e11even Disc Brake Wheels – Bang for the Buck Carbon Fiber

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It’s probably fair to say that most riders who don’t already have carbon fiber wheels lust for them. Who wouldn’t want to have the latest, greatest, fastest, and lightest wheels that the pros ride? But carbon fiber wheels cost $$$$. For the various “name brand” carbon fiber wheels, it’s easy to spend $2,000+ for a pair of wheels. But that kind of money isn’t always within everyone’s budgetary reach (or spousal approval limit). So if you’re in search of carbon fiber wheels that won’t break the bank, put e11even on your radar. Their wheels are (just) under $1,000 a pair. PEZ got two models to test:

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A different approach

e11even is not about trying to go head-to-head with the “big boys” in the carbon fiber wheel market.  Companies like Zipp, Roval, Enve, Corima, Bontrager, Campagnola, etc. have more resources at their disposal for both R&D and marketing — as well as sponsoring pro teams. Instead, e11even has adopted a different approach:

  • We do not sponsor teams and events or spend large sums of money for marketing.  We choose to let our products, customer praise, and reviews lead the company messaging.  A happy customer is the most valuable voice for our e11even.  If you need to see the brand of a product you ride in the Tour de France, we are not the brand for you.
  • If you want the absolute lightest, the most aero, or most sophisticated, we are not the brand for you.  We provide great products at great prices with great service.  We focus on riders who want to do more than spend money on bike parts.  Ultimately we believe cycling performance is driven by the rider not the bike.

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Spinal Tap would be proud

And it’s not about just trying to sell wheels for cheap:

  • We only sell items we would use ourselves.  Yes, it’s easy to make something cheaper, but as enthusiasts, if we would not use it for any means of cycling: group ride, training ride, racing, commuting etc., we won’t sell it.
  • We use only the best manufacturing partners.  The product development staff of e11even has decades of experience working with all of the major suppliers in Asia, Europe and the United States.  We know who does it right and who does not.  We only work with the suppliers we know and trust.

So with that in mind …

e11even Carbon Disc Road 38mm – $999.99

RIM MATERIAL: Carbon
RIM CONSTRUCTION: Tubeless
RIM SIZE: 38mm
RIM WIDTH: INTERNAL 16.5mm
RIM WIDTH: EXTERNAL 25mm
RIM DEPTH: 38mm
HUB: DT Swiss 370 Disc Centerlock
SPOKE COUNT: 24 Front/24 Rear
FRONT AXLE SPACING: 12x100mm Thru Axle
REAR AXLE SPACING: 12x142mm Thru Axle
FREEHUB: Shimano 9/10/11
WHEELSET WEIGHT: 1820g

xpedo cxr pedalbanner with Brian McCullough

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e11even Carbon Disc Gravel 38mm – $999.99

RIM MATERIAL: Carbon
RIM CONSTRUCTION: Tubeless
RIM SIZE: 38mm
RIM WIDTH: INTERNAL 20.3mm
RIM WIDTH: EXTERNAL 27.5mm
RIM DEPTH: 38mm
HUB: DT Swiss 370 Disc Centerlock
SPOKE COUNT: 24 Front/24 Rear
FRONT AXLE SPACING: 12x100mm Thru Axle
REAR AXLE SPACING: 12x142mm Thru Axle
FREEHUB: Shimano 9/10/11
WHEELSET WEIGHT: 1820g

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Same but different

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Can you tell which wheel set is which? That’s the Carbon Disc Road on the left and Carbon Disc Gravel on the right.

Just looking at the specs, the two wheels are basically the same.  The difference is that the road wheel is narrower internal and external rim width.  At 16.5mm internal/25mm external, e11even says the Carbon Disc Road wheel is suitable for “tire options ranging from 28 to 35 C.” Curiously, for a 25mm external width rim they don’t spec 25 C. But if you were trying to maximize #aero, you’d probably go with a 25 C wide tire. Given my personal experience with similar internal and external width wheels, 28 C would work well too if you’re looking for a little more comfort and willing to give up some aero.

