For anyone wondering about the wisdom of purchasing an Enve bike, let’s get something straight right from the start: Enve has a deep portfolio of carbon design, spanning from wheels to cockpits, forks and most importantly (for the Enve Custom Road project at least) frame tubing made for, and used by, other manufacturers. With all of that in mind, for Enve to take their chops and turn them towards creating their own frame seems like a pretty logical next step. Add-in a stable of very competent bike riders to test the prototypes including the (ultra fast and ultra capable) Niel Rogers, how could we expect an Enve bike to be anything other than fantastic?
What is the Enve Custom Road?
In my experience, when a company starts thinking about bringing a new bike frame to market, the main focus is on where and how it will be made. So much of the development then takes place with an outside manufacturer based in Asia. Enve though, has all of that experience and knowhow in house at HQ in Ogden, Utah, which leads to increased focus on the what really matters, building a great bike. Prototyping is faster—envision a quick walk over to the engineers to tweak this and that and rapidly get back out on the road to try the latest iteration.
I felt this within a few pedal strokes on my first ride of the new Enve Custom Road bike. But, more on how it felt in a minute. First, what is the Custom Road bike?
The Enve Custom Road Bike Models
Enve is making two models, a Road Race platform and an All-Road platform. The geometry is determined by them, but they can make the height and length of the tubes to any measurement needed to create a much better fitting frame than the other big manufacturers out there. It’s not necessarily full custom in that regard, but pretty close. It’s also a picture of a modern frame: fully internal cables (it only works with electronic groupsets) one-piece bar/stem, disc brakes, integrated seat mast and so on. Our test bike was built with SRAM Red AXS and of course, Enve wheels, this one with their 4.5 AR’s and 29mm tires. This frame was based on their 53cm sizing, which fit me pretty well in saddle height but was quite short in reach and tall in the front end compared to the other bikes that I ride. The one issue with testing a fully integrated cockpit is that it was not realistic to change to a longer and more negative sloped stem to get closer to my natural position. Of course, this won't be a problem when I get a custom build for myself, but keep that in mind when reading my riding notes.
Getting it on the Road
We had the Enve bike for about a week before the launch and I got four good rides in on it. From the gun it felt light. The bike came in at just under 17 pounds, which is not super light, but often scale weight has nothing to do with how light the bike feels when riding it. The bike also felt fast. While not a true aero frame, it does have a lot of aero technology built in, hailing from Enve’s time developing the SES wheel range. The bike felt great both sprinting and when just tooling along. That last point is nice, as a lot of the latest high-end performance bikes I’ve ridden only really feel at home when riding hard. At slow speeds they can tend to ride a bit harsh. I’m not really sure if it was due to the carbon layup that Enve uses or the wide rims and 29mm tires inflated to ~55psi or a combination of both, but it was a smooth riding bike.
I rode all of our usual test loops which have a good amount of terrain choices: steep hills, long climbs, technical descents, beat up tarmac and a good amount of gravel. The Enve Custom Road performed well on all of these. Getting into a rhythm on a longer climb was easy, and with a quick kick on the pedals, I was rewarded with an effortless and instantaneous surge of speed, for as long as my legs could hold that extra speed at least! The comfort was fantastic and all I could wonder about was how the all-road model would feel with some cushy 35s under me. What really surprised me though was how well the Custom Road descended. I was wary of the first fast descent, due to the position the bike had me in - too high in front and almost four centimeters shorter than my own bikes. The first descent was down a technical and steep hill which I felt I was taking at 50% at most, but my riding partner that day was asking what got into me and why I was going so fast! So, score one for the handling.
The Touch Points
The Enve Custom Road comes with a few standard parts as well. First is the new Enve one piece bar/stem. Overall, a very nice looking piece of kit. There are only two negatives for me on these. The first is the bend from the tops down to where the brake/shift levers reside. It’s pretty close to 90° which is not aesthetically pleasing to someone used to a nice gentle curve there. This leads to the second negative point which is when sprinting in the drops. the back part of that 90° curve can hit my wrists. It does not happen every time I sprint, but when going hard it does. Maybe I just need to change up my form a bit, but this is why track racing bars are more gently curved and also why Cinelli came out w/ the criterium bend many, many years ago. I think I know why Enve does this though. The sharp bend makes the tops of the bars longer so there is a bit more space to move your hands around, but I’d prefer a bit softer bend for both aesthetics and performance. The rest of the bar looks and feels great though.
The second standard part on this frameset is the saddle which Enve partnered with Selle Italia and used that company's SLR model for this bike. It is stiff, but has a nice shape that works well for me, and also looks great on the bike. Saddles are, of course, very personal, and I could see some folks swapping this out for something different.
Lastly, if you are buying this bike it makes sense to keep it in the family and use Enve’s SES tires. As I said, the bike I’m riding came with 29s fitted to the AR4.5 wheels and they felt really nice. Supple and super grippy. I’m going to mount their 31s next and see what that does for the ride.
In conclusion, I already was expecting the bike to ride well based on who was designing and manufacturing it, and it certainly did. This was a short test, and we ordinarily like to put at least a thousand miles on a bike before talking about it too much, but the initial feedback was quite inspiring. For anyone looking for a high end performance bike, this one deserves a long look. Add in the semi-custom platform and it gets even better. I’m on the list for one of my own and when it comes and I start logging more miles on it, we’ll be back with a more thorough review. Until then though, don’t wait too long, as this first batch will be gone before you know it!