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Rare Frameset Spotlight: ENVE Melee Review

ENVE is finally branching out from wheels and the Melee is its first production road bike. With low weight, great aerodynamics, big tire clearance, and a touch of rarity, it's pretty impressive.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Road

Some riders aren’t interested in riding the same road bike as everyone else. But even though they want something rare and unique, they also don’t want to sacrifice performance. That’s where the new ENVE Melee comes in.

ENVE made a name for itself with American-made carbon wheels renowned as much for their price as their performance. Along with its wheels, ENVE’s forks, handlebars, stems, and seatposts have always been at the top of the bike bling food chain. 

A little over a year ago, we took a look at the Custom Road bike, ENVE’s first bike frame, which offered custom fit and astounding paint. To create it, ENVE used an array of uniquely molded carbon components that could be joined together to produce the desired geometry. For its next road bike, however, ENVE went with stock geometry to focus on pure speed and performance. Thus, the ENVE Melee was born. This new aero road frame takes the lessons ENVE learned from its Custom Road frame to create a production road bike built for racers who want something fast, versatile, and above all, unique. 

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ENVE Melee Highlights

  • Monocoque carbon construction
  • Aero frame design
  • Includes ENVE SES Handlebar, stem, and seatpost
  • T47 threaded bottom bracket
  • 35mm tire clearance
  • Fender mounts
  • 850g frame weight (56cm)
  • $5,500

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ENVE Melee frameset details

ENVE Melee road bikeSince ENVE doesn’t need to use “tube-to-tube” construction to accommodate custom geometry, the Melee is monocoque, the same construction method used for most high-performance carbon race bikes. This results in a frame that’s lighter, more aero, and cheaper. Even though $5,500 isn’t exactly cheap, it’s a lot more affordable than the Custom Road frameset which retails at $7,000. The Melee is only available as a frameset, and it is priced the same as a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 frameset, to which many riders are sure to compare it. 

Like S-Works Tarmac SL7 and most other high-end carbon road bikes, the Melee is made overseas. It’s built in the same factory in China where ENVE’s components are made, which it also co-owns. Whether this is important will be a matter of personal taste. I have no issue with it, but if you want a made-in-America ENVE bike, you’ll need to pony up for the Custom Road.

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ENVE Melee component options

ENVE Melee road bike cockpit handlebar stemThe Melee shares its fork with the Custom Road and it’s designed to use disc brakes only. The frameset comes with ENVE’s SES AR handlebars, an all-road style bar with 23.5mm of flare in the drops, combined with aerodynamic-shaped tops. This is paired with a new integrated ENVE Road Stem which is modeled after ENVE’s Aero Road stem and features a “no-gap” faceplate and an inline K-Edge computer mount. It keeps the cables out of the wind by routing them internally through the headset. For the seatpost, Enve has created its own D-shaped Aero seatpost which is held in place with an integrated wedge.

The Melee is compatible with Shimano mechanical drivetrains and SRAM and Shimano electronic drivetrains. It will also work with a Campagnolo mechanical 1x drivetrain. Because the front derailleur cable routing must use full-length cable housing, SRAM and Campagnolo mechanical front derailleurs that require a cable stop and bare cable aren’t compatible. It’s also not compatible with Campagnolo’s EPS electronic groups because the connectors are too big to fit through the chain stays. In this case, ENVE said they prioritized tire clearance over EPS compatibility. 

For some, this is a worthy trade-off because while most aero road bikes max out around 30mm, the Melee can fit 35mm wide tires, giving riders the option to explore more roads, paved or otherwise. ENVE says that the Melee’s geometry is optimized for 27-31mm tires and that 25mm tires are the minimum. Any narrower will adversely affect the geometry and handling of the bike. 

ENVE Melee road bike forkThe Melee fork has five different rake options to suit different sizes. It even has fender mounts.

A T47 threaded bottom bracket will satisfy the press-fit haters and for those that ride their bikes year-round, integrated fender mounts are an unexpected but welcome addition for an aero bike. My guess is that ENVE will eventually release a carbon fender, similar to its AR carbon fender, to match the frame and mounts.  


