ENVE 5.6 DISC – A STANDOUT DISC BRAKE WHEELSET
Note: With ENVE’s latest SES line-up, the SES 5.6 disc and rim brake models are no longer being manufactured.
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 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.
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%.
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.
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 recommended store Merlin.
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First published on August 22, 2020. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.