Sea Otter Classic, North America’s premier cycling festival, is happening now at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The four-day event hosts hundreds of world-class riders who are competing in mountain and road races as well as brands big and small that are revealing new products for 2019 and beyond. We have a team on the ground to bring you intel on all of the most exciting product releases. Follow our coverage here.
Model: 3.4 AR
Availability: Available Now
Unique Features: Wider rims, lightweight, tubeless compatibility and bombproof construction make this wheel an excellent choice for just about any bike with drop bars.
Upshot: Enve’s latest wheelset combines its AR (All Road) width rim bed with a low profile, wide, and lightweight rim set to offer a wheel that performs well uphill and down, as well as in crosswinds.
Who It’s For: Cyclists with drop bar bikes, particularly those with an inclination to wander off smooth tarmac onto trails and minor roads.
Insight: Road bikes have been changing a lot recently. Once there were racing bikes that used 21-23-millimeter tires, cyclocross bikes that used the same wheels and marginally wider tires, and everything else was considered a mountain bike or a hybrid. These days it’s not uncommon to see road riders using tires that would be too wide for a cyclocross race (where 33 millimeters is the largest permitted external diameter). Gravel bikes go even farther with tires more than twice the width of the 25-millimeter maximum clearance that was long considered an industry standard for road bikes. These bigger tires let riders ride in a broader variety of roads and trails, but they only really deliver the comfort and grip that they promise when paired with a suitably wide rim to support them.
Enve’s latest wheelset is designed from the ground up to set the standard for modern wheels. The 3.4 AR retains the brand’s signature high-quality construction and adds a wider rim bed that is optimized for the wider, current tubeless tire standards and uses a hookless rim that ensures a stable and reliable tire-to-rim interface. Both the front and rear 3.4 AR rims are optimized for their role on the bike, and as a result, they differ slightly in depth.
Unlike many deep section wheels, the 3.4 ARs don’t feel sketchy in crosswinds or heavy when accelerating. I rode the 3.4 AR 150 miles from San Francisco to Sea Otter in Monterey, and they were notably stable descending, provided a comfortable ride, accelerated fast, and provided impressive crosswind performance. With wheels like these set up with wider tires, modern road bikes can become a lot more versatile, comfortable, and fun. If you’re still riding narrow rims and 23s, these might be the best road riding upgrade you can make.