ENVE Composites, formally EDGE until Jan. 1st 2011, didn’t bring a lot of new products to Interbike this year. Even lacking a major product release, they’d been really busy throughout 2010. It wasn’t until recently, through an announcement about their collaboration with Velo Science’s Simon Smart, that we figured out what exactly they had been up to. According to ENVE, they’re taking aerodynamic engineering as seriously as they take manufacturing and structural engineering. EDGE started in the fall of 2007 when a small team of Engineers based out of Utah shocked us with a rim that had features we weren’t expecting for years to come. Every detail was meticulously addressed, and every feature we could think of had been covered, with maybe the exception of in-depth aerodynamic testing.

That is, of course, until now. Simon Smart has a background in Formula One racing aerodynamics, but this does not do his cycling credentials justice.  Through the use of the Mercedes Benz wind tunnel he has been the driving force behind two of the most advanced aerodynamic bikes in the industry, the Scott Plasma 3 and the Giant Trinity.  He is also working with Scott to produce the yet-to-be released road bike dubbed the F01 that was ridden by HTC Columbia in this year’s Tour de France.  Given Smart’s history and his continual development of the Drag2Zero Test Protocol, choosing the right wheel company to partner with seems important.  Given ENVE’s superb reputation, hunger to improve and their relatively blank slate when it comes to aerodynamics, it makes sense that Simon’s partnership with ENVE should come natural.  So, while we wait for more news, I’d like to point out the most important feature about ENVE wheels, the feature that singlehandedly sets ENVE apart in the high-end carbon wheel market.

Molded Spoke Holes

This is the feature that I attribute to ENVE’s rapid growth in the industry. Every spoke hole is molded into the rim versus being drilled in a separate process. This allows ENVE to manufacture a bed into the rim that accomplishes three important things. First, the nipple sits in the mold similar to a ball and socket joint giving the nipple free range to rest at an angle not forcing the spoke to bend where it meets the nipple. Second, the surface the spoke sits in is slightly raised and tapers into down, better displacing forces over the length of rim between spoke holes. The final and third accomplishment of this molded nipple bed is that it’s polished and smooth for building wheels.  This is an easy feature to overlook, but when building rims the nipple can be hard to twist, giving the wheel builder a sense that there is more tension on the spoke than there really is.  Every wheel builder needs to be using a tension meter to double check, but wheels can be built with a better feel from the builder with no resistance behind the nipple.

Here’s to waiting until into spring 2011 to see what’s in store for ENVE.