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Long-Term Review: ENVE 45 & 65 Wheels Are Budget Aero Winners

Looking for the best do-it-all carbon road wheels? My pick is ENVE's Foundation 45 and 65. After 3 years and over 8,000 problem-free miles, I think they're the right balance of performance and value. Plus, they're ENVE's most affordable American-made carbon wheelset.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Road

Do you want carbon road wheels to be super light? Super aero? Super durable? Unfortunately, no carbon wheelset can be all these things. But I’m not looking for wheels that take any one of these traits to the extreme. I’ve learned through cycling (and video games) that “min-maxing” my equipment leads to annoying gaps in performance.

Instead, I want a jack-of-all-trades that will work well in any riding situation, preferably without draining my bank account. That’s why I put ENVE’s Foundation 45 and 65 road wheels on my own road bikes. I’ve been riding both Foundation models since they were released in 2020 and put over 4,000 miles on each set. Here’s why they've become my go-to recommendation for discerning road riders looking for carbon wheels. 

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ENVE 45 & 65 Pros

ENVE 45 & 65

  • Comparable aero efficiency to ENVE SES wheels 
  • Wide hookless bead prevents pinch flats
  • Great ride quality
  • ENVE warranty with Incidental Damage Protection 
  • Made in the USA

ENVE 45 & 65 Cons

  • Limited hub options (12x100mm/12x42mm and centerlock disc only)
  • Tubeless tape doesn't come installed and could be stickier
  • $1,750 retail still pricey for many

ENVE 45 & 65 Details







Internal Width



External Width



Weight (XDR freehub)



Best for…

All-around road riding

Flat/rolling roads and TTs

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ENVE’s Foundation Series wheels were introduced in 2020 as a lower-cost alternative to its top-of-the-line SES, G-Series, and M-Series wheels. There are two Foundation road models available — the ENVE 45 and 65 — which have 45mm and 65mm depths respectively.

ENVE was able to reduce the cost of its Foundation Series wheels by using a single rim profile for the front and rear (SES road wheels use different rim profiles for the front and rear). Like ENVE's SES rims, they are made in the US, and use internal molded spoke holes. But since they require fewer molds, the ENVE 45 and 65 retail for over $1,000 less than SES wheels.

ENVE 45 vs. 65 vs. SES aeroDespite the lower price, they don’t give up much performance. Just like SES wheels, Foundation wheels were developed and tested in the Mercedes Benz Formula One wind tunnel and they are competitive with SES wheels when it comes to drag reduction. You can see in the graph above exactly how they compare to SES models based on ENVE’s wind tunnel testing.

ENVE 45 & 65 hubAnother component that reduces cost is the hubs. The wheels are built around a simplified version of ENVE’s alloy disc hub, which is about 6 grams heavier than the SES hub and is only available in a thru-axle version with center-lock disc rotors and Shimano HG or SRAM XDr freehubs. If you prefer, the wheels can also be ordered with Industry Nine’s 1/1 hub for the same price. The wheels are laced with Sapim CX-Sprint bladed spokes, which is a nice touch since many carbon wheels in the price range will use traditional round spokes.

ENVE foundation 45 and 65 rim profileThe hookless carbon rims are tubeless-ready. You can still use tubes, but ENVE recommends running them tubeless for the best performance. Either way, you must use a tubeless-ready tire compatible with hookless rims. (ENVE has a list of compatible tires that it recommends.) With a 21mm internal width and a 28mm external width, the rims are designed to work best with 25-32mm tires and are aero-optimized for 25-27mm tires.

A unique feature of the Foundation rims is ENVE’s patent-pending Wide Hookless Bead. This technology is used on ENVE’s mountain bike wheels, and I’ve personally tested its effectiveness. The edge of the rim bead is wider and flatter than a standard rim bead so it’s less likely to cut the tire during a harsh bottom-out. This prevents pinch flats and rim damage that can occur from hitting potholes, cracks, or other road features at speed.

You can also hit potholes without worry because all Foundation wheels come with ENVE’s Lifetime Incident Protection for the original owner. If you manage to damage a rim while riding, crashing, or driving your roof-mounted bike into the garage, ENVE will replace it, no questions asked.

ENVE Foundation 45 & 65 Ride Review

I bought a set of ENVE 65 when they were first released in the spring of 2020. The thing that initially drew me to the wheelset was the wind tunnel data indicating that it was a few watts faster than the SES 5.6 and almost as fast as the SES 7.8 (this data is from before ENVE released the redesigned SES 6.7). I was building up a Specialized Allez Sprint and I wanted the fastest wheelset for under $2,000. The ENVE 65 fit the bill, so I ordered a set with Industry Nine’s 1/1 hub. 

Taking them out of the box, the carbon, the finish, everything was beautiful and perfect, exactly what you’d expect from ENVE. I was surprised, however, that the rims didn’t come pre-taped. Instead, you’re provided a roll of tubeless tape and a couple of alcohol prep pads. This isn’t a big deal since taping a tubeless rim and installing the included valves isn’t difficult, but it’s a strange choice. A potential reason for this is so you can grab the serial number off the rim and register your wheels (this activates the warranty) before riding them.

I found the tubeless set-up to be pretty easy, but that depended on the tires. Schwalbe Pro One tires were shockingly easy and I was able to seat them with a few lazy pumps from a floor pump. Vittoria’s Corsa N.EXT tires were nearly as easy, though they required removing the valve core and some more vigorous pumping. Strangely, I had the most trouble with ENVE SES tires as I had to seat one bead first with a tube, then use a quick blast of air from a Co2. All in all, though, I found that basic tubeless install techniques worked with every tire I tried. While it would have made life easier, I was never forced to resort to an air compressor. 

