Lowdown: Wheelbuilder.com ENVE and Derby Wheels

Wheelbuilder.com builds wheels exclusively so they've gotten mighty good at it. They've built wheels for Olympians, Grand Tour riders and teams and the most demanding consumers. Building their reputation on the road market, they've diversified in recent years in to the mountain bike market.

That's why they were eager for us to try their wheels. One is a wheelset built around Derby carbon rims and the other on ENVE M70 carbon hoops. Both are built with Chris King hubs front and rear.

Rear weight on the Derby is 978 grams.

Rear weight on the Derby is 978 grams.​

Hubs: Turquoise Chris King ISOSpoke detail: 28 black; 4 white with a color pop
Front hub: SD, 15mmNipple: ENVE brass internal
Rear hub: 142mm x 12mm w/ XD driverPrice: $2748 for Enve and $1817 for Derby
Spokes: DT Aerolite bladedRating:
4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4.5 Chilis-out-of-5
Stat Box: ENVE M70/30 HV 650b 32H Rims with Blue Decals


  • Great knowledge about what parts work together in a given wheel application
  • Hard for some enthusiasts to quickly tell the difference
  • The wheels are incredibly stiff laterally
  • These wheels are not affordable by many
  • Quick engaging but quiet
  • Maybe too stiff for some
  • Attractive with custom decal options
  • As flashy as the wheels are, they disappear into the ride

Review: Wheelbuilder.com ENVE and Derby Wheels

The wheels worked flawlessly for the two months that we rode them. There was never a wobble, a spoke pop or tubeless issue that interfered with our rides. These were not the lightest builds in the world but they rank as some of the sturdiest for our weight and style.

Every wheelset is built by hand to exacting specifications.

Every wheelset is built by hand to exacting specifications (click to enlarge).​

Spoke tension was perfectly tight and even at the start of the test and at the end as we plucked and measured all the spokes and they still had the same tune. Such is the key strength of Wheelbuilder.com as they know the strengths and tolerances of all the wheel components in their arsenal. They have the ability to tailor the wheelset to the buyer's budget and riding style to produce the strongest and lightest wheelset for that buyer.

The other side of it is longevity. It's not difficult to to lace up a wheel that is dialed on Day One but how is the tension and trueness after two years? That is a key strength of this company and we have a Kappius Wheelbuilder wheelset that that has been raced and ridden thousands of miles in the last couple years. It's got scratches here and there but the build and lacing feels like the first month of operation.

Orange and blue combination on the Ritchey Timberwolf.

Orange and blue combination on the Ritchey Timberwolf (click to enlarge).​

Of the two sets in the test, we liked the Derby wheelset better. It was lighter, cheaper and wider. It weighed in at 1771 grams with tape and valve while the Enve set weighed 1885 grams. Also it had a 35 mm internal width while the Enve was 30mm. Loved the finish of the rim too and the understated graphics. The tubeless system seemed to work better as well as it mounted easily with a thin tape that didn't go to the edges of the rim. It allowed the tape to stay perfectly in place as tires were taken on and off with ease. The ridges on the rim tubeless tires to rest are a nice element too. Both the ENVE and the Derby wheels improved the performance of our test bikes noticeably in terms of cornering and accelerating. Some folks may like wheels that are lighter or not as stiff so they can track better on very rocky descents. Many options are available for those demands as well.

Continue to page 2 for more about Wheelbuilder.com's philosophy »

We had a few candid conversations with Richard and got to experience his depth of knowledge and his speed and style on the trail first hand.

We had a few candid conversations with Richard and got to experience his depth of knowledge and his speed and style on the trail first hand (click to enlarge).​

About the company and their process with founder, Richard Sawiris

We spent a couple of days with founder Richard Sawiris and were floored by his depth of knowledge and candor. He knew way more than we knew to as but he was always able to break down the science into simple facts. He was also direct and open about technologies and standards. He liked things that made sense and not those that were veiled as 'improved' or 'proprietary.

And most of all, we know he was a brilliant road rider and were ready to take them to the 'mild' routes in Santa Cruz. But little did we know that he was a trail rider of supreme ability growing up with a BMX background. He could climb like the best XC racers but could descend and send it with elevation and style. Such understanding of the mountain biking allows him to design and test products that make a difference on the trail.

He kept referring to his core values published on his site so here it is to help us better understand his company.

ENVE external rim width is 37mm.

ENVE external rim width is 37mm (click to enlarge).​

Custom Wheels Fit the Individual

All custom wheel builds begin with a customer interview to help us understand the athlete, how his or her wheels will be used (racing and/or training), what tire type will be used, riding conditions and budget range. Wheelbuilder explains the trade-offs of weight, durability and component limitations for each configuration option they recommend.

Rear King hub is XD Drive.

Rear King hub is XD Drive (click to enlarge).​

Assembly Preparation

Before assembly, all rims are inspected for roundness and uniformity. Spokes are prepped with a teflon based coating and all burrs and imperfections are removed. Custom-built press dies allow Wheelbuilder to remove and install high precision ceramic bearings without impact and without removing the hub from the wheel ensuring good alignment. Wheelbuilder uses a combination of commercially available meters and our own custom meters tuned to collect data with maximum resolution.

We used an Ibis HD3 to test the Derby wheelset.

We used an Ibis HD3 to test the Derby wheelset (click to enlarge).​

For more information visit www.wheelbuilder.com.