When we tested the 2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4, the final Roubaix to use Zertz inserts and lack the Future Shock in the head tube, we liked the bike a lot – but we loved the Roval wheels. That was our first inkling that Specialized was doing more with its Roval wheels brand- purchased from the French founders in 2005 – than just cutting costs with an in house brand name. Since then Specialized has focused more and more on Roval wheels and this year the fledgling brand has left the nest venturing out to its own URL – rovalcomponents.com.
With the addition of the Roval CLX 50, the line has now expanded to include five wheel sets under the Road/Tri banner – CLX 64, CLX 50, CLX 32, CL 40 and SLX 24. All but the SLX 24 are carbon. The wheels follow the current trend to wide internal widths to make magic with good tires and exceptionally light weights are hallmarks of the entire line. Specialized’s hope is that these wheels will begin to make aftermarket in roads and find their way onto other brand’s bikes.
How Deep is Your Love? Roval CLX 64
The CLX 64 is, wait for it, 64mm deep. It’s also the fastest wheel ever tested by Specialized. We don’t have a list of the other wheels they tested, but we’d guess they weren’t just 26” beach cruiser rims. Hint: Most start with the letter “Z”. Specialized, or we suppose Roval via Specialized, claims these wheels beat even the fastest 80mm rims it tested in the wind tunnel.
We have an enormous amount of time on these carbon clinchers, in both disc and rim brake configurations and while we don’t have a wind tunnel to verify claims, we can say they are bat-shit crazy fast. At just 1545grams for a set of clinchers these wheels are 145grams lighter than Zipp 404 Firecrest clinchers which are 6mm shallower.
The Roval CLX 64 has already won world championships on the road and the time trial and Marcel Kittel recently dominated the Dubai Tour on the disc version.
Roval CLX 64: Tubular or tubeless carbon clincher, disc and rim brake versions, 64mm deep, 29.9mm external width, 20.7mm internal, 16/21 spoke pattern with 21/24 for disc brake version, DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Roval AF hubs with Ceramic Speed bearings, 1545grams rim brake clinchers; $2400 (clincher rim brake)
Hunting Unicorns. Roval CLX 50
The newest member of the Roval family is the the 50mm deep CLX 50 and the brand is happy to call this wheel a tweener. While Sagan may be able to swap between 64mm and 32mm rims at will, most of us have to make do with one set. Searching for that elusive do-it-all wheel Specialized developed the CLX 50. Using CLX 64mm inspired aerodynamics the rim is quick, while easy to handle in crosswind thanks to a center of pressure that sits behind the axle – a design pioneered by Zipp during its Firecrest development. Apparently Unicorns are light, because this 50mm deep wheel is just 1375grams in clincher version, treading ground reserved for tubulars or very shallow, pure climbing clinchers.
Roval CLX 50: Tubular or tubeless carbon clincher, disc and rim brake versions, 50mm deep, 29.4mm external width, 20.7mm internal width, 16/21 spoke count, DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Roval AF hubs with ceramic speed bearings, 1375grams rim brake clinchers; $2400 (clincher rim brake)
Climbing Aero. Roval CLX 32
The CLX 32 gave us our first experience with Roval wheels and it was one to remember. It’s an obscenely light wheel for a 32mm deep carbon clincher – 1280grams. That’s 95grams lighter than a Zipp 202NSW and 68grams lighter than the Bontrager Aeolus 3. It’s nice and wide to improve the tire’s hold on the road – 28.1mm external and 20.7mm internal width – with a 16/24 spoke count. The lateral stiffness out of wheels this shallow and this light is impressive. You need to run the pads in tight and be a big rider to induce any brake rub in these featherweights.
Want them even lighter? Get the tubulars and the weight is absurd for such traditional construction – 1155grams.
Roval CLX 32: Tubular or tubeless carbon clincher, disc and rim brake versions, 32mm deep, 28.1mm external width, 20.7mm internal width, 16/24 spoke count, DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Roval AF hubs with ceramic speed bearings, 1280grams rim brake clinchers; $2400 (clincher rim brake)
The Budget Minded Rovals: CL40 & SLX 24
Two more wheels round out the Roval road and tri offerings. The CL40 is another carbon clincher, but with old school dimensions and a few extra grams. It is 40mm deep with a 23mm external and 16.2mm internal width that weighs 1480grams. this is still a very impressive weight. It is available as a rim brake clincher only and is not tubeless compatible. The SLX 24 is the only alloy in the road and tri family. As both a rim and disc tubeless ready wheel it makes a great ‘cross or adventure wheel. The 24mm external and 20mm internal width make it perfect for 40mm tires. At 1495grams it’s no slouch on the scale either.
Roval CL40: Carbon clincher rim brake only, 40mm deep, 23mm external width, 16.2mm internal width, 18/24 spoke count, DT Swiss Competition spokes, Roval hubs, 1480grams; $1650.
Roval SLX 24: Alloy clincher in disc and rim versions, 24mm deep, 24mm external width, 20mm internal width, 20/24 spoke count, DT Swiss Competition spokes. Roval AF hubs, 1495grams in rim brake; $750