As for actually riding the wheels, they were everything I expected, meaning they were FAST AF. Obviously, this is all based on non-scientific tests like my butt meter and Strava segments, but on flat and rolling roads, they carried boatloads of momentum that felt amazing and inspired me to chase Strava PRs.

ENVE SES vs Foundation 45 vs. 65I also ride the ENVE SES 5.6. They're a bit better... but $1,000 better?

In crosswinds, they definitely weren’t as stable as my pricier SES rims (which use unique front and rear rim profiles for more stability), but they aren’t bad for a 65mm-deep rim. On days with 10-15 mph winds I regularly took the ENVE 65 out in those conditions without hesitation. If the wind got any stronger, I would start wishing for something shallower.

Despite their depth, the ENVE 65 climbed well too. At 1,641 grams, they aren’t featherweights, but they’re lighter than most aluminum options and significantly stiffer. While a lighter wheel will be a few seconds faster up steep climbs, you won’t notice without a stopwatch and I don’t think it matters unless you’re purely focused on climbing since deeper wheels are faster everywhere else.

Rough roads never phased the ENVEs.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how well-damped the wheels were. Tubeless tires help, but for such a deep rim, they were impressively good at damping out road buzz and impacts. On that note, I smashed both the front and rear several times into some really bad potholes (not on purpose). The wide hookless bead did its job, and after multiple stupid clashes with potholes, I only pinch-flatted once in the rear. That impact felt and sounded violent enough that I initially thought I destroyed the rim, but it came through without a scratch. I actually started riding my road bikes more on dirt and gravel roads because I had huge confidence in the wheel’s durability. 

ENVE 45 vs. 65 reviewThe ENVE 45 were a more sensible wheel for most of my rides. 

After six months of riding the ENVE 65, I was so happy with them, I bought a set of ENVE 45s too. This time I went with the standard ENVE hub. The comfort between the two models was comparable, but the ENVE 45 definitely felt better on climbs and in crosswinds. I swap wheels around pretty regularly and generally used the ENVE 45s for big climbing days, crit races, and days where the wind entered the 15-20 mph range.

Over the last three years, I’ve used these two wheelsets between my three road bikes — an Allez Sprint, a Roubaix, and an Aethos — and the ENVE 45s even got a brief stint on my gravel bike with 40mm tires. After putting over 4,000 miles on each set, they still look very fresh, the decals remain intact, and they still spin fast and straight.

I’ve had to replace the tubeless tape once on each wheelset since the tape started lifting after a couple of tire changes. If I have one critique, it would be that ENVE’s tubeless tape isn’t very sticky. Otherwise, I’ve had zero issues — just thousands of miles of carefree riding. Exactly what you want from any set of carbon wheels. 

ENVE 45 vs. ENVE 65

ENVE 45 vs. 65 reviewThe ENVE 65 was the crowd favorite on Instagram. But I found the ENVE 45 to be better for my daily rides. 

So between the ENVE 45 and the 65, which should you choose? They cost the same, and the only difference is rim depth and weight. Well, after three years, I made the tough decision to sell my Allez Sprint along with the ENVE 65. I kept the ENVE 45. Here’s what I think: the ENVE 45 might be the best all-around carbon road wheel I’ve ever ridden. It feels nearly as fast as the ENVE 65 when I’m riding on flat terrain. But for climbing and crit races — the two things I do the most on my road bike — the lower depth and weight give it a bit of an edge because it’s slightly easier to spin up. The ENVE 45 feels snappier when sprinting up steep grades and out of corners.

That said, The deeper ENVE 65 was the clear favorite in terms of looks. Something about 65mm rims just looks really striking, and I regularly had people compliment my bike when it had the ENVE 65 while the 45 went largely unnoticed. Performance-wise, the ENVE 65 really makes a lot more sense if you’re riding somewhere with more flat and rolling terrain, or as a super-fast budget aero option for TT and triathlon bikes.

I will also say, for road riding, I much prefer ENVE’s alloy hub to Industry Nine’s 1/1 hub. I love Industry Nine hubs on mountain bikes because of the high engagement, but it was very clear when comparing the two wheels side by side that the Industry Nine freehub system had slightly more drag. It’s not really noticeable while riding, but it stuck in my head, and it definitely contributed to my decision to keep my ENVE 45 since I purchased the version with the standard hub.  

Final Thoughts

ENVE 45 vs. 65 reivewThe ENVE 45 will be my go-to road wheelset for years to come.

Overall, the ENVE’s Foundation 45 and 65 wheels weigh slightly more (in the range of 100-200 grams) than their SES equivalents (the SES 4.5 and SES 6.7) and sacrifice a tiny bit of aero efficiency and crosswind stability for more affordability. Personally, I think the only reason to go with the pricier SES wheels is if you want extra bling on your bike, or if you're a nationally competitive racer looking for marginal gains. For the vast majority of road riders, the Foundation wheels will provide more than enough performance.

Can you get carbon wheels for less? Yes, of course. At $1,750, ENVE’s “budget” option is still pricier than many entry-level carbon wheels. But for me, the combination of ENVE quality and engineering, the desirability of the brand itself (if that matters to you), the generous warranty, and the fact that they’re made in America make them the best value for performance and my top choice.

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