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Over the span of just a few years, the ENVE brand has become synonymous with all things aerodynamic. This is due largely in part to its collaboration with Simon Smart, the renowned dodger of wind who lends his name to the Smart ENVE System (SES). Of the multiple wheelsets that collaboration has produced, the SES 3.4 Carbon Clincher Road Wheelset with DT Swiss 240 Hubs may be the one that best embodies everything we associate with cycling. It's mix of low and mid-depth rims recommend it for bumping shoulders in a nervous bunch, grinding up long climbs that we always regret until we hit the top, sweeping through weightless descents, and knocking out solitary morning workouts where dawn marks the turn-around point. Regardless of the situation on the road, the SES 3.4 provides the answer, and the only change ENVE makes to the latest model is the introduction of the all-new Gen 2 brake track.
We've been able to spend enough time with the original SES 3.4 to state definitively that the Smart/ENVE partnership successfully improves the quality of our rides. With the introduction of the Gen 2 brake track, that quality extends to include the ride's end, too. The brake track's new, molded-in patterning combines with newly minted caliper pads for a claimed 30% increase in stopping power that manifests in both wet and dry conditions. We suppose that, since it had already pretty much perfected the art of going, it was only appropriate for ENVE to turn its attention to the under-appreciated art of stopping.
With the exception of the brake track changes, the SES 3.4 returns with all the same aerodynamic black magic that has inspired so much starting line envy in competitors the world over. The SES 3.4's rims aren't subjected to static, arbitrary widths and shapes. Instead, the engineers let each wheel's depth requirements dictate the ideal dimensions in order to reduce lateral forces and increase aerodynamic benefits across a wide range of yaw angles. The 3.4's design also accounts for the different behaviors of front and rear wheels. The front wheel is 35mm deep and 26mm wide, while the rear wheel is deeper and skinnier at 45mm deep and 24mm wide. This decreases drag with a focus on increased stability up front while taking advantage of the fact that the aft position has less of an effect on steering stability to focus on aerodynamic gains in the rear.
The result is that the 3.4 handles crosswinds and gusts with the confident stability of a wheelset with half its depth by building up a side-force equal to the changing angle of the wind. While this sounds like so much marketing palaver, it's verified by the Stability Index test results. ENVE borrows this testing protocol from the Formula One industry, and it remains the only cycling manufacturer with the confidence to measure its wheels by such a demanding metric. To rate a wheelset on this index, the front wheel is subjected to quick changes in wind resistance at set yaw angles, and the steering torque of user-correction is then measured. This means you won't be thrown across the road when a sharp turn radically changes your orientation to the wind, and you'll also enjoy more stability in gusty conditions, eliminating unfortunate surprises while cruising in the bunch.
Of course, we also recognize that aerodynamics are absolutely meaningless if a wheelset crumbles at the first sign of less-than-optimal road conditions, so we expected ENVE's obsessive engineering to carry over into the wheels' materials and lay-up. We weren't disappointed. ENVE routes the carbon around each spoke hole in a 100% intact design, which adds strength, boosts rigidity, and allows for less material and a lighter rim. The use of a removable bladder also keeps weight down compared to other wheels, so the SES series boasts the highest claimed strength-to-weight ratio on the market.
- Item #ENV0036