Enve have come out of nowhere and become the 'cool kids' of the
carbon wheel world. They make fantastic products, look great and
now have Pro Tour credibility with Dimension Data.
However they will never have the Palmares of Zipp; who have won almost everything there is to win. Ten years ago the two hottest wheel brands were Lightweight and Zipp. Both have (slightly) lost their lustre over the last decade, but for various reasons. Lightweight are unparraled for their lightness and sense of snap. But they have been slightly left behind in the aero wars.
Zipp's flaw has been a curious lack of confidence. Their wheels were always expensive and cutting edge, and they pushed the boat out - for instance with things like the ZED Tech series which were eye wateringly expensive. However more recently Zipp price points have come down, but the perception was that this had come at a cost in things like hub quality.
The NSW range is the flagship of the Zipp portfolio; it is a special project from their 'secret squirrel' group of engineers and aerodynamists.
The NSW treatment is, in a nutsheel, a more aero rim, lighter weight, better braking and better hubs. Pretty impressive !
The NSW range goes all the way from 202s (for climbing) to 808s
The 404 is their most versatile wheel; its 58mm deep and is probably as deep as you want to have on a road bike. 404s have even be used to great effect on TT/Tri bikes.
Fricking cool. You put them on even a modest bike and it totally transforms the looks. They are deep, stealthy and mean. The impress graphics (which are not a decal but pressed direct onto the rim) look great and will compliment almost all bikes
Braking is sublime
As little as five years ago the obsession with carbon wheels was how light were they. Now its how aero they are, and how well they stop. These NSWs have the 'showstopper' brake track. Its a cool name. But they do work, and with their own pads they are easily the match for Aluminium rims (yes they are that good). I managed to lock up the rear wheel on a TT bike which is no easy feat. Together with the latest Enve's the NSWs are the best braking rims on the market.
Wide and Stable
The other big development is been how stable these new wheels are. Older carbon wheels were a V shape and this caught the wind very badly. So you would be riding along and suddenly a gust would blow you across the road. A very disconcerting experience.
New rims are U shaped; and the aim is to make the air separate much later.
The rims are very wide as well; they are a dream with 25mm tyres.
I did a week in France with these wheel, and back in the UK I also did two UK sportives on them. I rode them on three road bikes and one Tri bike. All in I put 1200 miles on them; so feel I got a very good handle on them
Simply put, if you ride fast enough they are amazing wheels.
They are right up there with the (much more expensive) Enve
Because they are so deep and stiff they don't have that initial snap of very light wheels. You do feel some inertia when you accelerate from low speeds. But once you are cruising they feel like you are cheating. They are very different than my Enve 2.2 climbing wheels. But for a typical UK sportive course these are much faster. Even on small drags they are fast because you carry so much speed coming into the rise…..
The hubs are very special; they have a clutch so that when you coast they completely disengage meaning there is no friction. On a 5 hour ride you might do as much as 30 minutes of coasting. Its literally free speed, and you see it when you go straight past people on long gradual descents.
Its annoying how they only come in clinchers; I would have loved a NSW tubular version. But I appreciate I am in a minority and for vast majority of people clinchers are a no brainer.
If I was in the Alps or doing a very mountainous Sportive then I
would ride my Enve 2.2s.
But in any UK event a set of Enve 4.5 or these 404 NSWs are probably the fastest wheels money can buy. They will make a material difference to your times. I would much rather ride Ultegra than Dura Ace, if it meant the money saved could be put towards a set of 'super hoops'.
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