What’s it like to finally experience a ride on your dream set of ENVE wheels? In the first of a new series, we’re giving a rider the chance to try out their pick of our line, in their own bike and on their preferred terrain. Then, the moment they unclip, we shove a voice recorder under their nose and get their instant, unfiltered, and unedited reaction.
Our first lucky tester is Jo Jago, from Bristol in the UK. Jo has been riding for a decade and competing for four years. “I race time trials, duathlons, hill climbs, and road races,” she tells us. “I’m looking to upgrade my aero wheels but the tricky bit is that most of my TTs are on hilly courses so weight is still a factor. Stability is really important, too. I’m 58kg so, like most women, I’m wary of riding deeper wheels on a windy day but don’t want to give up the speed.”
“I did some research, read reviews and spoke to other racers, and the ENVE SES 7.8 seems really well suited to what I need. By all accounts it’s super-fast yet light enough for lumpy courses.”
We meet Jo on a sunny Sunday afternoon at her local club’s time trial course. It’s one she’s ridden scores of times and it perfectly represents the rolling terrain and small roads of her most important events. We slot the 7.8s into her Orbea Ordu Ltd TT bike, then stand back and take a second to appreciate just how cool it looks before setting off.
The course is testing from the very start; it begins with a short climb up through trees and emerges onto a completely exposed hilltop with a firm crosswind that becomes even more challenging as the road descends and our speed quickly tops 35mph. A sharp left takes us onto a rollercoaster of a road barely one car wide and with the wind now at our backs we’re blasting along, making it even trickier to wield a camera while riding.
As we turn west again, the road drags up and the lower speeds underline the need to balance weight and aero. While hedgerows shield us from the crosswind, gates into the fields allow the wind to blast through. It would be nervous on the wrong wheelset but this is what the SES line is all about. Jo’s bike doesn’t move an inch from its line.
The final section runs south, straight into the wind on a bigger road – pure aero territory. With Jo tucked into her very neat TT position and clearly enjoying herself, it’s a real effort to keep up to the finish. Immediately we go out for a second lap, this time with Jo on tubs, an older combination of 4.5 front and 8.9 rear to all but match the weight of 7.8 tubs, which weren’t to hand in the UK at the time.
The sun is kissing the horizon as we complete the course and Jo is effusive about her experience. Here’s her reaction in full:
“The 7.8s are fast! Really stable, too. Up the top of the hill where it’s really exposed there’s quite a strong crosswind but I didn’t really feel it. I wasn’t even holding on tight. On other deep wheels I’ve borrowed I have really had to fight them but that wasn’t the case today. They felt really stable all the way around the course, wherever the wind was coming from. It’s always been my worry about going deeper on the front wheel but I didn’t feel like I was being blown around at all. I’d be happy racing them even on quite a windy day.”
“They’re surprisingly comfortable, too, and they look awesome in my bike! Looking at the split time, I’m surprised how fast I got around this course given the power and regular training kit.”
“The difference that the braking surface makes is amazing. There’s so much more power than I’m used to having. It makes hard braking feel easy. And if it’s as good in the wet as you say then that would be incredible, a real confidence boost.”
“Having tried the lighter tubular set, I could really feel the difference when accelerating and climbing. It’s definitely noticeable. Most of my TT events are quite hilly and I’m sure that the lower weight will pay off, so I’d go for the tub version of the 7.8s.”
“They’re still definitely my dream wheelset, even more so now. I’m saving for a set from today!”