ENVE produces US-made carbon bicycle wheels and has a reputation for high performance, quality, and price. The brand’s G23 gravel wheels start at an astronomical MSRP of $2,550. Last year, ENVE released a lower-priced gravel wheel: the AG25.
The ENVE AG25 Foundation Series gravel wheels sticker at a more affordable $1,750, but what do they give up? We’ve been testing a set on a daily gravel rig for 6 months to find out.
Something had to give to get the price down a whopping $800. In short, the wheels picked up weight and a different riding characteristic compared to the G23. But the wheels were bomber, and the high quality was still evident. The AG25 (AG stands for Adventure/Gravel) proved to be a great high-end, everyday gravel wheelset.
How ENVE Lowered Labor Costs on the AG25
I visited ENVE HQ in Ogden, Utah, and witness the intricate, labor-intensive work required to fabricate these wheels. There wasn’t much automation, and almost every step required skilled labor. So, it was no surprise to me after this visit that much of the cost of ENVE wheels depends on production time.
The main difference between the Foundation Series and ENVE’s top-of-the-line wheels is the number of resin-impregnated carbon fiber pieces that comprise the rim. Fewer pieces mean less time to lay up these pieces in a particular pattern by hand, resulting in a lower manufacturing time and MSRP.
ENVE insiders told me that the AG25 uses a third of the individual pieces compared to the G23, which equates to a 50% reduction in labor time. That’s huge and why the brand can sell the wheels for so much less. The quality of materials is the same as the G23, but using a third of the pieces invariably means a less refined layup, leading to a less tunable ride.
ENVE also uses a less expensive version of its Alloy hub, the Foundation. The Foundation hub also has an aluminum alloy shell and ID360 40 tooth drive mechanism, but the brand uses steel ball bearings instead of stainless ball bearings.
Trading Money for Ride Quality?
The difference in the ride characteristics between the ENVE G23 and AG25 was super apparent to me from the first mile on rough gravel. Although the rim depth is 4mm shallower on the AG25 versus the G32, they felt less vertically compliant, especially over medium and larger-sized chop.
I had wrist reconstruction a few years ago, and although well on my way to a full recovery, it is still sensitive. It has proven to be a reliable barometer of bike and wheel compliance and vibration damping.
I couldn’t discern differences in ride quality over more minor imperfections, as they felt mitigated mainly by the tires.
The wheels were horizontally stiff, which I loved when carving wide radius turns in the rough stuff at speed. The wheels reliably transferred my inputs at the bars, seat, and pedals to the tire contact patches with a direct, 1:1 feel. I felt these wheels were extremely confidence-inspiring with the correct tires for fast, hardpacked, and rocky turns.
In more technical terrain ridden at a slower pace, the AG25’s lateral stiffness continued to deliver confidence. I could pick my way down hard and rocky rain ruts and know that the front wheel would respond as desired without any discernible axle twisting.
And on the rare occasion that I hopped onto the tarmac to connect dirt roads, the AG25 felt springy and efficient during stand-up climbs and the occasional sprint. The low weight and high lateral stiffness contributed the most to this sensation.
And there was no “wind up” feeling at the rear wheel, making the power transfer to the cassette feel super quick for a non-road racing wheel. The only “delay” was from the tires. Even though they are ENVE’s lower-level wheels, they are still light at a verified 1,390 g per pair (no tape, valve stems, with XDR freehub).
It’s hard to say that the ride quality is “lower” than the G23, as it’s still excellent for gravel. Neil Shirley, Marketing Manager for ENVE, explained that extensive ride testing revealed that the only wheel to outperform the AG25 in ride quality was the G23, regardless of price or brand. He also said that the wheels could have been lighter, but testing showed that the additional weight improved ride characteristics.
Features and Specifications of the ENVE AG25
ENVE retained much of what makes its premier wheels stand out in the AG25.
The brand carried over its patented molded spoke holes, which eliminate drilling and keep carbon fibers intact, but reconfigured them to accept external spoke nipples. This makes wheel maintenance much easier than the internal nipples on the G23, which makes sense for an “adventure” wheel.
ENVE also graced the AG25 with the same patented wide hookless bead as the G23 and its mountain wheels. The wide interface between the tire sidewall and the rim is 60% more effective at preventing pinch flats than a standard, narrow hookless bead, according to ENVE.
I have yet to flat on these wheels despite hitting square edge holes so hard that I ejected both water bottles and my seat pack with the concomitant, terrible clunking sound. But the horrendous impact didn’t damage the rim.
The AG25 also retains ENVE’s 5-year factory warranty and lifetime incident protection program. The latter amazingly replaces a wheel if damaged during riding or some other accident (roof rack mishap, for example) at no cost to the original owner.
The AG25 is 4mm shorter than the G23 but has a 2mm wider internal and bead width.
Build options include the ENVE Foundation hub or the Industry Nine 1/1 hubs (same price). Hub spacing is 12mm x 100mm front and 12mm x 142mm rear. Recommended minimum tire size is 32mm, and the recommended range is 36mm to 50mm. ENVE advises tubeless tire pressures on its tire pressure recommendation page.
Conclusions on the ENVE AG25 Gravel Wheelset
The big news, of course, is the price. The MSRP of $1,750 brings the cost of ENVE wheels out of the stratosphere and into the “normal” territory for carbon wheelsets from premium brands. And they retain the quality of materials, ENVE trademark features and are still made in the USA.
Yes, they did ride harsher than the brand’s G23 flagship gravel wheelset, but ENVE claims that the wheelset is an outlier in terms of layup complexity and the resulting ride quality and weight. (They are the lightest tubeless rims that the brand makes.) The claim that the AG25 was second in ride quality testing to the G23, regardless of brand, is bold.
But after the most extended and roughest test period I have ever exercised on a wheelset, I agree. The AG25s are exceptional-riding gravel wheels, they are light, and they have shown no signs of going out of true nor show any other visible damage.
In my opinion, ENVE has done it — the brand has hit a sweet spot between price and everything else, making the AG25 an ideal everyday gravel wheelset.