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First Ride: Roval's Control SL Team Wheels Use Carbon Spokes & Weigh 1190 Grams

May 21, 2024
by Mike Kazimer  
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Three years ago, Roval's engineers began an XC wheel project with one main goal in mind: create a light, race-ready option that Specialized's team athletes could use at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Roval already had a competitive set of wheels in their lineup in the form of the 1240 gram Control SL, but this project was intended to push things even further, and it ended up involving testing dozens of different hub and spoke prototypes before settling on the final product.

The Team Control SL wheels are the result, which use 20 straight pull carbon fiber spokes and heavily machined aluminum hubs to get the weight down to just 1190 grams, including tape and valve stems. That makes these some of the lightest XC wheels on the market, at least when it comes to a pre-built wheelset you can actually buy.

Roval Control SL Team Wheels

• Wheel size: 29"
• Intended use: XC race
• Rim material: carbon, 29mm inner width
• 20 straight pull carbon spokes
• Roval hub shell, DT Swiss internals
• Weight: 1186 grams (actual, w/ valves) | Front: 547 g / Rear: 639 g
• Price: $3,300 USD (includes 2 tires, wheel bag, spare bearings, Dynaplug tool, 2 water bottles)


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Only 400 sets of the wheels will be made, and they come in a box full of extra accessories.

On the topic of buying, Roval is only producing 400 Team Control SL wheelsets. The $3,300 price tag isn't just for the wheels, though; that includes two tires (a 29 x 2.35" S-Works Fast Trak and Renegade), a padded wheel bag, two water bottles, and a Dynaplug tire plug tool. On top of all that, Roval includes 20 spare spokes, a full set of extra bearings, plus a Microspline freehub body. It's a substantial package, but then it should be considering the cost.


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Details

The Control SL Team wheels use the same carbon rims found on the Control SL wheels, except there are only 20 holes drilled into them rather than 24. Roval also went with standard rim tape for these wheels, instead of the plastic plugs used on previous XC wheelsets.

The 29mm inner rim width is designed to work well with modern 2.3 – 2.4” wide XC tires, and the rim's sidewall is wider and flatter at the top in order to reduce the likelihood of a pinch flat. That design has proven to be very effective, but for riders who want even more security against flats the rims are approved for use with tire inserts.

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It's the hubs and spokes that separate the Team wheels from the standard Control SL; those hub shells have been extensively machined and then covered with a clear coat to save as much weight as possible. As an extra-fancy touch, the signatures of the S-Racing team members are etched into the hub shell. The hubs use DT Swiss' SINC ceramic bearings, and contain their 180 internals with a 36 tooth ratchet ring.

As for the spokes, those were developed by Roval, and are proprietary to these wheels. They're said to be 29% lighter than a steel spoke (each one weighs just 3 grams, and the nipple is .38 grams), along with being stronger and more durable. The spokes are laced in a two cross pattern, front and rear.

Although these wheels were designed specifically for XC racing, I know there are riders out there wondering about putting them on not-quite XC bikes. According to Roval, the Team SL wheels are designed for XC and downcountry bikes, and are not approved for e-bike usage. Essentially, if your bike has more than 130mm of travel or a motor then these won't be the wheels for you.

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20 straight pull carbon spokes are used for each wheel.
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A full set of spare spokes and bearings are included.

Ride Impressions

I'd meant for my first ride to be a medium speed cruise, but after running into some buddies on the trail it turned into an all-out sprint fest, and a good chance to see how the wheels felt at almost race pace. For an ultralight wheelset with only 20 spokes per wheel, the Rovals feel much more solid than I would have expected – they're super light without feeling sketchy, a trait that's not always present in this category.

The Control Team SL wheels took the place of a set of DT Swiss's new XRC 1200 wheels, which weigh around 1300 grams, so I can't say that the Roval's light weight smacked me over the head as hard as it would have if I'd been on some heavier hoops, but there's no denying that this a very fast set of wheels, especially when they're mounted up with quick-rolling XC race tires. They accelerate quickly, whether that's from a standstill or when pedaling out of a tight corner, with a satisfyingly zippy feel to them.

The lack of noise has been especially impressive. I've ridden plenty of light wheels that seem like they're actively warning you not to push hard in the corners, letting out pings and twangs that make it harder to trust that they're not going to fold over. The Rovals haven't let out a peep so far, and I've taken them on a good selection of rough trails that typically make noisy wheels sing.

