The Future of Road Bike Wheels: ENVE SES 2.3 Review

ENVE's latest SES wheels are lighter and tougher, with wide internal rim widths and the latest tubeless tech to handle everything from pavement to dirt. Bruce tests the new SES 2.3 to see how it performs.

The Future of Road Bike Wheels: ENVE SES 2.3 Review

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Road

Have you heard? “All-road” is the new road. With disc brakes, big tire clearance, and plenty of compliance, modern road bikes are more capable than ever, and cyclists are taking advantage. Roadies are venturing onto rough backcountry roads, and even some dirt and gravel. Now, they need tough, capable, and fast wheels that can handle everything the road throws at them. That’s why ENVE has completely revamped its SES wheel line. I’ll explain what’s changed, and review one of the most exciting additions, the featherweight SES 2.3. 

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2022 ENVE SES wheel line highlights

ENVE SES 2.3 reviewThe new ENVE SES 2.3

  • Four new SES models: 2.3, 3.4, 4.5, & 6.7
  • Handmade in Ogden, Utah, USA
  • Dissimilar rim shapes optimized for front and rear use
  • 10% lighter than previous generation SES wheels
  • Tubeless optimized hookless bead design
  • Wide Hookless Bead pinch-flat prevention technology
  • Disc Brake only
  • Laced to ENVE Premium Road Hubs

ENVE first introduced its SES (Smart ENVE System) wheels in 2011. Its SES wheels always prioritized speed on the road rather than in the wind tunnel. In the real world, the wind is dynamic, so SES wheels feature front- and rear-specific rims for different purposes. The front is shallower for stability and handling while the rear is deeper to minimize drag. For 2022, the SES wheel line-up has been refined to maintain the same (or better) aero performance, but with less weight, more strength, and new tubeless-specific features.

To handle wide modern tires, SES wheels now have wider internal rim widths. The new SES 3.4 and 4.5 models have 25mm internal rims, the same as the previous generation 3.4 AR and 4.5 AR rims. In fact, they’ve replaced the AR-Series entirely, consolidating everything from road racing to all-road under the same SES umbrella. 

ENVE SE 2.3 review wide hookless beadAll new SES wheels are tubeless-ready, and they use the hookless bead design ENVE originally pioneered on its M-Series and 4.5 AR wheels. This allows ENVE to build stronger and lighter wheels with precise bead seat diameters that comply with the latest ETRTO standards to ensure perfect tire fitment. All new SES wheels also use ENVE’s Wide Hookless Bead. 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, preventing pinch flats.

If you want to learn more, or need help picking the right ENVE wheels, check out our ENVE wheel buyer's guide

The 2022 ENVE SES 2.3 reviewed

ENVE SES 2.3 review allez sprintENVE SES 2.3s on my Specialized Allez Sprint.

  • Wheelset weight: 1,197 grams
  • Rim depth: 28mm front / 32mm rear
  • External rim width: 25mm
  • Internal rim width: 21mm
  • Hole/spoke count: 24
  • Optimized tire size: 27mm
  • Compatible tire size: 25-32mm

The brand-new SES 2.3 wheels caught my eye right away. Ever since ENVE discontinued the SES 2.2, it has lacked an ultra-light climbing wheelset in its line-up. Now, the SES 2.3 takes over where the 2.2 left off. It’s modestly aerodynamic (compared to ENVE’s much deeper offerings), and designed specifically to attack hilly or mountainous terrain. 

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Of course, the biggest change to the new SES 2.3 is that it’s now tubeless-ready, hookless, and disc-brake-only. The old SES 2.2 rim also had an 18.5mm internal width while the 2.3 has been bumped up to 21mm to suit wider tires. Despite the width increase, it’s actually 30% lighter than the old SES 2.2. The wheelset comes in under 1,200 grams. I weighed mine after taping the rims (but without tubeless valves) and can confirm they are as light as ENVE claims. 

The wheels come un-taped (tubeless ENVEs always have), so be sure you know how to tape tubeless rims. Fortunately, the tubeless set-up was incredibly easy, especially when using ENVE’s SES tires. I was able to easily seat one tire with a floor pump. The other just took a quick burst from a CO2 and it was on. I ran 25mm tires, but ENVE claims the 21mm internal rims are optimized for its 27mm SES tires. After settling, my 25mm tires measured 26mm. I ran the tires at 65 PSI and the ride was extremely comfortable. 

ENVE SES 2.3 reviewThe ENVE Premium road hub uses stainless-steel bearings and a 40t ratchet drive mechanism.

On the road, the SES 2.3’s feathery weight translates into impressive acceleration, especially when going uphill. The difference between the SES 2.3 and my previous set of wheels (Mavic Ksyrium Carbon Pro SLs) is stunning. While not exactly scientific, on steep grades (>8%), I found myself using a harder gear (at the same cadence) than I could on my old wheels. This translates into more speed going up climbs. 

I demonstrated the effect of lighter wheels in a climbing test I did last year. In that test, the Mavic Ksyrium Carbon Pro SL wheels were only 196 grams lighter than a set of ENVE Foundation 65 wheels, and they saved 10 seconds on a 10-minute climb. The SES 2.3 is an additional 248 grams lighter than my Ksyriums, so you can imagine the gains will be even greater. I haven’t done any timed testing (yet), but I can tell you that the SES 2.3s are now my go-to wheels.

It's important to note that the Ksyriums are not dedicated climbing wheels. They’re more of an all-rounder. But I actually think that my SES 2.3s are just as versatile. I’m around 185 pounds before breakfast and definitely had my doubts that a sub-1,200 gram wheelset with only 24 spokes could handle my heft. But the SES 2.3s feel impressively stiff, and after accidentally smashing them through a few potholes, I trust them to survive some serious abuse. 

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Admittedly, the SES 2.3 isn’t the most aerodynamic wheel in the SES line-up. It simply isn’t deep enough to match its slippery big brothers. If you spend more time on flatter or rolling terrain, deeper options like the SES 3.4 or 4.5 might suit your needs better.

[product-block handle="2022-enve-ses-4-5c-tubeless-carbon-wheel-set-hg11"/]

ENVE actually claims that the SES 4.5 is the best compromise between aerodynamics and weight since it only weighs 1,452 grams but is more aero than rivals that are much deeper. But for my rides that often venture up steep pitches high in the Colorado mountains, the SES 2.3 is the obvious choice. 

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