Custom frame, carbon-fiber material, made in the U.S.A. — with a few exceptions, you usually only get to pick two of these three choices. ENVE decided to change that. On Friday, the Utah-based carbon fiber manufacturer announced its new Custom Road frame, and for nearly any kind of drop-bar riding, it looks like it will check all the boxes.
Before we get into the “why,” here’s the “what” behind ENVE’s new frame:
- Custom-fit, based on two standard geometry configurations, Race and All Road.
- Full-carbon construction.
- All frames fit up to 35mm tires.
- Aerodynamically optimized to work with ENVE wheels, using CFD and wind tunnel testing.
- 850-gram frame weight (size 56cm).
- Includes SES AR bar/stem, ENVE fork, and seat-topper.
- Semi-custom paint.
- Pricing: Chassis only: $7,000; chassis and Foundation wheels/tires: $8,500 chassis and SES wheels/tires: $9,500; complete bikes start at $9,950.
You’ve likely seen or ridden ENVE’s many carbon products, which range from mountain bike and road wheels to forks and cockpit components. The folks in Ogden are certainly keeping busy, so why add the Custom Road frame to the lineup?
Simply put, they did it because they could. ENVE already had the space, equipment, and expertise to manufacture frames. In fact, ENVE has been building frames with Parlee for years, including the custom Z0. It also worked with Santa Cruz, Independent Fabrications, and Cervelo on various frames and frame components.
Plus, compared to the challenges that come with designing and building carbon rims — rotational and impact forces, molded spoke holes, and other variables — a modular, custom-fit frame is actually straightforward (that is, if you’re a professional engineer).
Not only does ENVE have the expertise, equipment, and means to build an American-made custom carbon-fiber frame, but its customers wanted it, its own employees wanted it, and the market wasn’t making anything quite like the ENVE Custom Road frame. As the name clearly states, ENVE wanted to offer a carbon frame with custom fit. It also wanted to pair the performance and comfort gains of larger tires with race-friendly geometry. And finally, with this frame, ENVE sought to balance aerodynamic gains with weight and ride quality.
The first of the three main objectives, custom fit, can be a bugaboo in carbon fiber frame-building. Hypothetically, you’d need a custom mold for each frame, making it prohibitively expensive. ENVE’s workaround is a modular system that takes universal frame sections, trims them to fit, and then bonds them together to create the finished product. Note the nuance: This is custom fit, not custom geometry. That said, ENVE estimates there are 742 different fits to suit riders of all sizes. To produce the right size for you, ENVE will take previous bike fit data and measurements from a professional fitter to tailor your Custom Road frame.
As for the geometry, there are essentially two choices, the Race and All Road configurations. Happily, both will fit up to 35mm tires, although the Race geometry is optimized for tires sized 25-31mm, and the All Road rides best with 29-35mm tires. The Race head tube angle ranges from 73-73.3 degrees, and the All Road is slacker at 72.3-72.4 degrees. Both have seat angles ranging from 73.2-73.7 degrees, depending on size. As you’d suspect, the Race frame has less bottom bracket drop, shorter chain stays, less fork rake, and a shorter wheelbase.
Rest assured, the process of fitting a Custom Road frame will be quite thorough. The question of tire clearance is a bit more straightforward. Overall, the impetus to fit larger, higher-volume tires on a road bike came from ENVE’s experience developing the SES AR wheels. I can also say from personal experience that ENVE’s employees never shy away from dirt-roads on drop-bar bikes, so their influence on this project is apparent.
Now, the trouble is that few bike companies have adopted larger tire sizes on road bikes. When you look at frames that are roughly comparable to ENVE’s Custom Road (Specialized Tarmac, Trek Emonda or Madone, Cannondale SuperSix, Giant TCR), tire clearance is stingy, usually just 28-32mm. Only endurance bikes like Trek’s Domane and Giant’s Defy offer the clearance ENVE was looking for (38mm and 35mm, respectively). But the key difference here is that ENVE sought to pair performance geometry with that extra clearance for ultimate versatility. And voila, you have this new frame, 35mm tires and all.
Last, we are left with the slippery topic of aerodynamics. We can confidently say that ENVE designed the Custom Road frame to work specifically with its SES wheels. That may seem obvious, but a frame’s aerodynamic design is suspect if it isn’t integrated with its wheels. Every ENVE frame is also sold with its one-piece SES AR bar/stem. As one of a bike’s leading edges, the cockpit can make a meaningful difference in aerodynamics, and rest assured that was also part of ENVE’s CFD and wind tunnel testing.
So we know ENVE has gone to great lengths to test this frame and harmonize it with other components that influence aerodynamics. Unfortunately, as is often the case, we can’t say exactly how it stacks up with the competition in terms of pure aerodynamics.
However, if you’re obsessively concerned about aerodynamics, I think you’ve come to the wrong place. At its core, ENVE’s Custom Road bike is designed for ultimate versatility. From sizing to geometry to carbon construction to aerodynamics, everything is considered and optimized. But none of those details are completely prioritized.
As such, the ENVE Custom Road might not be as light as a frame like the Specialized Aethos. It might not be as aerodynamic as a Cervelo S5. And it certainly doesn’t have the full gravel capabilities of a bike like Cannondale’s Topstone. But I suspect the vast majority of drop-bar riders would be well-served by an ENVE Custom Road or something similar. In fact, I kind of want one myself.
ENVE Custom Road frame: Specs, pricing, details, and more
- Custom Road chassis includes: Frame, fork, Chris King Aeroset headset, SES bar/stem, seat mast topper, Selle Italia SLR Boost saddle, K-Edge head unit mount, Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA travel case. Price: $7,000.
- Custom Road rolling chassis includes: All of the above plus SES wheelset and tires or Foundation wheelset and tires. Price: $9,500 and $8,500, respectively.
- Complete Custom Road bike options (Scicon case also included):
- Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM AXS with SES wheels: $12,500
- Shimano Ultegra Di2 or SRAM Force AXS with SES wheels: $10,900
- Shimano Ultegra Di2 or SRAM Force AXS with Foundation wheels: $9,950
- Wheelset options: SES 3.4, 5.6, 7.8; Foundation 45, 65; SES AR 3.4, 4.5.
- Additional options: Stages, Shimano, and Quarq power meter upgrades starting at an additional $325.
- Included paint options: Choice of two colors out of 34 available options and four paint designs: classic, solo, duo, and faded.
- Additional paint options: Premium paint, $500; additional third paint color, $500; painted to match bottle cages, $400; full custom paint, $1,500.
- BB386 EVO thread-together bottom bracket
- Brake rotor sizes: 160mm front, 140 or 160mm rear
- Handlebar widths: 38mm-46mm
- Stem lengths: 90mm-130mm
- Seat topper adjustment range: 35mm
- Direct-to-consumer sales only.
Photos courtesy ENVE