Finally, the Melee frameset currently only comes in one color, Damascus, which is essentially a metallic gray. After seeing how stunning its Custom Road paint jobs are, I hope to see more color options soon. Like with its wheels, ENVE does offer custom die-cut decals if you want to add a pop of color to the frame.

ENVE Melee Aerodynamics

ENVE Melee AerodydnamicsENVE is an industry leader in aero road wheels, and it used its extensive experience with CFD and wind tunnel testing to develop the slippery new Melee. According to Enve, the Melee is competitive with the fastest aero road bikes on the market. The frame uses Kammtail profiles, but the tube shapes have been tuned to specifically complement ENVE’s SES aero rim shapes for optimal aerodynamic performance. Paired with the integrated aero cockpit, ENVE calls this engineered harmony between frame and components “Real-World Fast.”

Compared to the Custom Road, which also featured an aerodynamic frame, the Melee uses thinner tube profiles. This was made possible because of the monocoque construction. The tube-to-tube construction used for the Custom Road required additional carbon around the joints. Having one continuous carbon layup allowed ENVE designers to use tubes with a profile around 1 to 2mm thinner. Compared to the Custom Road, ENVE claims the Melee will save around 6 watts of drag at 30mph, depending on yaw angle, and 1 to 2 watts at 20mph. Overall, the Melee is designed for riding fast, and the aerodynamics have been optimized for riding in the 20-25mph range.

ENVE Melee geometry

ENVE Melee road bike geometryStock geometry is another major reason ENVE has been able to reduce the cost compared to the Custom Road. The Melee is offered in seven frame sizes from 47cm to 60cm, which should satisfy the vast majority of riders. 

Notably, ENVE offers five different fork rakes across the seven sizes. Because smaller frames need slacker head angles to reduce toe overlap, the forks need more rake to offset the slower steering. Most brands use three fork rakes, but ENVE added two extra rakes to specifically accommodate the smallest and largest of riders. More fork rake options ensure that every size frame provides ENVE’s desired handling characteristics. 

ENVE’s goal was to create the perfect compromise between responsive and confident handling. It’s agile enough to slice through a tight crit race but stable enough to play around on unpaved surfaces. ENVE is so focused on good steering that the geometry chart lists trail numbers for different tire sizes — I’ve never seen that before. Don’t worry if you aren’t that obsessive, but rest assured that ENVE has put a lot of care into the Melee’s handling.  

One final thing to note about the geometry is that the Melee has more stack height than many race bikes. For example, a 54cm Melee has a 552mm stack while the Specialized Tarmac SL7 in the same size has a 534mm stack, which is 18mm lower. This higher position could be more comfortable for rough roads and long-distance adventures. Plus, it will let more riders achieve that oh-so-beautiful slammed stem. 

How to buy an ENVE Melee

ENVE is being pretty selective with who can sell its bikes. Those interested in a Melee will need to find one of ENVE’s “Ride Center” partners or go through a few select online retailers. Fortunately, TPC is one of those online retailers! That doesn't mean getting a Melee in your size will be easy though. (There’s a reason this post is titled “Rare Frame Spotlight.”) Only a few Melee frames will be available for sale each month. This means if you want one, it’s best to hit the like (heart) button on our listing or save a search and check back often. 

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Final thoughts

ENVE Melee road bikeThe ENVE Melee is an impressive first foray into production bike frames. I happen to be shopping around for a new road bike and the S-Works Tarmac SL7 has been at the top of my list for a while. But throw the Melee into the fray and I may have to reconsider. The two bikes cost the same and actually look very similar too. One of the Melee’s advantages is that you get a set of handlebars for the price too. The bigger advantage though is the feeling of exclusivity the Melee has. Because the production runs are much smaller, we simply aren’t going to see as many Melees out on the road. This will definitely pique the interest of riders who want something that stands out from the crowd.   

The increased tire clearance and fender mounts are also attractive for any rider whose interests extend beyond pure road racing. The ability to fit 25-35mm tires will let you compete in fast crits and explore mellow gravel roads all on the same frame. Personally, I’ve been looking for a fast carbon bike that can also fit the new Vittoria Corsa N.EXT 34mm tires, so the Melee might actually be the perfect frame for me. I just need to find $5,500 stashed somewhere. 

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