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Side by side, it’s possible to see that Carbon Gravel Disc (R) rim is marginally wider than the Carbon Gravel Road (L)

I’m sure you can safely fit wider than 28 C tires on the Carbon Disc Road, but they will be more prone to “distorting” at the sidewalls and losing their intended profile (with resulting loss in traction and cornering stability). There isn’t an industry standard per se and every rim (as well as tire) manufacturer has their own specs for what’s considered an acceptable range.  Just be aware that there are limits to how wide a tire you can mount on any rim (not to mention potential fork/frame clearance issues — although you probably have greater leeway with a disc brake bike).

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Pretty close to spec (25mm external/16.5mm internal) for my Carbon Road Disc wheels

If you really want to go wider, than the Carbon Gravel Disc with 20.3mm internal/27.5mm external is IMHO the better choice. According to e11even, the Carbon Gravel Disc “accepts tire widths from 28 to 50 C.” And we’re not talking just for wider gravel tires. I know more than a few dedicated roadies who are now riding 30 C wide tires — especially tubeless, such as the Pirelli P Zero Race TLR.

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Ditto for my Carbon Gravel Disc wheels being pretty close to spec (27.5mm external/20.3mm internal spec)

DT Swiss Hubs

A lot of riders looking to get carbon fiber wheels sometimes get so focused on the carbon fiber that they tend to overlook the hubs. Yet hubs are what make the wheels go round-and-round and any set of wheels (regardless of cost) are only as good as the hubs that they’re built around.

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There’s nothing “generic” about the hubs e11even chose for their wheels.  DT Swiss is a name brand in the hub industry (and used my a lot of other wheel manufacturers, big and small — as well as many custom wheel builders). So if you’re not a DIY home mechanic, they shouldn’t be unfamiliar to your LBS if you need them serviced. And (COVID supply chain issues aside) you should be able to get replacement parts, if needed.

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The actual hubs are DT Swiss 370 hubs, which are their “entry level” hubs. But that shouldn’t be confused with “low quality.” Both sets of e11even wheels spin freely and smoothly on quality bearings. According to DT Swiss:

Years of experience regarding optimal bearing preload and knowledge of production tolerances, allow DT Swiss to design durable, play-free hubs without bearing play adjustment. With this hub design additional weight can be saved again, since no threads need to be considered in the design, which allows a thinner wall thickness. Another advantage is easy maintenance and quick conversion to the various freewheel and axle systems.

This bearing technology appears in every DT Swiss hub, front and rear.

In other words, the entry level DT Swiss 370 hubs have the same bearing technology as their coveted, high end 180 hubs. Now that’s a value proposition.

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If I wanted to be uber critical/nit-picky, the e11even wheels have the older DT Swiss 370 rear hubs that use a conventional 3-pawl engagement (found on a lot of other wheels). The newest 370 rear hubs use DT’s Ratchet technology with two 18 tooth ratchets that provide nearly instantaneous engagement. The good news is that it’s possible to convert the 370 rear hub from 3-pawl to Ratchet LN.

Spokes and rims

Although the trend in wheels is straight pull spokes, e11even chose to go with traditional J-bend spokes (Pillar PSR Aero). One obvious reason for this is cost. Typically, straight pull hubs are more expensive than regular flanged hubs. From a “which is better?” standpoint, straight pull spokes are theoretically stiffer and have less stress load. A J-bend spoke can break at the bend, but it’s very unlikely with a well built, evenly tensioned wheel. Talk to almost any reputable wheel builder and they’ll likely tell you: “six of one, have a dozen of the other.” FWIW, I have both and haven’t had issues with either. Also, one “advantage” to J-bend spokes is that, if you ever do manage to break one, your LBS is likely to have a suitable replacement (not accounting for COVID-related supply chain issues).

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J-bend spokes and brass nipples

The spokes are laced 2x both front and rear and are connected to the rim with conventional external nipples … brass nipples (also Pillar). From a service-ability standpoint, that’s a good thing. External nipples may not be as aero as internal nipples, but it makes for much easier wheel truing (with internal nipples, you have to pull the tire and rim tape off to true a wheel — and if you forget to do that before you drop your wheel at your LBS, they’ll probably charge you extra for that). I have wheels with internal nipples and can attest that it’s a more involved/time consuming process if you need to true them — especially if they’re set up tubeless. And while brass nipples may be slightly heavier than alloy nipples, I can tell you from personal experience building wheels that it’s a lot easier to round off alloy nipples tightening them at higher tensions.

