ENVE Melee First Ride
When the boss has just done a top-shelf build on the new ENVE Melee and then goes away on holiday someone has to step up and take it for a ride to get some photo’s. Sorry, not sorry Andrew.
We’ve been lucky enough to be the first country outside the USA to receive the new ENVE Melee. ENVE has been long known for their carbon expertise, mostly in wheels and handlebars, but what a lot of people don’t know is ENVE is also the company other companies turn to when they need help engineering something out of carbon. They are truly masters in the art of carbon. Since other frame manufacturers have started making their own components, ENVE decided to start making a frame. The Melee is designed to be an all day race bike, with wide tire clearance and aero shaping.
My normal steed is a Specialized Aethos 56cm, running Alpinist CL wheels with Vittoria Corsa 30c tires, Alpinist cockpit, Specialized Power Mirror saddle, SRAM Rival group set with a power meter, and Ceramic Speed OSPW – and I absolutely love it! I also get to ride lots of different bikes and have done over the years, so I’m no where near a pro, but I get to try more bikes than most. Given my love for my Aethos and my sampling of lots of different bikes, the Melee had a lot to live up to.
The bosses Melee, as you’d expect was decked out with the best of the best; ENVE Melee frame 56cm, ENVE 4.5 wheels running Specialized Turbo 26c tires, ENVE stem (110mm), and bars (42cm) which come with the frame, full Dura-Ace 12-speed group set, Specialized Romin Mirror saddle. So a top-shelf build for sure! Even more pressure for the new Melee to live up to.
Today's ride was just a quick 30km out and back of the Wellington bays to get some quick PR shots, so roads most Wellington riders will know well; flat and fast, with bike lanes in parts, traffic in others and no where to hide from the wind! So, how was the Melee? In one word FAST! Did it live up to the hype and the price? Absolutely! Would I buy one? When it comes time to replace my Aethos it'll definitely be a contender!!!
I’ll get it out of the way now and no, the Melee is not as comfy as my Aethos on rough roads, but it also isn’t as bone-shakingly firm and stiff as some other Aero race bikes I’ve ridden. As an everyday race bike ENVE absolutely nailed it! The layup of the frame is plenty stiff and responsive for sprinting (there were quite a few sprint repeats trying to get the right shot), but still compliant enough to fly over the rough roads without getting bounced or thrown around. I can absolutely see how Alexey Vermeulen rode this with wide tires and won the Belgian Waffle Ride. So ride quality, tick! What the stunning ride quality does is allow all the other components and the frame itself to go FAST! How fast? Well I’ve done the bays a lot, and on this ride of 31 Strava segments I got 16 achievements, and I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard. The Melee sprints up to speed and stays at speed with a subtle elegance and a smoothness that belies how fast you’re actually moving. Even more impressive was how it achieves this in all conditions, headwind or side wind, rough tarmac or smooth road; the Melee is fast and smooth.
The Dura-Ace 12 speed as you’d imagine is epic, tight, and confident shifting on the front and rear, nice steps between gears and quiet. I do prefer SRAM shifting buttons and found myself shifting the front derailleur by accident a few times, but because the shifting was so good undoing my mistake was very easy. The Specialized Mirror saddles, either Romin or Power are an absolute masterpiece of a saddle. Yes, they are expensive but for what is arguably your most important contact point and for the comfort these saddles offer, for me it’s a no-brainer. The ENVE cockpit, included with the frame but you can specify size and length, is a stunner. Super comfortable and pairs with the frame's ride quality perfectly. The ENVE wheels are the same as the cockpit and the frame – a perfect combination of aero, stiffness, and compliance. If you’re going to go for the frame, you’ll get the bars and stem, and you really should spring for the wheels too; they just work so well together.
Given this is the boss's bike, while we do ride the same frame size, we run very different setups and look to get different things out of a bike. Personally, I would run SRAM, I’d run a shorter stem and a bit more stack (I’m not very low and pro), I’d run the ENVE 3.4’s instead of the 4.5’s and I’d run a wider tyre. This is because Andrew is far faster and more of a racer than I could ever hope to be. However, the stand out of this bike is the frame, Andrew has built the Melee as his race bike for the season, and the way he’s spec’d it, it’ll be an absolute weapon for him. I don’t race and just want an all-round comfortable but high-performance bike and the Melee would more than tick that box too. I was blown away by just how fast the Melee is while being as comfortable as it was.
Carbon fibre is a very weird material and getting the most out of it is as much an art as a science. It’s stiffer, but at the same time more compliant. It can be laterally stiff while being vertically compliant. It can flex one way but not the other. Getting the most out of this material really takes a company that know what they’re doing, and ENVE really are some of the best in the game. They’ve shown it with their wheels, bars, and stem and they have continued to smash it out of the park with the Melee. An everyday aero race bike seems like an impossible ask but it seems for now at least that ENVE have nailed the brief. If I could afford one I would jump on one in a heartbeat, and if you can, you should! Build it as a race bike, build it with a bit more comfort, this frame is top of the class.
P.s, with Andrew away for a while longer I've taken the bike on a few more rides, thrown some hills at it, and I stand by my first impressions; it's an amazing bit of kit.
- James Cupit