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ENVE Foundation AM30 wheel review

By Bruce Lin

Published

ENVE wheels have always been expensive. To buy my first pair, I sold my 1998 Honda Civic and lived off of peanut butter and ramen for weeks. But now, ENVE has introduced its Foundation series, a budget-friendly line of American-made carbon wheels. This means that riders like me can experience the quality and feel of ENVE wheels, while also keeping our cars and maybe eating out once in a while!

ENVE AM30 carbon mountain bike wheel reviewThe new AM30 is ENVE’s Foundation mountain bike wheelset. To see how these new wheels performed, I mounted a pair on my enduro bike and spent five months abusing them on some of the roughest trails in the Colorado Front Range.

ENVE AM30 highlights

  • 30mm internal rim width
  • 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
  • $1,600 MSRP

ENVE AM30 pros

  • Excellent ride quality
  • Wide Hookless Bead is fairly effective at preventing pinch flats
  • Very easy tubeless set-up
  • Made in the USA

ENVE AM30 cons

  • Limited hub options (available in boost and Centerlock only)
  • Don’t come pre-taped for tubeless
  • “Budget” ENVEs will still be 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 don’t have the 690 points of engagement (.52 degrees) of I9’s flagship Hydra hubs, but with 90 points of engagement (4 degrees), they’re just fine for me. Only the pickiest riders will notice the difference, let alone complain. To keep costs down, the hubs are only offered in one configuration: boost spacing and Centerlock rotors. If you have a non-boost bike, you’ll have to look elsewhere, unfortunately.

As is becoming standard for 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 (the ones I sacrificed my car for) were from an era when ENVEs were notoriously stiff. Nowadays, ENVE prioritizes ride quality, and the new M-Series wheels have a more forgiving ride feel than their predecessors. The Foundation AM30s follow suit and 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 the ground well. I have some nerve issues in both hands and can’t stand harsh wheels for very long. But after five months, I have nothing but praise for the well-damped ride quality of the AM30s.

Even though the AM30s ride comfortably, they retain enough stiffness to provide the ping of acceleration I expect from carbon wheels 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, giving me tons of confidence.

The wide hookless bead is an interesting piece of tech. I’ve run tire inserts for years but decided to test the effectiveness of the wider bead by removing the CushCore from my front tire. I used a 2.5” Maxxis Assegai EXO+ tire and rode hard enough to bottom it out against the rim multiple times per ride. The wheel held up, and even more surprisingly, so did the tire.

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

However, my luck finally ran out a week before writing this review. 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 sounded like a gunshot. The tire went flat instantly. Upon examination though, the rim seemed perfectly fine. It had no marks or damage and still spun straight and true. The tire had one 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. Cuts by the bead are harder to repair with plugs, and having only one small cut in the tread made a trail-side repair quick and painless.

So the wide hookless bead appears to work, but like anything, it’s not foolproof. I have managed to pinch-flat tires with inserts in the past, so I think combining the wide hookless bead with an insert might be the perfect formula for ultimate protection. Through the whole test period, I ran a CushCore in the rear. Despite some equally violent mishaps, the rear tire and wheel remained unscathed.

ENVE claims the AM30 has “gravity-rated strength” and after surviving such a heavy impact without an insert, I don’t doubt it. As a result, they aren’t the lightest carbon wheels on the market. At 1,852 grams for a 29” wheelset, they slot in between ENVE’s lightweight 6-Series trail wheels and the more gravity-focused 7-Series wheels. They still feel plenty light for general trail, all-mountain, and enduro riding. I wouldn’t hesitate to ride them at a downhill bike park.

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

Overall, the wheels have been trouble-free. Tubeless set-up was easy with a standard floor pump, though it was slightly annoying that the wheels didn’t come pre-taped. I somehow failed to get everything to seal on my first attempt and had to buy a new roll of tape.

I’m also lukewarm on the Centerlock hubs. I like how easy it is to get rotors on and off, but now my stash of 6-bolt rotors have gone to waste (adaptors work fine but I'm just not a fan of using them). And neither the wheels nor my SRAM rotors came with lockrings so I had to scrounge when I realized I didn't have any.

Prior to the AM30 wheels, I rode the Santa Cruz Reserve 30 and the Reynolds TR 309s. The AM30 feels very similar in terms of damping and stiffness to the Reserve 30. The two wheelsets even weigh nearly the same. The TR 309s are around 100 grams lighter but feel noticeably stiffer and harsher too. All three brands offer no-questions-asked replacement policies. If I had to choose, though, the new AM30s are more appealing in terms of looks and name recognition. Plus, the wide hookless bead gives them a slight edge over the competition.

ENVE Foundation AM30 budget carbon mountain bike wheel reviewAt $1,600, Foundation series wheels are still pricey, but near the price of competitors like the Santa Cruz Reserve 30, Reynolds TR 309s, and other name-brand carbon wheels from Industry Nine, Race Face, and Stan’s NoTubes. And at nearly $1,000 less than ENVE’s top-of-the-line M-Series wheels, they’re the most affordable ENVEs ever made.

I find I don’t miss M-Series features like nicer spokes and hubs. The new Foundation rims perform as well as I’d ever need a carbon rim to perform. For the money, the Foundation AM30 is one of the best options for trail riders who want a carbon wheelset that will enhance their riding and handle plenty of abuse.

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