What’s in a wheel?

Knowing what kind of mountain bike wheel you need is difficult, with names, numbers and classifications sometimes feeling like a foreign language.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Mountain Wheelset

  • Rim Material
  • Number of Spokes Per Wheel
  • Spoke Type
  • Hub Type and Spacing
  • Your Bike and Riding Style

Rim Material

Much of the strength, durability and ride feel of a wheelset is determined by the material, construction and technologies built into the rim itself. Carbon fiber rims are typically regarded as the highest performing, as carbon can be tuned to achieve different goals and ride qualities, whereas alloy cannot. Carbon Fiber can be laid up in different orientations, thicknesses and laminates to create specific wheel properties for a specific discipline.

Spokes

The number of spokes used in a wheel build can give you a ballpark for its strength and properties. Lighter mountain wheels will typically run 24-28 spokes per wheel, a stronger trail or all-mountain wheel will likely use 28, and the burliest of wheel systems generally use 32 spokes. These aren’t hard and fast numbers, but generally, more spokes means stronger and stiffer.

The spokes themselves also determine the feel of a wheel, with heavier spokes creating a stiffer, but stronger wheel, and lighter spokes doing the opposite. The Sapim CX-Ray for example, is a good all around spoke for its strength-to-weight ratio and is widely used in our wheel builds. The Sapim Force is a stronger and stiffer spoke and is used for E-MTB and gravity-oriented wheel builds.

Hubs

Hubs will alter the feel, sound, quickness and weight of a wheel. Quick-engaging hubs accelerate faster and make awkward balancing moments easier, like when climbing slippery technical sections. This can make a great bike perform even better. 

Hubs should be reliable and last long without needing major service. They should also be easily serviced, as complicated maintenance procedures will take away from your riding time. We find the hubs we make in house and those from our hub partners provide the best balance of performance, reliability and serviceability.

Hub spacing refers to the width of the dropouts inside a frame and fork, which should be confirmed with your frame and fork manufacturers. See our post covering hub spacing here.

So what do I buy?

ENVE has options for all types of riders. Follow our guide below to find the perfect wheel for you.

Your Riding Style

Think about what kind of riding you like and tend to do most often. These categories are loosely categorized by the ratio of uphill to downhill riding one typically does:

  • Cross country (focused on uphill performance and long distance)
  • Trail (you ride up what you ride down and value performance in each direction)
  • All Mountain/Enduro (riding uphill is a means to an end)
  • Downhill (focused on going down)

A good mountain wheel will be built for the application you want to ride it in. If you go uphill and ride marathons, pick a cross country wheel. For chairlift laps, a downhill wheel would do you well.

If you’re generally light on your feet (er, tires) while riding, you can probably get away with a lighter wheelset. If you like to go fast and don’t care what you smash into, getting stronger wheels is a good idea. Your wheels should be tuned to balance weight and strength, and picking the right ratio will make all the difference.

What type of riding do you like?

XC: Short track, marathons, and all-day suffer fests.

You’re the perfect candidate for the M5 series of wheels — light and fast.

Trail: Going uphill, downhill, and doing it all day.

Our high-performing, do-it-all wheelset is for those who just like to ride their bike: the M6 series. Looking for more all-mountain strength? Try the AM30.

Aggressive Trail and Enduro: Fast, steep and chunky. I will pedal to get there.

You need strength and flat protection. The M7 series or AM30 will have your back.

Downhill: bike parks, airtime, chairlifts, DH, enduro and shuttles.

For the pinnacle of strength and dependability, the M9 series is for you.

E-MTB: quick uphill, quick downhill, as long as the battery lasts.

You’ll want strength and reliability over all else – the M735E is for you.

What do the numbers mean?

Now you’ve seen what each wheel family is designed for, let’s dig into the numbers.

 

Cross Country (XC)

ENVE M5 Series – The Cross Country Weapon

M5 – 50 percent down, 50 percent up

They’re the world-championship-winning cross country wheels with the performance and technologies that place them at the pinnacle of the lightweight mountain wheel market. The M525 is a no-holds-barred, uncompromising XC weapon that was designed to create the best riding experience for short course, marathon and long-distance endeavors. They’re light, fast, compliant, and strong. And most importantly, they win races. It’s our lightest mountain wheel, doesn’t compromise on strength, and is the standing benchmark by which all other carbon XC wheels are compared.

The M525 is at home on short-travel, lightweight mountain bikes that are built to be ridden fast and far. Whether full suspension, hardtail, or fully rigid, we generally recommend them for bikes from 0 – 120mm of travel. 

Rim Material – Carbon 
Number of Spokes Per Wheel – 24
Spoke Type – Sapim CX Ray
Hub Type and Spacing – Chris King, i9 Hydra – Offered in Boost and Non Boost

Trail | All Mountain

ENVE M6 Series – The Versatile Trail Wheel

M6 – 60 percent down, 40 percent up

Our high-performance, do-it-all wheelset for those who just like to ride their bike: the M6 series. Looking for more all-mountain strength? Try the AM30.

The M6 Series of wheels is a favorite among ENVE employees and athletes. They’re nearly as light as the M5 series, but with more strength and stiffness to make them strong, poppy, and playful, yet durable enough for day in, day out trail riding. The M6 carries speed through corners, aids uphill acceleration and gives the rider the ability to precisely pick and stay on line.