I'd be remiss not to address that $3,300 price tag. Are they worth it? Well, that depends. We are talking about some of the lightest XC wheels in existence, so it's not surprising they cost a pretty penny. Plus, Roval really has put together a very nice package – the inclusion of race-ready tires, the spare bearings, and even the signatures on the hub shell do add extra appeal for deep-pocketed XC aficionados.

For riders who aren't quite as focused on shaving every gram possible, Roval's 28-spoke Control wheels uses the same rim design, weigh a still-reasonable 1450 grams, and cost $1,350 USD. Or there's the standard Control SL wheelset, which weighs 1240 grams, uses 24 DT Swiss Aerolite spokes per wheel, and is priced at $2,500.

I'm going to keep putting the miles on these wheels and will report back if any durability issues arise. The first fifty miles have been very promising, and it's easy to see why these would be the wheels of choice for several Olympic hopefuls.




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105 Comments
  • 66 0
 I'm not sure they are the lightest on the market, although maybe. The Berd prebuilt wheels are right around the same weight. One thing I know for sure. When someone with an empty credit card sees that open box at a dealer they will walk out with them. That is the most killer wheel presentation/box I've ever seen by a long shot.
  • 22 0
 Well upon further review, they can only be bought online and delivered, so I guess an impulse buy is a bit out of the question. But titanium disc screws included? That's kind of cool. I almost, almost feel like for that price, and with what you get, it's not all that bad. But it is.
  • 1 1
 A full set of spare spokes is included Not sure if im on the for the price you surely deserve them Or Carbon spokes fashioned in the traditional style, you are going to need them Camp
  • 7 2
 These are the same wheels as the standard SL's with 20 round spokes instead of 24 aero spokes and some polished hubs. It is likely the standard wheels are faster overall because of the bladed spokes, but still a killer presentation from Specialized. Not going to lie, I still want them.
  • 10 33
flag gabriel-mission9 (May 21, 2024 at 16:06) (Below Threshold)
 3.3k wheelset thats 50g lighter than a 2.5k wheelset, but people will buy it cos it comes in a fancy cardboard box - mtb stopped being about riding bikes a while ago now, and it makes me sad.
  • 94 2
 @gabriel-mission9, I bet if you rode your bike you wouldn't be sad.
  • 22 3
 @gabriel-mission9: Why would you and I give a shit if someone else buys something?
  • 19 2
 Everyone should know about the brand Light Bicycle. Their wheels are seriously cost effective and impressive. I have their XC930 wheels which are 30mm internal and come in at 1150g with dt 240’s and they’re also 28 spoke so none of that sketchy 20/24 spoke durability.

Sure they’re a Chinese brand throughout, but their customer service is amazing and they’re superb rims.
  • 7 0
 @hi-dr-nick:

Light bicycle has been around for a while and are trusted by many wheelbuilders I know.
  • 5 0
 @dfishdesign: they also now offer berd spokes. I bought a pair of light bike wheels for the Cape Epic with DT Swiss 180 hubs and berd spokes - 1,050g. Zero issues at the race apart from a small buckle on the rear which took me 10 mins to true when I got back to the UK.
  • 3 0
 @dfishdesign: it's true, they have which is why I wish more people knew! It's every bit as much or more of a quality product than any other carbon rims.
  • 2 0
 @hi-dr-nick: Love light-bicycle - I'm probably 10 pairs of wheels deep from them, road, gravel, mountain, etc. Some of the best out there. I have the BERD spoked wheel set from them and it is awesome.
  • 1 0
 @hi-dr-nick: Haven't done Light Bicycle but have wheels from both BTLOS and EIE and both have been stellar. My next wheelset is probably WAO. I'm not nationalistic, but I do want to support short/environmental supply chains and living wages for workers. Plus there's real value in the warranty, and the gap in cost is shrinking. BUT I would not hesitate to recommend wheels from any of those sources, and you can easily achieve what in my experience is equal or better performance (since you can spec every component exactly to your needs... e.g. differing F/R rims, spoke counts, spoke gauge, hub of choice) to most of the big brands from US and EU.
  • 66 16
 20 spare spokes, huh? clearly they are very confident in these
  • 3 3
 They included enough to replace every spoke on the wheel so they must be high quality.
  • 24 0
 Was my first thought too, but on second thought: It only takes a stick in the spokes and at least one is going to break. I think I'd give them the benefit of the doubt here and say that they just made sure you'll also have quality replacements spokes in a few years. At least I'd hope people that spend that amout of money on wheels will ride them for a many years.
  • 112 3
 @twonsarelli, I mean, I'd rather be overprepared on a race weekend vs. trying to find a shop that happens to have the right carbon spokes in stock...
  • 3 0
 I'm getting flashbacks to those videos of first gen Mavic R-Sys wheels (carbon spokes) exploding in 2010 ish. It was like pick-up-sticks.

