While it's easy to convince ourselves that we'd be better riders with the latest widget or if we were on the newest bike, literally buying speed is a difficult thing to do if you already own a high-end rig. But one of the most effective methods is to bolt on a lighter wheelset. And at just 1,240-grams for the pair, or around 100-grams lighter than a single 29er Assegai, Specialized's new Roval Control SL Team Issue wheels are among the lightest.
Not only that, but they're also saying that the new rim design means that much more force is required before you'll slice a tire compared to the old version. Okay, so they're lighter and more reliable?
Roval Control SL Team Issue Details
• Intended use: cross-country
• Wheel size: 29"
• Weight: 1,283-grams (actual, w/ valve stems)
• Rim width: 29mm (internal)
• Rim material: Carbon fiber
• MSRP: $2,650 USD
• More info: www.specialized.com
I always refer to this kind of stuff as 'no excuses components,' for obvious reasons, but not being able to blame your gear doesn't come cheap. The Control SL Team Issue wheelset goes for $2,650 USD. The Details
If you come to Pinkbike for the downhill and enduro content, or if you're more concerned with sending gaps than saving grams, the 358-gram Roval rim might sound fantastically light. And it is, no doubt there, but it's also in the same ballpark as other options; ENVE's M525 comes in at 341-grams, Crankbrothers' XCT at 365-grams, and it's Stan's 300-gram Podium SRD rim that takes the barely-there title. But all of those are between 23mm and 26.5mm wide internally, whereas the Roval rim is a huge-for-cross-country 29mm wide inside.
A wider rim can mean more sidewall support and less tire squirm at low pressures, especially if you're using lightweight racing tires with toilet paper-thin sidewalls.
It also gets rim walls that are 4mm wide, which is almost twice the width of what you'll see on most rims. Think of the top of the rim sidewall as a knife's cutting edge, which it can certainly be when you slam your rear wheel into that same rock yet again; Specialized is essentially making it wider and duller to lessen the chance of you having to walk out of the forest. They're saying that it takes 22-percent more force to pinch a tire than it did with their previous Control SL rim and its more traditional design.
All I'm reading is that I can take lines that are 22-percent dumber when I'm on my cross-country bike. And if you were considering a tire insert, it might be redundant if you're using these wheels.
The rim's shape is actually much more complicated than its predecessor, with an asymmetrical design that, with the Roval hubs, means there's a single spoke length all around and more even tension. The rim bed is stepped to make tubeless setup a bit easier as well, and there are the usual claims about more vertical compliance and improved (by 29-percent!) strength.
More importantly, they come with a lifetime warranty and no-fault crash replacement promise.
There's a set of Roval hubs at the center of each rim, with the rear using DT Swiss' new EXT clutch system
, along with Competition Race straight-pull spokes and Pro Lock aluminum nipples. "Straight pull spokes use slightly less material than j-bends, so they were used here," Specialized says, which is hard to argue with. They're bladed, too, which makes truing and tension adjustments much easier.
So, what's the deal with the new Roval wheels: Can they actually be this light and, as Specialized claim, stand up to rowdy cross-country riding? My test wheels just arrived yesterday so I don't have an answer to that question yet, but I will soon. They've have been installed on a high-mileage test bike, so expect a full review of these apparently lighter and stronger Roval wheels later this spring.