ENVE SES 2.3 – A PURE CLIMBER
The ENVE SES 2.3 is the epitome of a pure climbing wheelset. If I were writing a story about the ten best road climbs in the world for some glossy magazine, I’d ask the publisher to feature a photo of a cyclist on a bike with ENVE SES 2.3 wheels to give my article the utmost authenticity.
Many of us enthusiasts put our game faces on when it’s time to head up a 7% or steeper pitch, be it on a mountain road or a segment of a rolling course. We’ll shift down into an easier gear, slow our cadence, and grind it out.
Going down is usually a well-earned thrill. But, depending on your confidence in your bike and handling skills, the excitement can be full of nervous or freeing energy.
The ENVE SES 2.3 makes me want to seek out a well-paved climb and revel in the descent. While not the wheelset I would choose for every day, flatter rides or those on rougher surfaces, if it’s a day with 1,000 feet or so of elevation every 10 miles, I want to roll on the 2.3s.
Fellow-tester and P/1/2 road and crit racer Miles reported that the ENVE SES 2.3 “flew uphill.” Nate, a hill climb event podium regular, noted how well the wheelset transferred his power and felt “very light” for climbing. For me, a true uphill grinder, these ENVEs help me remember, if not relive, my younger days when I could get uphill as fast as my riding buddies.
It’s one of the stiffest and lightest climbing wheelsets we’ve tested. That’s an unbeatable combination. But, as we’ve noticed in its deeper wheels like the SES 3.4 and SES 4.5, there’s something in the way ENVE designs or laces or tensions its wheels that give them a spring-like response that sets them apart when it’s go-time.
Nate enthused the ENVE 2.3 is very lively and responsive. Even in his stiff Specialized Venge bike, “the wheels accelerate fast and give back the power you put in. And the hub engages immediately and is also nice and quiet.”
Miles bragged that he was winning town line sprints against riders with deeper wheels. He also used the wheels’ superior responsiveness and acceleration in pacelines to maneuver away from trouble when riders in front of him quickly changed their line without maintaining their speed.
Miles and Nate quickly noted how confidently and predictably the ENVE SES 2.3 went downhill. Miles leaned into them without hesitation at high speeds on technical descents during one P/1/2 race. With zero need to micro-adjust for side-to-side motion, Nate was totally comfortable riding downhill at higher speeds.
I’ll admit to being a bit more cautious than my better bike-handling fellow testers when cornering at downhill speeds on these ENVE wheels. While all of us rode the 2.3 with 28mm Schwalbe Pro One TLE tires, and I also tested them with the same size Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR, I didn’t feel as confident leaning into turns as I do on climbing wheels that have a 25mm internal and 30mm external rim width compared to the 2.3’s 21.1 mm internal, 25.7mm external measured dimensions.
Call me spoiled or a wimp, but I prefer wider rims for my tires.
Nate and I also experienced less compliance on rougher roads on the ENVE SES 2.3 than on other climbing wheels we’ve tested. We inflated the tires close to the pressure ENVE recommends for these wheels, the tire width, and our weight, pressures consistent with the SRAM tire pressure calculator and a good deal less than the Silca one.
Still, you can feel every imperfection on an asphalt road and get a harsh ride on older or naturally rough pavement like chip seal.
And, of course, with its 28.5mm deep front wheel and 32.6mm deep rear, these aren’t aero stars. You can certainly accelerate up to aero speeds quickly, but keeping it there is more work than we’ve experienced on most other climbing wheels.
That’s less important in a paceline where drafting plays a bigger part. But, as a wheelset that’s less aero and less comfortable than most, the ENVE SES 2.3 isn’t one we’d choose for its versatility to ride both on climbing days and for everyday training and racing on various terrain.
But, for the fast-riding road enthusiast and racer looking for a dedicated climbing wheelset, the ENVE SES 2.3 is off the front. With a retail price of US$2850, £3350, €4000, you can order it using these links to recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), Merlin, Sigma Sports, and the ENVE online store.
Compare our reviews and ratings of the ENVE SES 2.3 with competitively performing models in my review of the Best Lightweight Wheels For Climbing.
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