Footnote: I have a 2nd gen R-Sys wheel which has had a decade of use and never even needing truing. That has carbon spokes on the NDS only.
  • 7 0
 @mikekazimer: If I was crazy enough to spend $3500+ (tax, can't forget tax) on wheels, I'd immediately order another 40 spokes and nipples. Assuming they sell them in such a way.
  • 21 0
 @mikekazimer: Agreed, I remember being dead in the water coming into a race weekend because nobody had the right nipples for some Atomlab rims I had. Luckily someone loaned me an entire rear wheel. All to finish middle of the pack in Cat 2 but the drama was real!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: no doubt about it buy my standard controls only came with 4 extras! i feel i should now complain
  • 1 0
 @Grady-Harris: obviously. Because that’s what Every wheel manufacturer does.
  • 3 0
 Well I wouldn't want to buy a wheel with non-standard spokes with 3 spares. I just ripped 3 spokes out of my enduro wheel just going around a corner (it's a well built wheel, just bad luck). These things happen.
Now if you have fatigue in steel spokes after riding with a broken spoke or two, you might as well replace them all. I don't have any experience to compare with carbon spokes, but the point I'm trying to make is that if the spokes aren't standard, better give me a good chunk up front and a guarantee they'll be available.
That said, roval seems to be decent with old parts, I just got a new end cap for my 2009 Control SL last year.
  • 2 0
 @MrDuck: don't disagree at all. i think the reasoning is obvious to all of us but the humor maybe not so much
  • 1 1
 @trellis-opportunity-red: i resemble this comment having had a cervelo spontainiously combust into fragments after thos lovely pultruded spokes all did their best impression of the aftermath of bull in a spaghetti factory
  • 2 0
 They include extra spokes with the standard Rovals as well
  • 1 1
 @bikehoarder23: you could reliably run atomlab wheels with 2 or more missing spokes, they were that good
  • 2 0
 definitely a security blanket move, like "lifetime warranty",
to allay fears of serviceability.
Probably biggest failure point will be the bonded nipple bit.
Anyone remember the Easton UST-tubeless rims with threaded nipples just like this?
These will likely ALSO get wound up, and do wacky stuff under load, except are carbon, so who knows what the hell that'll look like.
Probably OK from the factory, but a field mechanic will suffer for sure.
Oh well, ride em if ya got em!
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: yeah for sure! I mean i dont race XC so i can just find some bladed spokes and be fine
  • 1 0
 @mrgonzo: Absolutely, they were blinging too.
  • 4 0
 @twonsarelli: I'm an immigrant ok?! My humor is on a level of a 13 year old.
  • 1 0
 @trellis-opportunity-red: I have a set as well - the first set was recalled and replaced. I raced cx on the new set for 3 years including several huck-to-sand moments, still running true. I think they're a cool bit of tech, ride rather stiff, but the 'exploding spokes' visual turned everyone off.

Mavic followed that up with the fully molded CF wheel: two halves bonded in the center of the hub. Definitely road race whippet use only.
  • 27 0
 The price doesn't matter, IMO. They're only making 400 sets and they'll be ridden by Olympic level athletes. They're clearly not intending these wheels to be market leading best sellers. It's more of a brand statement.
  • 14 0
 The hero product to aim you at the $2500 version.
  • 5 0
 @alexsin: ...which itself is a hero product to aim you at the $1350 version, which makes this the hero's hero product. Kind of cool, like the presentation box, but also kind of extremely expensive. I appreciate it, but rather buy a second bike for the same money. Not a problem for them though. I'm sure they'll sell all 400 of them like hotcakes.
  • 27 0
 Big fan of cross country Kaz- was a little scared how xc gear would be covered with Levy gone but you're crushing it
  • 29 0
 Thanks, I've been having a blast on the XC speed machines lately - there are some really great options out there right now.
  • 3 1
 @mikekazimer: What are your top picks, and why?
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: not to mention how fun it is to get stupid on Galbraith trails with a silly XC weenie bike
  • 21 0
 Anybody want a cheap set of wheels? They came free with a pair of water bottles I got. Very exclusive bottles cost me $1650 each but the free wheels was a nice touch.
  • 5 0
 Before guerrilla gravity ghosted us all, they used to sell $3k (or whatever their frames cost) tshirts that included a free frame
  • 12 0
 I would just buy the Control SL wheels, get them rebuilt with Berd spokes and call it day.
  • 8 0
 so.. let's go through the math.

