ENVE 5.6 DISC – A STANDOUT DISC BRAKE WHEELSET

For a wheelset that was first introduced in 2016, the ENVE 5.6 disc still stands apart from the competition.

It’s not just the design characteristics that make it distinct, most notably the different front and rear rim depths, widths, and shapes. Rather, it’s the performance the design attempts to deliver that separates this wheelset on the road from others in the aero wheelset category with rims that go 55-65mm deep.


Click here to read my review of the rim brake version of this wheelset and here to read reviews of other aero wheels


Conventional thinking about wheelsets (or at least the way I’ve always thought about them) is that there are low profile wheels, all-around wheels, aero wheels, and deep aero wheels.

All-around wheels, as the name suggests, should do a bit of everything. While not optimized for any single type of riding, the best are light enough for climbing, aero enough for fast riding, and stiff enough for quick acceleration. They are typically the best choice when you’ll be in the saddle for hours at a time riding a mix of flats, rollers, and climbs. Nimble, precise handling is a hallmark of all-around wheels and crosswinds are either not an issue or easily managed.

Conversely, aero wheels have typically been those we road cycling enthusiasts want when riding and maintaining speeds in the mid 20mph range (high 30kph range) is our priority above all else. While dedicated time trialists and triathletes might ride an 80mm or so deep aero wheelset or rear wheel, roadies go for 55-65mm aero wheels when most of what we ride is flat, straight, doesn’t involve a lot of big speed changes or accelerations, and lasts for no more than a couple of hours.

Good handling is a bonus for aero wheels. Since the rides are relatively short, comfort is nice but not a priority. Crosswinds and climbs are to be avoided.

ENVE SES 5.6 Disc

Unique in our experience testing aero wheels, the ENVE 5.6 disc (and 5.6 rim brake model) rides almost like a blend of the best performance characteristics of wheelsets in both the all-around and aero categories. The parallel that comes to mind is what’s happening more recently with bikes that are combining an aero bike’s speed, road racing bike’s responsiveness, climbing bike’s weight, and endurance bike’s comfort into one bike that delivers all of that performance.

This ENVE 5.6 disc is as stiff as the best of the road disc wheels we’ve tested in the aero or all-around wheelset categories. Its responsiveness and acceleration are unmatched by most others in the aero test group and on par with the best in the all-around field.

While most aero wheels demand the kind of effort that convinces you to bring them up to speed gradually, you can sprint up these snappy ENVE 5.6 discs without feeling like you are burning through your limited number of matches.

These wheels also climb like champs, a level above other aero wheelsets we’ve reviewed and on par with the best all-around ones. Nate, my fellow tester with serious climbing palmares, noted this strength. Road racing tester Miles took it a step further saying they turned his Giant Propel aero bike into a capable climbing one going up a long, New Hampshire ascent that topped out at 14%.

ENVE 5.6 Disc

Miles aero bike rides like a climbing one going up steep hills with the ENVE 5.6 disc wheels

The ENVE 5.6 disc handles as well as any of the aero wheels we’ve tested. Miles railed corners at high speeds with them and said he could often put in gaps to other riders during turns. He was also “totally confident diving these wheels into hairpin downhill turns.”

Though these wheels are easy to bring up to speed, holding that speed is one of the few places they are average compared to their deeper, heavier aero wheelset competitors.

Crosswinds are not an issue for the ENVE 5.6 disc. Their comfort is better than most, making 3-hour rides easy assuming your fitness also supports that long and fast a ride.

For those of us who take a close look at specs, this wheelset’s actual weight (1576g) stands out against other aero wheels with all but the Reynolds Aero65 DB (1611g) measuring between 75 and over 200 grams more. But, the Reynolds rims alone weigh 100 grams more than those on these ENVEs.

While the ENVE 5.6’s lighter weight may help you on climbs, that along with a 3-10mm shallower front wheel than others in the aero category may owe to it’s more average ability to maintain your speed. It’s not subpar but it’s also not up there with the best.

ENVE 5.6 disc

The finish on this wheelset and most ENVE wheels I’ve tested is a little disappointing. ENVE doesn’t paint their rims and the powdered curing agent they use in the resin can pool in spots near the surface of the rim during the molding process. When this happens, you’ll see some white markings when looking closely, typically along the spoke edge. They can become more pronounced over time.

