Before any of the racing actually begins at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, there’s a lot of anticipation for something else entirely. Not only is Kona the culmination of the Ironman season and the biggest goal of the year for the 2,300 athletes competing, but it has also become the measuring stick for the industry in terms of how a brand is faring in the triathlon scene. For the past two decades, the Kona bike count–held during Friday’s bike check-in–provides valuable information on buying patterns for bikes, wheels, and components. This year, ENVE saw extraordinary growth with 460 SES wheels being raced in Kona, a nearly 20% increase over 2018.
The first time we showed up on the wheel count list was back in 2009. The initial count saw a modest 13 wheels. A year later that number was doubled, but it wasn’t until 2011 that we got serious about creating a line of wheels that could compete with the very best on the market. With the help of aerodynamicist Simon Smart, the SES (Smart ENVE System) line was developed and featured asymmetrical rim shapes between front and rear wheels in order to improve aerodynamics and offer greater stability. In the years since, the SES line has expanded to offer numerous rim depths while the same asymmetrical shaping philosophy has been a pillar of their design.
Years after launching the SES 7.8 wheel, which replaced the SES 8.9, our competitors continue to chase the refined balance of speed and stability it delivers. Both Ben Hoffman and Heather Jackson rode the SES 7.8 to top-5 performances in Kona this year, while athletes on other wheel brands were looking for shallower front wheels due to the wind conditions. The SES 7.8 isn’t only fast, it provides the stability required to deliver a top Kona performance.
Below is the breakdown of individual ENVE SES wheels ridden at Kona 2019 (note, Disc rear wheels are not allowed at Kona):
SES 7.8: 272
SES 5.6: 71
SES 4.5: 39
SES 3.4: 14
SES 6.7 (no longer in the line): 44
SES 8.9 (no longer in the line): 20