The current Control SL uses 24 DT Aerolight spokes both front and rear; a Aerolight spoke is ~4.3g, Berd ~2g; you're replacing 2 x 24 spokes; weight saving (4.3 - 2.5) * 2 * 24 ~= 85g.
A set of Control SL is 1240g, so you're not down to 1155g.

A Berd spoke is ~8USD, so 2 * 24 * 8 ~= 400USD
Labor cost, Berd will relace your exiting wheel for 200USD
MSRP for a set of Control SL is 2500USD
Total: ~3100USD.

spacedoutboy; Specialized's offering win.. more weight, more money, more fragile Smile
  • 2 0
 @jf45: Could also get NOBL TR32 on DT180's = 1195g and around $2400 USD
I know it's 5 grams extra weight though Smile
  • 8 0
 This is specialized! This is how treated riders with "lifetime guarantee"
I've ridden my bike with roval control SL in a normal way, it means no jumps, or trails. I had two other guys with me, they saw. I used this track many times before, as I'm livin' here, I know well this stage of the rout. I've cracked my carbon wheel. There is no marks of external forces. I sent to Specialized Bicycles here comes their answer:
Hello Gergo,
Specialized rejected the warranty request.
This type of defect comes not from normal use, which is obviously from the marks.
The offer you a crash replacement rim. I asked them for more details and you get an update in the next days.
best regards

Lifetime guarantee
  • 11 2
 According to Nobl wheelset calculator.. DT 180 with 28 Berd Spokes on TR32 comes in at 1195g to start @ 2550 CAD.

So I am not sure why this.
  • 11 0
 Because they've calculated there are ~400 people with $3300 burning a hole in their pocket?
  • 1 1
 Pirope seams to be better than berd regarding holding the tension and building them up...
  • 1 0
 I think DT 180 berd build is around $3200 CAD (2400 USD) but still much cheaper!
  • 10 0
 The price seemed ridiculously high until I realized they come with not one but two water bottles!
  • 3 0
 don't forget the tires.
  • 9 3
 "some of the lightest XC wheels in existence" -> this really isn't true. I used to think the same thing about Control SLs until I looked beyond the "big brands". There are tons of different wheelsets you can get that weigh less than this, here's a bunch of easy examples: r2-bike.com/MTB-29-inch__Wheel-Set (sort by weight)
  • 1 1
 I cant believe they dont filter by this as standard
  • 3 1
 @Compositepro: Username checks out.
  • 6 0
 Speaking from experience with the "regular" Control SL, the included spare bearings are a good indicator of how often they'll need to be replaced...
  • 7 0
 I have the cheaper Roval 29er wheelset and at 1450 grams it feels amazing. I can only imagine how wild these ones are.
  • 6 1
 they use the same rims, so the weight saving is in the hub and spokes. while still relevant, i think most people feel the biggest difference when it comes to the rims themselves. also running the standard controls and they feel awfully rapid
  • 4 0
 I am not sure what is so special about this. About 6 years ago I bought a pair of 27.5 wheels from Lightbicycle that were 1150. And just with DT 240, nothing too fancy with hubs. They worked great and had no problem until I sold the bike. 1180 for a 29 with ceramic hubs seems right just about there, lightbicycle sells a set at 1125 ...
  • 4 1
 "those hub shells have been extensively machined and then covered with a clear coat to save as much weight as possible"

Really? They look pretty much identical to the normal black anodized Roval (powered by DT Swiss) straight-pull front hubs, just with 4 fewer spoke holes.

Is clear-coat less weight than ano? Polishing and no clear-coat nor ano would be even lighter...
  • 8 0
 Personally, I'd strip the clear coat and drill at least 4 extra holes in the hubs to get the weight even lower
  • 4 0
 @VtVolk: why stop at 4? #drillium
  • 4 0
 Interesting to see come up with this setup. 2 months ago, Newmen also came out with a similar wheelset, published here as well: www.pinkbike.com/news/newmen-launches-new-phase-vonoa-lightweight-mtb-wheels.html
  • 5 0
 Wow, that is a good point! Those Newmen wheels are 1mm wider, have 4 additional spokes per wheel, and are e-bike rated, all while weighing 30g LESS for the set, and costing about HALF as much (although, in fairness, the Newmen wheels don't come with all of the additional goodies that the Spz wheels come with).

