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Birkebeinerrittet 2012 | ENVE 29 tubular review

Edvard from Norway ordered ENVE 29er tubular rims built with DT Swiss 240 hubs and Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes. Here is his report + photos – thanks Edvard and well done on your fantastic result in the race.

Hi Jonathan – the big race last Saturday (August 25) went extremely well for me – partly thanks to the fantastic ENVE wheels from you!

The race is called Birkebeinerrittet and is supposedly the largest mountain bike race in the world with approx. 25.000 participants in all the events.  Around 19.000 completed the full 94,6 km course from Rena to Lillehammer.  This is the 20th anniversary for the bike race but it started out as a cross country ski race in the 1920s to commemorate an important event in our Viking history.  In 1205 the 2 year old Haakon Haakonsen, the king’s son and future king of Norway, was carried by two brave soldiers on skis from one valley in Norway to another to avoid the king’s enemies, across the mountains.  They arrived safely and the king’s son was eventually brought to safety in Trondheim.  As a result all the participants in the ski race and the bike race have to carry a backpack with a minimum weight of 3,5 kg – as a reminder of the baby the two soldiers had to carry more than 800 years ago.

Birken 2012 ENVE 29er Birkebeinerrittet 2012 | ENVE 29 tubular review

The race starts in Rena at approx. 200m altitude and ascends to almost 1000m before it descends back down to Lillehammer at 260m – the total ascent is 1500m.  I was fortunate enough to have that day you usually hope for where the body responds, the conditions are good and the equipment is optimal and works flawlessly.  I beat my personal record by more than 6 minutes and I was able to break that elusive “dream” barrier of 3 hours – finishing in 2:59:36.  To put it into perspective, only 147 out of the 19.000 managed to finish in less than 3 hours – so I am very, very happy and proud.

As you can see on the enclosed picture I rode the race with the lightest and stiffest setup possible, the fantastic Enve tubular rims and then a stiff carbon fork.  For me this is the best setup since there is so much climbing and gravel roads and the single track sections are not that technical.

I ended up riding the Racing Ralph (RR) 2.0s even with a little wobble in the tires and that did not bother me at all.  Right from the start I could feel the difference these wheels make – they are so stiff, responsive and fast that I was able to use at least one gear heavier than usual up the 11 km climb from Rena.  The fact that these are tubular wheels also enabled me to run a lower pressure than I normally do.  I usually run my 2.25 Rocket Ron clinchers with 30 psi when racing to avoid snakebites.  During training I have run 27-28 psi in them and punctured with snakebites 3 times this year.  For this race I ran the Enve RRs with 25 psi and I was never even close to bottoming them.  In return that lower pressure gave low rolling resistance in all conditions, fantastic grip in the technical sections (like in one of the pictures where you can see several people behind me having to walk), and a comfortable ride over the rougher gravel sections.

One thing is for sure, if I had used my original wheels for this race I would not have been able to break the 3 hour barrier, the added weight and less grip would have cost me several minutes!  I know that these wheels are not cheap – but a great wheel-set is probably the best upgrade anyone can make to improve their bike.  I had this experience a few years ago with a very light and stiff carbon wheel-set (from Lightweight) with my road bike, and now I had that same experience again.  Buying these exceptional Enve wheels is the best investment I have ever done with respect to increasing the performance of my bike.

Lastly, the service provided by Strada Hand Built Wheels was also exceptional and I can recommend them to anybody in a heartbeat.  The next time I am looking for a new wheel-set the first thing I will do is give Jonathan at Strada a call!

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