Pinch” or “Snake-Bite” Style Flat Tires
Handmade in the USA
5-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
Price $2,900
More Info

​​​ WHAT IT IS

This wheel is the future of gravity riding and racing.  Ride optimized, incredibly strong and debuting the most effective and lightest anti-flat system on the market, (ENVE’s patent pending Protective Rim Strip). These wheels will give downhill oriented riders a new freedom to set their tire pressure for cornering and rock garden stability without sacrificing their confidence to smash track speeds without compromise.

WHO IT'S FOR

Gravity junkies, Enduro racers, and hard charging trail riders will find enlightenment riding the M7 Series. A completely new shape and design that massively reduces the risk of pinch flatting and/or damaging the carbon, The M7 Series provides the confidence to ride without limitations.

WHY WE MADE IT

Enduro runs on two things – Confidence and Control. Nothing ruins a good shred fest like a flat tire or broken rim, and nothing spooks you on a dusty trail like an unexpected drift. With this in mind we have been hard at work over the past 2 years to develop a carbon wheel system that will allow ourselves, athletes, and most importantly – you – to go “full-send” without compromising the ride experience by running high tire pressures, DH tires, and heavy pinch flat reduction inserts.

Building upon the platform of the M7 Series’ predecessor the M70, we re-profiled the rim to mate up with modern tires and absorb trail vibrations and chatter. However, just fitting tires is not enough. We know that riders also want the freedom to run lower pressure and that doing so can introduce flat tires and damaged rims.  The ENVE solution is a new rim shape paired with ENVE’s patent pending, energy absorbing, Protective Rim Strip. With this technology riders can skip the inserts and run the tires and pressures they want. Amazingly, we’ve managed to keep the weight neutral, and improve impact resistance too.

Learn more on ENVE.com »

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