I would be interested to see some impact testing comparisons between them and the Specialized wheels, but Newmen seems to be known for making highly durable wheels, so if they continued that tradition on their super light XC wheels then I would guess they're highly competitive in that regard as well.
  • 1 0
 Let’s face it they are not for the average rider. Like they say they went in with the idea of a wheel set for Olympic XC. Most people hardly break away from mid pack Strava times where a good quality set of wheels that have more weight will last a long time. At Olympic level and performance vs budget is more a thing they may serve as a great investment for marginal gains which is what it is about for them. For me a marginal gain is drinking my spare water fast so I don’t have to carry the extra weight
  • 1 0
 I didn't realize how light those are until I weighed a set of wheels I just built. King hubs, 450g rims, cx-ray spokes, brass nipples, fillmore 70mm valves, tape: 938g rear, 797g front.

Back in the olden days I learned to never ride the lightest of anything. That shit just breaks.
  • 9 5
 On todays episode of OutoftouchBike
  • 33 1
 Don't worry, the Value Field Test kicks off tomorrow.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: bloody noice!
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: what nice!
  • 3 0
 Well, this is pretty much a commercial for Specialized. You can actually get same or lower weight at less than half of that price. See for example www.lightbicycle.com/xc930-30i-width-superlight-carbon-xc-wheelset-29er.html.

And if you are my weight (70Kg) a 1100-1200 wheel set is quite all-around. I owned a 27.5 1150 grams from lightbicycle and it was great on my XC bike.
  • 2 0
 I wonder if Trek is going to release an even more insanely light wheelset. The presentation and box though, I don't think Trek would do that type of thing.
  • 1 0
 Look amazing, well done Roval. But to ruin another phrase, if you're reading about these wheels here, then they probably aren't for you.
  • 3 1
 I run the non carbon spoke ones and they can take a beating. I have double downs mountain on them and they rock.
  • 2 0
 This will give bike marketing departments something to go on about for the next 3 years. lol
  • 2 0
 I have an Extralite wheelset with Berd spokes weigh 960 grams
  • 1 0
 The full set os spoke spares included with purchase is telling of the long term durability story here.
  • 2 1
 PiRope with DT hubs for the win - lighter, „cheaper“, rope vs carbon spokes for better damping.
  • 2 0
 These are BTLOS carbon spokes.
  • 3 0
 Yeah, that was 100% my first thought. BTLOS has been doing the carbon spokes for a little while now, and I wouldn't be surprised to seem them supplying for manufacturers.

Also +1 for BTLOS making some damn fine and affordable wheels.
  • 3 1
 @DailyDerbi: wheels do seem decently priced. Though I’m not sure if $666 is the best number to throw on there… maybe round up the price to $670 ha
  • 1 0
 Pirope wheels with Bike Ahead rims are 909 grams which is insane, but im not sure how easy they are to buy.
  • 1 0
 They should have kept the 4 extra speed holes, then they would be even lighter. Could have charged 3600 bucks.
  • 2 0
 Huck to flat. Please.
  • 1 0
 I can justify this price because it comes with tires!
  • 1 0
 $3.3K tires and bottles with a free wheelset? What a deal!
  • 1 0
 Glad it comes with water bottles.
  • 1 0
 Will these match the interior decor of my BMW i8 ?
  • 1 0
 54 grams in 3 years, well THAT'S impressive...
  • 1 0
 doing the ole "limited edition" to try to boost sales.
  • 1 0
 $3000 without the fancy packaging?
  • 1 0
 $3k and you only get the 36t ratchet??
  • 5 7
 So you save ~260 grams for + $2000 over the cheaper Rovals...tough sell IMO.
  • 3 5
 Control SL's are $2500, not $1300. The bearings alone are ~$500.
  • 6 1
 @bigtuna00: this guy thinks bearings for a bike hub for $500 isn’t hilarious
  • 7 0
 @bigtuna00: Std. Controls are $1350 and 1450 grams per the article above, these are $3300 and 1186....so you spend $2k more and get 260grams less:

"For riders who aren't quite as focused on shaving every gram possible, Roval's 28-spoke Control wheels uses the same rim design, weigh a still-reasonable 1450 grams, and cost $1,350 USD"
  • 4 0
 @rideordie35: no, I think these wheels are hilarious. But that doesn't change the fact that ceramic bearings (of which there are two sets included) are expensive.
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: I see what you mean. Yes these are only ~50g lighter than the "regular" Control SLs for $800 more but at least you have spare spokes and bearings for when everything fails before your racing season is over Smile
  • 5 0
 That plus they are using the same rim across Control, Control SL and these Team edition. That's where you feel the biggest difference. Picked up the controls for $1100 on a black Friday sale. Such a great wheelset.
  • 1 3
 But will they be available at Walmart?
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