ENVE 5.6 SES NBT Carbon Clincher Wheelset
A brand that develops its components and wheels both in the wind tunnel and out on the road, ENVE has produced their 5.6 SES NBT Carbon Clincher Wheelset to replace their narrower SES 4.5 brethren. Sigma Sports sales team member, Milo Purvis, has been putting a set of these premium race-ready wheels through their paces. Read on to get his thoughts on this premium wheelset.
Comparing the 5.6 to the older ENVE 4.5 SES NBT Clincher Wheelset, there are a few main differences; a small increase in weight between the rim brake wheelsets (39 grams); wider rims, from 27mm to 29mm (front) and 25.5mm to 28mm (rear), as well as an increased rim depth from 48/56mm to 56/63mm.
On face value, the biggest difference with the new 5.6 wheels is the rim depth; allowing the rider to become more aerodynamic and achieve greater speeds with little to no negative side effects. I've been using the rim brake version on my road bike for the last month or so to see how they roll.
I’ll admit it, initially, these wheels felt quite underwhelming. The usual indicators of a higher quality wheelset (like a drop in weight, or an increase in stiffness) didn’t really seem apparent on my 30-mile daily commute. But as I racked up the miles, it became more and more evident that these wheels really shine in their specialist area; on flatter courses, rolling hills and longer rides where you can keep a strong average speed.
At around 18-20mph (29-32km/h) you can feel the wheels lift and surge forward…willing you to keep the hammer down and cruise to a first-place finish... or the cafe.
When speeding along at 20-30mph (32-48km/h) the wheels show perhaps their strongest attribute; stability. Through corners, they feel very planted and composed. The wheels handle crosswinds with exceptional ease, giving the impression (and feel) that the wheel itself is pushing back against the wind.
Only when the crosswinds got pretty strong (over 20mph / 32km/h) did I feel the front wheel get a bit jittery. The easiest way to describe the sensation, is that with my own 50mm carbon race wheels, a crosswind feels more like a push or sometimes even a shove. But with the ENVE 5.6s the effect is more like a cough, and most of the time - a really pathetic one at that!
The longer the rides, the more I appreciated just how comfortable these wheels really are. Pairing them up to 26mm Specialized S-Works Turbo Clincher Tyres creates a supple and velvety smooth ride. With the wheels fitted, the rear end of bike experienced noticeably less chatter than I’m used to from my aluminium all-year wheels. This comfort does sometimes make the wheels feel a little bit tamer when compared to other stiff racing wheelsets. But as I’ve said before, these wheels feel far more adept at cruising to a personal best along an undulating loop than for lots of out-of-saddle efforts.
The ceramic Chris King R45 front hub and Chris King R45 rear hub helps to keep the bike cruising along very smoothly, they just keep rolling and rolling…and rolling some more. This smoothness is especially noticeable on flat-ish descents and small inclines. Before testing these wheels, I noticed while riding alongside a colleague at lower speeds, that his R45 hubs allowed him to keep up almost effortlessly while I’m still spinning my legs.
The freehub of the R45 rear wheel was surprisingly quiet, which is far more sociable for fellow road users and pedestrians. I wish I liked the sociable noise level but it can sound a bit tinny. Call me a yob, but I love my freehubs loud; just enough to strike fear into the hearts of riders who dare overtake me in Richmond Park.
Perfect for Time Trial and Triathlon
The stability will be fantastic for longer-distance triathlons and time-trials (draft-legal and Iron-distance) - helping boost the rider's confidence that when the wind picks up, they’ll still be able to hold their slippery aerodynamic position on the bars. Aero bike owners - the aerodynamic qualities of these wheels will be enhanced with the addition of an aero frame.
The ENVE 5.6s are really solid performers — if you’re looking for a comfortable, stable and slippery wheelset with excellent hubs, then these deserve a place at the top of your wishlist. The rim depth of the 5.6 wheelset is not going to appeal to everyone, but they really make sense for those riding at high speeds on flat and rolling courses.
Otherwise, narrower rim depths, such as those found on the ENVE 3.4 SES G2 Chris King Hub Clincher Wheelset, will likely have broader appeal for more mixed-terrain riding, where the lighter weight will contribute to quicker acceleration and a bigger smile when the incline turns into double digits.
Pros and Cons
++ Stability in crosswinds is fantastic, really confidence-inspiring
++ Chris King R45 hubs run extremely smoothly
+ NBT braking surface is strong, still performing well when the weather takes a turn
+ Comfortable for long distances - The wheels feel a bit heavy above a 5% gradient
- The brakes are still rim brakes, and the levers still need to be pulled harder to stop (especially as the cables stretch)
- If everything else was the same, I’d likely choose an aluminium braking surface instead
++ major positive + positive +- mixed feelings -- major negative - negative
Weight: 1550g (rim brake); 1560g (disc brake)
Rim Depth: 54mm (front) 63mm (rear)
Rim Width: (external): 29mm (front) 28mm (rear)