ENVE AG25 REVIEW – SMOOTH ENERGY
When I first rode the ENVE AG25 gravel wheelset, a song came into my head. It doesn’t happen often when I go out for a ride. And when it does, it’s often a song I just heard before getting on the bike and doesn’t stay there long.
But when it happened with the ENVE AG25, it stuck and still does. The music suits the mood I feel while riding these wheels and the words provide a pretty good metaphor for their performance.
The song? Smooth. The 1999 Grammy-award-winning hit features a knockout lead guitar performance by Carlos Santana with words written and sung by Rob Thomas, the gritty-voiced lead singer of the 1990’s pop band Matchbox Twenty.
Haven’t heard it for a while? Listen here, my friend.
Santana’s playing is downright energizing. It’s the kind of energy I want to draw on when I’m doing a long gravel ride that I’m psyched about, especially if it’s an event with a mass start where my heart is already calling for it with every pulsing beat.
In the first few miles of that kind of ride, you need to “stay so cool” and “be so smooth” to avoid blowing up when it feels like you’re just “seven inches from the midday sun”.
And Thomas’ hook, the vulnerable yet impassioned“gimme your heart, make it real, or else forget about it” is the same attitude I want from myself and my gear on every gravel ride. Be on my game from the start, or don’t even bother to show up.
The ENVE AG25 gravel wheelset performs at that high level of energy I get from Santana’s guitar. It’s very responsive to accelerations and line changes and handles precisely as you make sweeping turns.
Yet, throughout a hard ride, the ENVE AG25 is also comfortable and relaxed, the gravel ride equivalent of so smooth.
There’s a massive amount of volume to spread your air pressure in the ENVE AG25’s rims. I measured them at 25.0mm inside, 33.5mm outside width. Riding them with several small knob tires in the 40mm wide range, they were notably more comfortable than others in this category of value-carbon wheelsets.
The AG25 also climbs evenly, comfortably, and with little effort – so smooth. Weighing just 1435g on my scale, 150 to 250g lighter than most gravel wheels in the value-priced category, and using the Industry Nine 1/1 hubset with 4 degrees of engagement probably has something to do about it.
On several occasions during my couple months of tests, I rode the ENVE AG25 and ENVE’s more expensive SES 3.4 AR back-to-back on the same day on the 13-mile, mixed surface, multi-class gravel route I use as a test track. Despite trying, I couldn’t tell any performance differences between them while riding gravel. Perhaps a better rider could.
Sure, the 3.4 AR is more aero as it is nearly 2x the AG25’s 21mm depth. But most enthusiasts and I aren’t going to ride fast enough on dirt and gravel roads and trails for aero considerations to come into the picture.
And yes, the 3.4 AR is supremely versatile – it can be your all-around and climbing road wheelset as well as your gravel grinder. That’s a good reason to pay more for the 3.4 AR if you are looking for that one wheelset to rule them all. You can read my complete review of it here.
But if you’re looking for a dedicated gravel wheelset, I’ve not found a better performer than the value-priced ENVE AG25, and none nearly as good for less. At US$1400/£1850/€2200, it’s priced at the top end of the value-carbon category but well below those in the performance-carbon range that the ENVE AG25 is on par with.
In the same way that the song ends with the repeated refrain, “let’s don’t forget about it….”, it’s hard to get this wheelset out of my mind and off my gravel bike to make room to test others.
ENVE also makes the AG28, available at the same stores through the links above for those of you that prefer 650b size gravel wheels.
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