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Long-Term Review: ENVE's AM30 Wheels Are Nearly Bombproof

After 3 years of abuse on rocky downhill terrain, myENVE AM30 carbon mountain bike wheels haven't missed a beat. They're the right balance between stiffness and comfort, and also extremely durable. Plus they're ENVE's most affordable American-made carbon MTB wheelset.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:MTB

ENVE wheels have always been expensive. But now, ENVE has introduced its Foundation series, a more budget-friendly line of American-made carbon wheels for road, gravel, and mountain bikes. 

The AM30 is ENVE’s Foundation mountain bike wheelset. I bought a pair when they were released in the spring of 2020, and I've been thrashing them for the last 3 years on some of the gnarliest trails here on the Colorado Front Range. I'm pleased to report that they're still going strong.

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ENVE AM30 highlights

ENVE AM30 carbon mountain bike wheel review

  • 30mm internal rim width (designed for 2.3"-2.6" tires)
  • Wide hookless bead for pinch flat protection
  • Molded spoke holes and external nipples
  • Industry Nine 1/1 Classic hubs
  • Lifetime Incident Protection
  • Handmade in Ogden, Utah
  • 29″ Wheelset Weight: 1,852g
  • 27.5″ Wheelset Weight: 1,748g
  • $1,750 MSRP

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ENVE AM30 Pros

  • Excellent stiffness and ride quality
  • Wide Hookless Bead prevents pinch flats
  • Very easy tubeless set-up
  • Great durability
  • Lifetime Incident protection
  • Made in the USA

ENVE AM30 Cons

  • Limited hub options 
  • Don’t come with tape installed 
  • “Budget” ENVEs are still too expensive for some

ENVE Foundation AM30 Features

ENVE Foundation AM30 carbon mountain bike wheel reviewThe Foundation AM30 wheels are available in 29” and 27.5”. As the name implies, the rim has a 30mm internal width and is designed for “all-mountain” riding. They are handmade in Ogden, Utah, and use ENVE’s trademark molded spoke holes, offset 3mm for balanced spoke tension. The rim height is short, only 20mm, to improve compliance. This low profile rim means that the AM30 also uses external spoke nipples (higher-end ENVE wheels all use internal nipples), which is sure to please home mechanics.

ENVE Foundation AM30 wide hookless bead reviewThe profile of the new AM30 rim. Note the unique 4.5mm wide hookless rim bead. Photo courtesy of ENVE.

ENVE was an early adopter of the hookless design that has become the standard for tubeless-ready mountain bike rims. The AM30 rim, however, takes hookless technology a step further with its patent-pending “Wide Hookless Bead.” This is the same technology used on ENVE’s high-end 5-Series and 6-Series wheels. The edge of the AM30’s 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 without the need for a tire insert, but more on how well that works in a moment.

ENVE Foundation AM30 Industry nine I9 1/1 classic hub carbon wheel reviewENVE specs the AM30 with Industry Nine’s American-made 1/1 Classic hubs. The 1/1 hubs have 90 points of engagement (4 degrees), which picks up quickly and has more than enough engagement for me (and probably most riders). 

There are Shimano Hyperglide, Shimano Microspline, and SRAM XD driver freehub options. To keep costs down, the hubs are only offered in two configurations: Boost (12x148mm) or Super Boost (12x157mm) spacing and Centerlock rotors. If you have a non-Boost bike, prefer 6-bolt rotors, or want a different hub brand, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

As is the new standard for high-end carbon wheels, the AM30s are covered by ENVE’s Lifetime Incident Protection for the original owner. If you manage to break a rim while riding, crashing, or driving your roof-mounted bike into the garage, ENVE will replace it, no questions asked.

ENVE AM30 Ride Review

My first set of ENVE wheels were M70s from an era when ENVEs were notoriously stiff and harsh. Now though, ENVE has place a bigger priority on ride quality, and the new M-Series and AM30 wheels have a more forgiving ride feel than their predecessors. The AM30s in particular, rely on a shallow rim to provide more vertical compliance.

ENVE Foundation AM30 carbon wheel durability reviewThrough chattery terrain and technical rock gardens, the wheels remained composed and tracked well. I have some injuries and nerve issues in both hands and can’t stand harsh wheels. But I have nothing but praise for the damping of the AM30s.

