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.

Thanks to Competitive Cyclist for sending this ENVE AG25 gravel wheelset that I picked among the hundreds they sell.

Of all the online bike stores I track, Competitive Cyclist is one of the top stores I recommend based on its competitive prices, broad selection of enthusiast-level gear and kit, strong customer satisfaction record from independent services, and support of In The Know Cycling’s goal to help fellow enthusiasts figure out what cycling gear to get next and where to get it.

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.

ENVE AG25

ENVE SES 3.4 AR (left) and ENVE AG25

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 I and most enthusiasts 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$1600/£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.

You can get the ENVE AG25 through this link to Competitive Cyclist, a store I recommend for their competitive prices, high customer service ratings, great enthusiast gear selection, and support of you, my fellow enthusiasts and In The Know Cycling readers.

ENVE also makes the AG28, available here for those of you that prefer 650b size gravel wheels.

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First published on July 12, 2021. The date of the most recent major update is shown at the top of the post.

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