By Tyler Servoss
Three years ago I wrote a profile for Cycling Utah on ENVE Composites (formerly EDGE Composites) and its history. Since that time the company has grown by leaps and bounds and further solidified itself as a major player in the high end bicycle parts world. ENVE designs and manufactures top notch carbon fiber wheels , forks, tubing, seat posts, handlebars, and stems.
Enve is solidying that with the recent announcement of a new manufacturing facility that will lead to 324 new jobs over a 7 year period (see sidebar). What’s more these jobs will pay better than average salaries and make a significant impact on many families in the Ogden area.
Jake Pantone is a long time employee of ENVE and recently gave me a tour of the company’s upgraded facilities. In 2009 the company moved into a new building adjacent to their previous building. The old space was approximately 8,000 sq feet. Currently they occupy 20,000 sq feet and are bursting at the seams.
ENVE is bucking the trend of designed in the US and manufactured in Asia by bringing those processes back home. Their motives are not only patriotic, but practical. Building and sourcing carbon components in Asia is ultimately more expensive than domestic production when transportation costs, taxes, tariffs and other expenses are factored in. There is also a loss of control. The rate of innovation in carbon is so rapid that attempts to protect technology through patents are largely ineffective and ENVE finds that controlling the process and keeping their cards close to the vest ultimately allow for better control of the tech and brand. One line from their website puts it nicely, “At ENVE Composites, we build all our wheels in the U.S. in our own factory, right next to the engineers that design them.”
“100% of ENVE’s rims have always been made in Ogden. Our goal is to bring 100% of our component manufacturing back to Utah,” said Jonny Hintze of ENVE. It will join the testing, tooling, and engineering processes with the end result being that their entire product line will be designed and manufactured in Ogden.
ENVE has an advanced testing lab that allows for several different stress tests to ensure quality products. One machine used to test braking heat dissipation was designed in conjunction with The Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and aided by a grant from the State of Utah. The machine works by spinning a wheel using a chain and simulated rider load and then applying braking force while measuring temperature at multiple points hundreds of times a second using laser technology. The machine can also precisely measure wheel and tire width and see how these dimensions change as braking is applied and heat is generated.
In addition they have invested in a machine that executes a test that the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) requires all wheels to pass in order to be certified for international competition. This machine places the wheel under stresses that simulate road conditions until failure, to ensure that the failed wheel does not come apart in such a way that would injure a rider.
ENVE has also added a machine shop which allows for rapid innovation and prototyping as well as repair and tweaking of the aluminum CNC’d molds used to shape rims and components rather than having to outsource to an outside machine shop.
Rather than buy its way into the ProTour, ENVE has focused on a homegrown strategy and stuck with the United Health care cycling team for the past several seasons as the program has grown to the pro continental level with the potential of reaching the ProTour in the near future. The team has expanded its reach by signing an international roster and spending more time in Europe. The exposure has been a major boon for the brand and European distribution agreements are in place and in full swing.
ENVE is well known as one of the best in the world at wheel design and manufacturing. Less well known is the fact that they provide custom frame tubing for world class brands like Parlee, Calfee, and Boo Bicycles to name a few. They have also partnered with renowned aerodynamics expert Simon Smart to produce the Smart ENVE System wheels. The Smart system integrates wheel design with frame design to produce the most aerodynamic outcome. Wider, shallower rims in front and narrower, deeper profile rims in the rear provide the best outcome for handling and drag reduction. One of the key points is to create a very stable and aerodynamic wheelset.
I was able to test a set of ENVE’s Classic 45 clinchers (not part of the Smart system). The test wheels where built around DT Swiss 240 hubs with Aerolite bladed spokes and retail at $2730. The moniker “45” denotes a 45mm rim depth as do the names of the “25” and “65” wheels in the Classic line-up.
I was excited to try these wheels that have a reputation for being the work horse of the ENVE line-up. The day after receiving my test wheels I had the misfortune of being involved in a bike/car accident. My assumptions about carbon wheels were quickly put to the test. Rather than shatter or splinter as I had imagined might happen, the front wheel maintained its shape while my carbon fork unfortunately sheared off just above the drop outs.
Once I recovered from said crash I was able to continue the test. I found the wheels to be light and fast as one would imagine. I used the wheels daily for training, commuting and racing. I was impressed by the lateral of stiffness of the wheels and the way they tracked solidly through corners at the Top of Utah Criterium series in Ogden. They also were fast and comfortable on my 65 mile round trip commutes from Farmington to Salt Lake and stayed stiff and true while absorbing the vibrations of rough roads. The one down side that I found was the side-to-side flex when climbing and applying a lot of power. I found the flex caused the drive train to complain and not track perfectly. During my factory tour I learned that side to side flex is more about the hub and spokes and less so about the rim, and that some flex is to be expected. Overall I found the wheels to be about perfect for day to day training and racing.
ENVE is a great contributor to the sport of cycling both internationally and locally through its sponsorship of riders, teams and events. Ogden and the state of Utah have a great asset in this home grown cycling company and its growth represents a bright future for the industry in the US and around the globe.