It’s never been a big enough issue that I wouldn’t recommend ENVE wheels and I wouldn’t think it has any effect on their performance. ENVE replaced one set of wheels I bought where I thought the marks were particularly pronounced and they handled it professionally.

We tested the 5.6 disc with ENVE’s alloy hub, one that uses Mavic’s Instant Drive 360 internals. It’s a similar ratchet design to the DT Swiss 240 hub and engages well, spins smoothly, freehubs with a moderate amount of noise, requires next to no maintenance, and at $2550, is the lowest-priced option. ENVE also offers these wheels with Chris King R45 alloy and ceramic bearing hubs or I9 Torch ones, all of which make the wheelset marginally heavier and significantly more expensive than with the ENVE hub.

If you’re looking for a wheelset to help you in time trials, flat crits, or flat solo and group rides, a more traditional design aero wheelset may be better for you. But if you are an enthusiast who wants to ride fast all day, spinning up quickly from a variety of speeds, on all grades of terrain, handling precisely through corners and switchbacks, the ENVE 5.6 disc stands alone in being able to do all of that.

You can find the ENVE 5.6 disc, or more properly the ENVE SES 5.6 Disc Carbon Fiber Wheelset through these links to the wheelset’s page at my top-ranked stores Competitive Cyclist, Merlin Cycles, and Tredz where, as an In The Know Cycling reader, you’ll get an exclusive 10% discount the first time you use code ITKTDZ10. It’s also available here from the ENVE website.

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First published on August 22, 2020. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.

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9 comments

  • Thanks for this, Steve.
    The above certainly positions the 5.6 as the ultimate all around wheelset. What type of riding would you recommend the 4.5 AR’s over these for?
    I’m 68kg and ride on flat and rolling roads in the UK. Surfaces are varied from smooth to potholes and a bit of road debris. Hills can be punchy at 15-20% but only for, say 6-10 mins. I don’t race and riding is club and small groups.
    I’d welcome your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

    • Charles, the 4.5 AR is the all-road all-around. So in addition to paved road riding, if you were looking for one wheelset to also do a fair amount of off-road dirt riding and cyclocross at good speeds, I’d go for the 4.5 AR. You could put on a cross or gravel tire on those wider rims. You’d want to use the 5.6 disc for paved roads exclusively. The occasional pothole or road debris shouldn’t be any more of an issue on the 5.6 vs any other wheelset. Best with tubeless tires though. Steve

  • Steve, From the pics, looks like you were running Schwalbe Pro Ones……25mm?

    • DMac, Yes. We’ve also been riding them with the new 25c ENVE SES tubeless tires of late. Even better fit. See my social media post from a couple weeks ago for pics and rim-tire ratios. Steve

  • I bet the new Roval Rapide 50 mm front and 60 mm rear would be a close match to these wheels. I just got a set on my new Roubaix expert and they are great. The spin up very quickly. They are more than 100 grams lighter. They handle great.

  • I know you commented on the new Roval CLX Rapide elsewhere, but now that I am riding them I feel that the description would be similar to those of the ENVE 5.6 (which I have not ridden). A few differences are worth noting however. In fact, I was down to the 5.6 vs the CLX when deciding what to buy.

    The CLX has bucked the trend on tubeless – which will rule them out for many, but in exchange you get wheels that are 1400g claimed weight. Since I am not sold on tubeless for my road bike the weight savings was notable.

    They use DT240 EXP internals vs the DT350 in the 5.6. Great warranty also.

    Be advised, they are VERY wide in front at 35mm, so some frames might not support them.

    I have been struck by how comfortable they are, even compared with my low profile alloy training wheels. Spin up is very fast. We don’t have any mountains south of Atlanta so I cannot comment on how they are from that point of view, but on the short steeps I don’t feel any disadvantage likely due to the low weight.

    I ride them on a SL6 Tarmac (Ultegra Di2) if anyone wants to know.

    • John, Thanks for your input on the CLX Rapide. Sounds like you are having a great time riding them. Cool! One correction. The ENVE 5.6 disc doesn’t use the DT 350 but rather gives you the choice of the ENVE Alloy hub with Mavic ID 360 ratchet freehub internals, Chris King or Industry Nine brand hubs. Steve

  • Hi John, what tires and width are you running on the Roval Rapides? Do you have a way to measure the inflated width of the tires? I am curious as I have been looking at both these sets of wheels. With the Rovals being newer, its been difficult finding many people with them.

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