Foundation series

More Affordable ENVE Gravel Wheels: Foundation Series AG25

ENVE produces carbon bicycle wheels made in the USA and is renowned for its high performance, quality and price. The brand’s G23 gravel wheels start at an astronomical MSRP of $2,550. Last year, ENVE released a cheaper gravel wheel: the AG25.

The ENVE AG25 Foundation Series Gravel Wheels Sticker at a more affordable $1,750, but what are they giving up? We tested a set on a daily gravel rig for 6 months to find out.

Something had to give to bring the price down $800. In short, the wheels gained weight and a different ride characteristic compared to the G23. But the wheels were bomber and the high quality was still evident. The AG25 (AG stands for Adventure/Gravel) has proven to be a great high-end, everyday gravel wheelset.


How ENVE reduced labor costs on AG25

I visited ENVE’s headquarters in Ogden, Utah, and witnessed the intricate, labor-intensive work that goes into making these wheels. There was not much automation and almost every step required skilled labor. So it was no surprise to me after this visit that a lot of the cost of ENVE wheels depends on the production time.

The main difference between the Foundation Series and ENVE’s high-end wheels is the number of resin-infused carbon fiber pieces that make up the rim. Fewer parts means less time to lay out those parts by hand in a particular pattern, reducing build time and MSRP.

ENVE insiders told me that the AG25 uses a third of the individual parts compared to the G23, which equates to a 50% reduction in labor time. It’s huge and that’s why the brand can sell the wheels for much less. Material quality is the same as the G23, but using a third of the parts invariably means a less refined layer, leading to a less tunable ride.

ENVE also uses a cheaper version of their alloy hub, the Foundation. The Foundation hub also has an aluminum alloy shell and a 40-tooth ID360 drive mechanism, but the brand uses steel ball bearings instead of stainless steel ball bearings.

ENVE AG25 on gravel roads

Exchanging money for quality driving?

The difference in driving characteristics between the ENVE G23 and AG25 was super obvious to me from the first mile on rough gravel. Although the rim depth was 4mm shallower on the AG25 compared to the G32, they felt less vertically compliant, especially on mid and larger chops.

I had wrist reconstruction a few years ago, and although I’m on the way to full recovery, it’s still tender. It has proven to be a reliable barometer of bike and wheel compliance and vibration damping.

I couldn’t discern the differences in ride quality over more minor imperfections, as they felt mitigated mostly by the tires.

The wheels felt horizontally stiff, which I loved when carving wide-radius turns in rough terrain at high speeds. The wheels reliably transferred my inputs from the bars, seat and pedals to the tire contact areas with a direct 1:1 feel. I felt these wheels were extremely inspiring with the right tires for cornering fast, hard and rocky.

In more technical terrain ridden at a slower pace, the AG25’s lateral stiffness continued to provide confidence. I could carve my way through hard, rocky rain ruts and know the front wheel would respond as desired without any noticeable axle twist.

And on the rare occasions I hopped onto tarmac to connect dirt roads, the AG25 felt springy and efficient on stand-up climbs and the occasional sprint. The low weight and high lateral stiffness contributed the most to this feeling.

And there was no “lift” feel at the rear wheel, which made power transfer to the cassette super fast for an off-road racing wheel. The only “delay” came from the tires. Even though these are ENVE’s bottom tier wheels, they’re still light at 1390g verified per pair (without tape, valve stems, with XDR freewheel).

It’s hard to say the ride quality is “less” 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 the wheels could have been lighter, but testing showed the extra weight improved handling characteristics.

Image from ENVE studio AG25

ENVE AG25 Features and Specifications

ENVE retained much of what set their early wheels apart from the AG25.

The brand kept their patented molded spoke holes, which eliminate drilling and keep the carbon fibers intact, but reconfigured them to accept external spoke nipples. This makes wheel maintenance much easier than the G23’s internal lug nuts, which makes sense for an “adventure” wheel.

ENVE also graced the AG25 with the same patented hookless wide bead as the G23 and its mountain wheels. The wide interface between the tire sidewall and the rim is 60% more effective at preventing pinching than a standard hookless narrow bead, according to ENVE.

I have yet to puncture on these wheels despite hitting square edge holes so hard that I ejected both water bottles and my seat bag with the attendant awful slamming noise. But the horrific impact did not 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 it is damaged while driving or another accident (roof rack accident, for example) at no cost to the original owner.

Specifications ENVE AG25

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 Industry Nine 1/1 hubs (same price). Hub spacing is 12mm x 100mm front and 12mm x 142mm rear. The 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 knocks the cost of ENVE wheels out of the stratosphere and into “normal” territory for high-end brand carbon axles. And they retain the quality of materials, ENVE brand features, and are still made in the USA.

Yes, they rolled harder than the brand’s flagship G23 gravel wheelset, but ENVE claims the wheelset is an outlier in terms of layup complexity and resulting ride quality and weight. (These are the brand’s lightest tubeless rims.) The claim that the AG25 was second in ride quality tests behind the G23, regardless of brand, is a bold one.

But after the longest and toughest testing period I have ever put on a wheelset, I agree. The AG25s are exceptional gravel wheels, they are lightweight and they showed no signs of truing or other visible damage.

In my opinion, ENVE did it – the brand struck a happy medium between price and everything else, making the AG25 an ideal everyday gravel wheelset.

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