As a brand, we believe in creating the best possible product for every type of rider and application, and the M6 is a testament to that. The M6 series is available in two diameters and three widths, meaning that no matter your preference for tire size and pressure, there’s a fit for your bike and riding style. Pick a 30mm width for your trail bike, a 35mm for your plus bike, and a 40mm for your ultra wide bikepacking rig. No matter your preference, there is a perfect fit for you.

We recommend pairing the M6 with trail and all-mountain bikes with between 100-160mm of travel. They work great as a tough XC wheel, an everyday trail wheel, a bikepacking wheel, or anything in between. 

Rim Material – Carbon 
Number of Spokes Per Wheel – 28
Spoke Type – Sapim CX Ray
Hub Type and Spacing – Chris King, i9 Hydra – Offered in Boost and Non Boost

 

Trail | All Mountain

ENVE AM30 – The Foundational All-Arounder

AM30 – All-Mountain, 30mm Inner Width

As a one-wheelset quiver for park laps, lunch laps, and backcountry epics, the durable-yet-comfortable ride tune of the Foundation Collection’s AM30 makes it the perfect fit for your all-mountain ride. It’s not just here for a fast time – it’s here for a good time.

The AM30 is part of ENVE’s Foundation line, which has a mission to deliver a best-in-class ride experience through crafted carbon and core ENVE technologies at a more accessible price. We created the AM30 with a 30mm inner width to pair nicely with modern all-mountain tires ranging from 2.3 – 2.6 inches in width. 

We recommend pairing the AM30 with all-mountain bikes ranging from 110 – 180mm of travel. The AM30’s strength is comparable to ENVE’s gravity offerings, while the ride feel is closer to our trail wheels. They are the perfect fit for someone wanting to improve the performance of their trail, all mountain or enduro bike without breaking the bank.

Rim Material – Carbon 
Number of Spokes Per Wheel – 28
Spoke Type – Sapim Race
Hub Type and Spacing – i9 1/1 – Offered in Boost and Non Boost

All-Mountain | Enduro

ENVE M7 Series – The High-Tech All-Mountain Brute

M7 – 70 percent down, 30 percent up

For riding chunk at the limit, you need strength and flat protection. The M7 series will have your back.

ENVE’s M7 series was designed to stand up to the next level of riding, past the everyday trail ride — the ride that pushes your comfort zone. Think steep, rough tracks, chunky and fast enough to get the blood pumping and the eyes watering. The M7 lineup will give you the support and strength you need to feel confident, no matter where or what you’re riding.

The unique feature that gives the M7 wheel line an advantage over other wheel systems is ENVE’s Protective Rim Strip. It acts as a bumper between rim and tire, offering you more pinch flat protection than any rim or tire insert solution on the market. In our testing, we find that often we have to break a rim before we can pinch flat a tire. This tech also allows riders to finish a race run with air in the tire, even in the event of a structural failure. 

After a month of owning M730s, one rider said, “the biggest thing I love about these is that I can run less than 20 PSI and know that I won’t break the rim or flat my tires. It’s freeing and confidence inspiring.”

The M7 series uses the M-series proprietary 100gsm raw carbon material, a lighter, thinner carbon that though more time intensive to use, creates the ultimate ride feel. Internal Molded Spoke Holes allow for spoke nipples to sit in the rim without having to drill holes in the rim, which compromise strength and add weight by having to reinforce rim fibers. All these technologies make the M7 wheel a standout in the crowded world of enduro wheels.

The M7 Series is available in two widths to allow you to optimize your wheels for your preferred tire width. We recommend the M7 series for riders looking for tough wheels that can hold up to the abuse of enduro and hard trail riding. They pair well with all-mountain and enduro bikes, ranging from 130-180mm of travel.

Rim Material – Carbon 
Number of Spokes Per Wheel – 32
Spoke Type – Sapim CX Ray
Hub Type and Spacing – Chris King, i9 Hydra – Offered in Boost and Non Boost

Downhill

ENVE M9 Series – The Downhill World Cup Winner

M9 – 90 percent down, 10 percent up

The pinnacle of strength and dependability for downhill and freeride, the M9 series reigns supreme.

You wake up at 5 A.M., not to get the KOM on your commute to work, but for a dawn patrol shuttle lap on the locals-only downhill trail. You live for speed, whether in tech, steeps or flow, and you want to win. You want absolute reliability and strength for freeride and downhill. The M9 series was made for you. 

Built on a legacy of World Cup championships from riders like Greg Minaar, Brendan Fairclough and Amaury Pierron, the M9 wheel was built to perform at the pinnacle of the sport. Using ENVE’s patented Protective Rim Strip, the M9 prevents pinch flats, and in the case of rim damage, keeps riders inflated for their whole race run. Inserts are not required, and as Brendog demonstrated in 2019, they’re built to withstand the harshest conditions possible on a bike.

The M9 series is available in a 30mm width, which pairs perfectly with 2.3 – 2.6” tires. We recommend the M9 for riders looking for the toughest DH wheels that can hold up to the abuse of downhill racing and freeride. They pair well with e-bikes, enduro and downhill rigs ranging from 170 – 200mm of travel.

Rim Material – Carbon 
Number of Spokes Per Wheel – 32
Spoke Type – Sapim Force
Hub Type and Spacing – Chris King, i9 Hydra – Offered in DH and DH Boost

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