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External nipples for easier truing

The rims themselves are unidirectional (UD) carbon fiber with a matte finish that’s smooth to the touch. The rim profile is the now ubiquitous aero U-shape (or what I sometimes call a rounded-V shape). e11even make no aero claims, but it’s a shape intended to make the wheel as aero as possible across all yaw angles and less susceptible to getting snatched in a crosswind.

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An interesting feature of the e11even rims is that the valve stem hole isn’t just a hole drilled in the rim. Instead  that part of the rim is actually raised up to create a flat contact surface for the valve stem nut — which helps to hold the valve stem tight if you’re running tubeless tires. #marginalgains

The wheels are tubeless ready so come with tubeless rim strip tape pre-installed, as well as a tubeless valve stems. If you’re going to tubeless, I recommend adding another layer of rim strip tape to ensure an air tight seal (based on my experience with my Colnago V3 PEZ project bike).

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Pardon the dust … all that black goodness is the pre-installed tubeless rim strip tape

Road riding

Although the e11even Carbon Disc Road wheels come ready-to-go tubeless, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of sealant. So I decided to mount a pair of 700×28 Michelin PRO4 Endurance regular clincher tires on them. They’re not the lightest or fastest tires in the Michelin line-up, but are a nice balance between rolling resistance, grip, and puncture protection (especially with bead-to-bead protection to help prevent sidewall punctures).

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As an aside, I have to say that the combination of better rim standards and modern folding clincher tires (not to mention tubeless tires) with tighter beads makes mounting tires a bit of a chore/struggle. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to get the tires on without the help of the Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack that I recently acquired. Even then, it still took me a while to get the job done. If you find yourself using lots of choice words mounting tires, I’d definitely recommend getting one. I’ll also offer up this tip (if you’re riding clinchers with tubes):  first mount the tires without tubes, which will help stretch the beads out just a little; then un-mount them and put the tubes in. A little added time/effort, but it’s easier the second time around.

My first ride on the e11even Carbon Disc Road wheels was my Wednesday Night Hill Ride aka Pena Pena aka Pain Party (on a heat advisory day no less, with the temp 94F/feels like 101F at the ride start — yes, you can question my sanity). I lead this ride from late spring to early fall. The distance and route is never the same, but it’s generally 100 feet of elevation gain for every mile for the ride. It’s an urban ride so most of the climbs are shorter (the longest is about a mile or so) and some of them can be brutally steep (15%+ grade).

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My Carbon Disc Road wheels weighed in at 1,780 grams — a whopping 40 grams lighter than spec!

I have to admit that I was a little “worried” that — because the e11even wheels are “heavy” — I would feel the weight on the hills. Because of the heat/humidity, we didn’t go as hard as we might have ordinarily and I wasn’t riding for any PRs, but I was surprised that I didn’t really notice the weight of the wheels so much. Meaning I didn’t feel like I was having to drag myself up any of the climbs. That said, I don’t know that I ride them on a true “mountain” ride.

Overall, the e11even wheels weren’t sluggish — they came up to speed quickly and held their speed once I got them up to speed. Ask any track rider and they’ll tell you that’s a good indication of how stiff the wheel is. That stiffness converts into forward momentum and makes it easier to overcome the initial moment of inertia. Which is also an explanation for why I didn’t feel the weight as much as I thought I would on my hill ride — I could overcome the weight of the wheel more quickly and then hold that speed. Of course, there’s a limit to how much stiffness can overcome weight. On the flat or slightly rolling stuff, stiffness might be able to offset weight. But once the road tilts uphill enough, there’s only so much weight (especially rotating weight) you want/can tolerate.

There was also some wind (~15 mph) on my maiden voyage on the e11even Carbon Disc Road wheels. And at the end of the ride, we were racing the rain as a storm with even stronger wind/gusts was rolling in. I’m happy to report that the wheels were very stable. No getting pushed around (I’m a lightweight and more easily affected by wind) and no front wheel snatches — even with some swirling wind.