Even though the AM30s ride comfortably, they retain high lateral stiffness to provide a springy snap of acceleration when pumping out of corners. I’m not a light rider (200lbs geared up), but when I smashed the back of my bike as hard as possible into a rut or berm, I couldn’t detect any excessive side-to-side flex. My bike always felt controlled and razor-like through corners, giving me tons of confidence.

The wide hookless bead is probably the most interesting piece of tech. I’ve run tire inserts for years but decided to experiment with removing the CushCore from my front tire. I used a 2.5” Maxxis Assegai EXO+ tire and bottomed it out against the rim multiple times. The wheel held up, and even more surprisingly, so did the tire.

ENVE Foundation AM30 Wide hookless bead no cushcore insert reviewImpressively, the wide hookless bead kept damage to a minimum.

However, my luck did run out eventually. I came up short on a gap and rammed my front wheel into a square-edged rock. I was sure I had annihilated the rim because the impact was so loud. The tire went flat instantly. But the rim was perfectly fine and the tire had a small cut near the tread. I inserted a couple of tire plugs, aired up, and kept riding. I’m very impressed that the rim didn’t also cut the tire by the bead (the classic "snake bite"). Having only one small cut in the tread made a trail-side repair quick and painless.

So the wide hookless bead works, but like anything, it’s not foolproof. I think combining the wide hookless bead with an insert might be the perfect formula for ultimate protection.

ENVE claims the AM30 has “gravity-rated strength” and after surviving all the abuse I've dished out over the last 3 years, I don’t doubt it. These days I run CushCore front and rear, and I have no concerns with durability, even for downhill bike park riding. They aren’t the lightest carbon wheels on the market, but they still feel plenty light for general trail, all-mountain, and enduro riding. 

ENVE Foundation AM30 carbon mountain bike wheel reviewThe wheels didn't come with Centerlock lockrings so I had to poach some off my old Reynolds wheels. 

Overall, the AM30s have been extremely trouble-free. I've been super impressed with how they shrug off rocks and rim strikes. I regularly hear the telltale ping of a rim strike (this is with CushCore too, so I'm hitting stuff HARD) and I never worry about it. They still spin true and I've never touched them with a spoke wrench. 

I've swapped tires 5 times and tubeless setup has always been easy with a standard floor pump. However, it was slightly annoying that the wheels didn’t come pre-taped, and the included ENVE tape also doesn't seem very sticky to me. After the second tire change I had to replace it because it started lifting up from the rim. 

I’m lukewarm on the Centerlock hubs. It's super easy it is to get rotors on and off, but my stash of 6-bolt rotors have gone to waste (adaptors work fine but I'm just not a fan of using them). The wheels don't came with lockrings so I had to scrounge around when I realized I didn't have any.

Along with the AM30 wheels, I've spent the last few years also riding the Santa Cruz Reserve 30, Revel RW30, and the Reynolds TR 309s. All of these are solid and high performing wheels. The AM30 feels very similar in terms of damping and stiffness to the Reserve 30 and RW30. The three wheelsets even weigh nearly the same. The TR 309s are around 100 grams lighter but felt noticeably stiffer and harsher. All these brands offer no-questions-asked replacement policies. 

Forbidden Druid ENVE AM30 carbon wheelsMy bikes change, but the ENVE AM30 wheels live on.

As you can probably tell, the AM30s are the wheels I've chosen to keep. All carbon wheels at this price point are really, really good, but I think the ENVEs are the most appealing in terms of looks and name recognition. For me, the extra puncture protection of the wide hookless bead also gives them a slight edge over the competition. Since I bought them, they've moved between several different bikes. I expect them to last many more years, and maybe a through few more bike changes too.

At $1,750, ENVE's AM30 wheels are expensive, but in line with name-brand competitors with strong warranties like Reserve and We Are One. Plus, they're American-made. And at nearly $1,000 less than ENVE’s top-of-the-line M-Series wheels, they’re the most affordable ENVEs ever.

The AM30s perform as well as I’ll ever need a carbon wheelset to perform. I think the only real reason to go for the stratospherically-priced M-Series is for the bling factor. Otherwise, for the money, the AM30s are one of the best options for trail and enduro riders who want a carbon wheelset that will enhance their riding and handle plenty of abuse.

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