MSRP for the ENVE G23 is an astonishing $2,550. Should you consider them for your gravel rig?
ENVE released the gravel-specific G23 in June of 2018 amid bold claims: the lightest tubeless rim ever produced by the Utah brand, Wide Hookless Bead anti-flat technology, and a rim profile said to improve vertical compliance.
After over 2 years of testing, I found the G23 delivered on design intents. The wheels climb superbly due to their flyweight status, the wide rim bead proved bombproof and protected tires, and the wheels remained true despite being the daily drivers on the rough dirt roads surrounding my home.
The only question was, are they worth the hefty price tag?
Specifications of the ENVE G23 700c Wheel Set
The specifications tell a lot of the story:
- Rim Depth: 25mm
- External Width: 31.5mm
- Internal Width: 23mm
- Hole Count: 24
- Effective Rim Diameter: 608mm
- Optimized Tire Sizes: 33c-45c
- Accepted Tire Sizes: 28c-50c
The 23mm internal rim width is optimized for a 40mm tire; the higher volume allows lower pressure, improving traction and comfort. The wider leading edge of the Wide Hookless Bead is said to beef up the impact resistance of the carbon rim while providing a more forgiving surface for bottoming out a tire. ENVE claims this reduces pinch flats and damaged tires, and this makes running lighter tires less risky.
Because the ENVE G23 didn’t start as road wheels, a tall profile for aerodynamics isn’t required. The bell-shaped cross-section helps keep the rim weight down to an astonishing 330 g, the lightest 700c tubeless rim ENVE produces. The brand claims the rim shape absorbs more energy and damps better than road rims.
The G23 also sports ENVE’s patented Molded Spoke Hole Technology, which reportedly provides a basis for a more durable and reliable carbon rim and wheel compared to drilled holes.
The G23 comes with ENVE Alloy or Industry Nine Torch Classic hubs or Chris King R45Ds at a higher price. With the ENVE Alloy hubs, the front wheel comes in at 591 g and the rear at 715 g (without valves or tape).
The ENVE G23 on, in, and Covered With Dirt
My gravel rig is my daily driver, as I live on dirt roads in a wildlife refuge. And it is low to no maintenance by design and necessity. As a single dad, I am cramped for time, and 10 minutes spent working on a bike is 10 minutes cut from a precious ride.
The most impressive thing about the G23s has been their durability and reliability. I have glanced off softball-sized rocks; hit hard-packed, square-edged potholes straight on (ejecting water bottles in the process); and ridden through mud and rain.
The dust I rode through in the summers was insane; you know, the kind that when you smile, people can only see your teeth. I’ve replaced chains, sprockets, chainrings, brake shoes, and tires in the 2 years of testing.
Yet, the G23s have not visited a truing stand — they are as straight and round as they were out of the box. The ENVE alloy hubs still spin freely and smoothly. The only signs of wear, other than a thick dust coating, are chipped decals and clear coat. I have beat these wheels without mercy — and they don’t care.
They were perceptibly lighter when I swapped wheels to test others. The lack of mass made climbing a joy and acceleration equally as enjoyable.
The 1,306g mark is super-light for a road wheelset, let alone a gravel set that survived multiple years of service negligence without ever needing a true (which admittedly would be a massive PITA with the internal spoke nipples).
The claims of improved energy absorption and damping were harder to substantiate. Tires and tire pressures make so much of a difference that it’s hard to parse out what wheels contribute to overall bump compliance.
But here’s what I do know. I occasionally had to test other gravel wheels. If I carried my preferred 40-42c tires over and ran the same 28-30 psi (which agrees with ENVE’s recommendations), I perceived that the G23 did absorb both high-frequency chatter and larger amplitude hits better than other wheels. I had reconstructive wrist surgery in the middle of the testing period, so I was very sensitive to bump absorption — or the lack thereof.
This perceived bump-absorbing ability didn’t come at the price of lateral stiffness, at least for gravel riding. Picking my way slowly through and across the numerous rain ruts in my area didn’t produce twisting at the axles that was discernably different than other gravel wheels I’ve tested.
Conclusions: Are They Worth It?
Yes, the wheels are light. And yes, they proved supremely durable. And, in my opinion, they are more vertically compliant than other wheels I’ve tested. But they also cost more. Are they worth the premium?
If you have the spare green to shell out the $2,550 and you aren’t the type to buy the next new thing, then the longevity of the wheels can pan out with the cost in the end. They are still among the lightest wheels out. And the internal width agrees with the large volume and low pressure of modern high-performance tires and, well, they are ENVEs.
The G23 carries ENVE’s 5-year limited warranty and outstanding lifetime incident protection, which will replace the wheels even if you drive your roof-mounted bike into the garage.
So, here is my verdict. If you can play the long game, the math can justify the purchase price.