Bike brands have systematically excised themselves from the premium, boutique accessory brands. They have their own premium house brands. Specialized has Roval. Trek has Bontrager. Giant has CADEX. Some of those accessory makers are not simply laying down and taking it. Becoming a bike maker was the right-back-atcha chosen by 3T, and while ENVE (like 3T) is certainly not eschewing the OE spec channel, it joins 3T in becoming a complete bike option. It has just announced ENVE Custom Road, which is today’s answer, perhaps, to Serotta and the other custom frame makers of prior eras.
As unaffordable bikes go, ENVE Custom Road is surprisingly affordable. The price may be stratospheric, but when you consider what goes into this bike you might have presumed Exospheric. (More on price when we roll the credits.)
This is a full custom bike, one of a kind, your kind, made for you. It is not a monocoque design. If you look at the slide below, what you’ll see is a reference to “modular” against a silhouette of a seatstay/seattube joint. It is, in a way, reminiscent of the GURU factory’s process in Montreal, back in that custom bike maker’s heyday.
ENVE has a lot of experience in frame and frame sub-assemblies, perhaps most famously to Slowtwitchers the front end of Cervelo’s P5X. The frame itself was made in HED’s Twin Cities factory, but the fork and handlebars – everything forward of the head tube – was manufactured in ENVE’s metro-Salt Lake factory. Also, ENVE makes handlebars, and has made frame sub-assemblies for a number of bike brands.
You can read about ENVE’s factory, and about the testing lab in ENVE’s facility.
The Custom Road is road only. No gravel or tri or anything else. It’s available in two styles: Race and All Road. Imagine Cervelo’s S5 versus its Caledonia, for comparison. One is a pure road config, the other a classics (or light gravel) config.
How “custom” is custom? Each of the two motifs – Race and All Road – “has been specifically tuned for a tire size to ensure BB position, toe overlap, and trail numbers are where we want them,” said ENVE’s Jake Pantone. Beyond that, it’s Katie bar the doors. “When it comes to fit, everything is up for discussion.” If you consider all variants, that include head tube and stem lengths, saddle offsets and seat tube angles, there are 724 possible bike geometric configurations. Tubes are cut specifically for each frame.
On a personal note, I think ENVE may face a learning curve on what to build, and whom to trust with geometries. Will bike fitters be brought into the ecosystem? Who decides on the geometries? I used to get the occasional phone call from custom builders, asking, “Here’s a geometry I’ve been asked to build; do you think we should build it?”
Custom bikes sound great, and they are great, and I have owned custom bikes and do currently own a custom bike, but here is a thought: When you buy a bike from Trek or Cannondale, those are all proven geometries. Do you want to be the first person to beta test a novel geometry, even if that geometry is your morphologic match? Just because a bike fits your your morphology does that mean it's roadworthy?
This is probably why ENVE demurred when I asked how "full custom" is this bike? "There are some limitations based on the design of the frame and construction methods," I was told, and, "What can’t be customized are the things that would compromise the intended ride characteristics of the bike."
I love this new project by ENVE, and intend to discuss with them how they answer these questions (and of course report back here).
Above is the complete bike pricing. The “chassis,” i.e., the frame, fork, handlebars, seat post and the like, is $7,000. Unless you have a spare groupset hanging around, the complete bike is the much better value (as is the case with almost all bikes). Only if you’re a Campy-phile should you consider the frameset option. This bike, complete, with “SRAM Force AXS” (which is I assume eTap), seems quite a value when you place this against other custom-frame, bespoke-geometry, U.S.-made complete bikes.
Here is more on the ENVE Custom Road.