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I’ve subsequently done several hundred more miles on the e11even Carbon Disc Road wheels — varying distances and over mixed terrain. When I wasn’t keeping pace with folks I ordinarily would, it wasn’t the e11even wheels fault. On the steeper stuff, I didn’t “rocket” up any of the climbs but I didn’t have any problems riding up them at a decent tempo, i.e., not being dead last. On the short little “kicker” climbs, the e11even wheels felt very responsive jumping out of the saddle to power up and over them. On the flat, they just rolled. On descents, they tracked true and held their line through turns. And in one of my not-so-favorite riding conditions — crossing the Key Bridge over the Potomac River with a crosswind in traffic — I wasn’t worried about getting blown around.

I now have a “gravel” bike (sort of)

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I just happened to have a pair of 700×32 Kenda gravel tires lying around and figured I’d experiment with them on the wider rim Carbon Disc Gravel wheels. The Kendas (non-folding) were a little easier (in part to my aforementioned mount them without tubes first method) to get on than the Michelins (no *&%$#@!).

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Curiously, my Carbon Gravel Disc front wheel weighed the same as my Carbon Road Disc front wheel (despite the wider rim which I thought would make it marginally heavier) but the rear wheel was 20 grams heavier … go figure. But still 20 grams lighter than spec.

Not that I’d do it a lot, but this set up allows me to ride my Colnago V3 on “baby” gravel. In my neck of the woods, that means the C&O Canal Towpath, which is dirt and stone. And pretty much flat so the weight of the e11even wheels wasn’t an issue — more so since my gravel riding wasn’t about going “fast.” With wider tires and lower tire pressures (~48 psi), the ride was comfortable enough (for riding a road bike off paved roads).

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Who says you need a gravel bike to ride gravel?

Bang for the buck

If you have to have the lightest and/or most aero wheels, then e11even wheels are not the droids you’re looking for. But if you’re on a budget and looking to get the most bang for your buck, e11even has a lot to offer for a lot less than most other carbon fiber wheels:

  • High quality DT Swiss hubs
  • Pillar bladed spokes with brass nipples
  • External nipples for easy truing
  • U-shaped aero rim that I found stable in crosswinds (and I’m a lightweight so more susceptible to getting blown around in the wind)

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It’s also worth noting that e11even offers the following (full warranty info here):

  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 2-Year Guarantee Against Spoke Breakage
  • 30-Day Satisfaction Guarantee
  • No-Fault Crash Replacement

From my time on e11even wheels, I see some different uses/users:

  • If you need a set of climbing wheels for long days in the high mountains, then you should probably look elsewhere. But if you ride on flat to gently rolling terrain, I don’t think you’ll notice the additional rotating weight as much.  Plus although they’re not necessarily wind tunnel-designed/tested and not intended to be the most aero/fastest wheels, the e11even wheels do the job of coming up to speed quickly, holding their speed (their weight actually contributes to that), and don’t get buffeted around in the wind (again, their weight is a contributing factor).
  • If you are a heavier rider, I think the e11even wheels being a little more robust would be a good choice. They’re a “stout” build with a 220 pound (100 kilogram) fully loaded weight limit. That’s definitely “Clydesdale” territory and there aren’t a lot of other carbon rims that can make that claim.
  • If you’re a rider who just likes to ride and only needs one set of wheels, I think the e11even wheels would be good everyday/all around wheels that you could ride day in-day out and not have to worry too much about them. They might not be particularly “outstanding” in any one category, but they also don’t have any glaring “weaknesses” and do everything well enough.
  • If you’re a racer (or otherwise “competitive” rider) who doesn’t want to risk trashing your uber expensive race wheels on training rides, use the e11even wheels for training. Plus they’d make for a good second set of “pit” wheels for crit racers.
  • Instead of buying a gravel bike, you could try my experiment if your road bike has enough clearance for wider tires and you’re willing to ride it off road.
  • Personally, they wouldn’t be my primary wheels but I could see using the e11even wheels with wider road rubber (like 700×30 or 32) as a set of winter/sh*t weather wheels.

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Cobbles!

All in all, I’d best describe the e11even wheels as a “jack of all trades, master of none” wheel set … and that’s not a bad thing IMHO. And for less than $1,000, that’s a good deal IMHO. Plus they go to 11!


Note: If you have other experiences with gear or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products you see here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper/safe use, handling, maintenance, and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

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