The SES 4.5 wheelset has seen a tremendous amount of development and attention over its lifespan. The roots of the current wheelset can be traced clear back to 2015 when our World Tour teams were asking for an aerodynamic wheel that could be utilized on the cobbles of the spring classics. At that time, 23-25mm tires were commonplace in the peloton, and a 28mm was viewed as “All-road” or useful on “Mixed surfaces” such as light-gravel or cobblestones. Road bikes, in general, were limited by the rim-brake caliper.

Over time, we gradually saw the adoption of disc brakes, which led bike manufacturers to explore wider tire widths with a newfound freedom from the previous constraints of road bike brakes. Through testing, it was also discovered that wider tires - paired with lower tire pressures - allowed for faster speeds. As a wheel manufacturer, we learned that we could widen the internal rim width to accommodate these wider tires and get even lower tire pressures to realize more gains in comfort, traction, and reduced rolling resistance. 

This is where the genesis of the SES 4.5 AR was born and developed. To extract as much traction as possible from the wider tires, we needed an internal width rim at 25mm. Similarly, it needed to be deep enough to realize aero benefits at those widths. From the first pedal strokes, it was clear that we had lighted upon something special. While the tire volume was imposing compared to conventional wheel and tire combinations, the feel on the road was inspirational. Rough sections of energy sapping road now felt smooth and fast, more rubber on the road enhanced grip and therefore confidence in the corners, and surprisingly, the most aggressive cross winds now felt more subdued than ever before, a welcome result of the wider rim and tire profile. Typically, more comfort would be equated to a decrease in performance, but that’s not the case with the high volume rim and tire combo, which in fact achieve a reduction in rolling resistance in real-world riding. 

What does SES mean?

SES - Smart ENVE System. It’s the stamp of aerodynamic approval for not just outright speed - but also stability and a holistic approach of how the product interacts with both the bike and rider. SES products are wind-tunnel tested in a bike, in the Mercedes-Petronas F1 wind tunnel, as well as out in the real world. It’s the cornerstone for nearly every ENVE road product, as well as some gravel products.

On SES wheels, this means that you’ll find our wheels are different front to rear. The SES 4.5 itself incorporates a 50mm front rim depth with a much more bulbous front shape, and a 56mm rear rim depth with a much sharper shape. These wheels see very different wind turbulence in the bike, under a rider, thereby warranting different shapes. Similarly, these shapes interact with the bike to give riders more confidence in their bike’s steering while experiencing cross-winds or gusts. Many claim to have fast wheels in the wind-tunnel, but the real world experiences felt out on the road on varying terrains are where wheels can truly separate themselves as world-class. 

Making The Wheel

We’ve taken all the best features of that original SES 4.5 AR released in 2016, such as the high-volume tire optimized rim design and shaping that gives it class-leading aerodynamics and stability, and updated it to include anti pinch-flat technology along with a lighter more refined laminate to reduce weight and improve the ride feel. The re-design gives the new SES 4.5 greater versatility through pinch-flat resistance and a reduction in weight with zero compromises to speed.

With our vast experience in carbon lay-up - we were further able to chip away at the weight and incorporate new technique and material innovations that allowed us to make the 4.5 a true light-weight option. As speeds increase uphill, aerodynamics become a factor and a necessary consideration for even the steepest climbs. 

Enter UAE Team Emirates and Tadej Pogacar

The climbing speeds seen now on the decisive Queen stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France make picking the SES 4.5 over any of our true climbing wheels an easy choice for our top pro riders. The vast aerodynamic benefits of the 4.5 over the 3.4 and 2.3 - paired with how light the wheelset has become through constant and meticulous revision makes it the ultimate wheelset, and a favorite among everyone who experiences it. 

Our research confirmed time and again that the SES 4.5 wheelset was the fastest option for nearly any race route, apart from extended climbs steeper than 15% gradient. The rim’s aerodynamic profile affords ample efficiency at high speeds on flat and rolling terrain. At about 1,432 grams, it’s merely 52g heavier than the 3.4 and just a scant 210g over our lightest road wheel, the 2.3. One wheelset for 90 percent of the pro race season? It seems unconventional, but the UAE Team Emirates trusted our data and even validated it with their own rolling resistance and wind tunnel data prior to the actual subjective ride testing. 

Through all of this development and evolution - it’s easy to see why the SES 4.5 is so popular and what makes it truly a special wheel. With a 25mm internal width to be paired with 28-30mm tires, its versatility is what makes it transform nearly any bike it’s installed on, and helps riders realize both their speed and climbing potential on nearly any terrain.