By: Troy Templin
Roval wheels recently invited us to their beachside casa in Santa Cruz, California for an opportunity to ride their newest addition to the wheel lineup. For those of you new to the wheel market, there is this full disclosure – not unlike Bontrager wheels being part of the Trek empire, Roval wheels (while originally a small French wheel brand) have been part of the Specialized empire for awhile now.
Regardless of their mailing address, Roval designers have been hard at work pushing the limit of the modern carbon wheel. The team works solely on the development of Roval products to deliver a component that is at home on any brand of bicycle.
We sat down with the entire Roval team and got the 411 on what they have been up to. We reviewed the CLX 64 and all the great success it has had in the market. Then we went over the CLX 32 and the reason it has been getting so much traction in the market. But the big news is the release of their newest wheel that they think will be the biggest hit yet, the CLX 50. Following the trend of road tubeless but taking the technology further the CLX 50 is shipped with tubeless plugs. Instead of the traditional tape used for most tubeless application, Roval is using a plug system that saves up to 40 grams for the set. Not only is it lighter but it’s far simpler to use.
The carbon Roval CLX 50 rim comes as a clincher, with rim and disc brake options while the rim brake version also has a tubular option. The rim has a depth of 50mm and external width of 29.4mm and the internal rim width is 20.7mm (Tubular: 27.4mm external). For the rim brake wheels, the front wheel has 16 spokes that are radial laced and the rear uses 21 spokes with a Two-cross (2:1) pattern on the driveside and radial on the non-drive. The disc brake wheels use 21 spokes in the front and 24 in the rear. For the front, they use a radial/two-cross (2:1) with the cross on the rotor side. On the rear a one-cross on the rotor side and two-cross (2:1) on the drive side.
All the wheels use DT Swiss Aerolite spokes with external DT Swiss Pro Lock hexagonal nipples. Roval did extensive testing and found that internal nipples gave almost no aero or performance advantage, so they decided on external for easier maintenance. To finish off the whole system, Roval has engineered hubs that match the performance of the rims. The front rim brake hub uses the Roval AF1 (aero flange 1) with CeramicSpeed bearings. The rear rim brake hub is the Roval AF1 with CeramicSpeed bearings and DT Swiss 240 internals. The front disc brake hub is the Roval AFD1 (aero flange disc 1) with Centerlock, CeramicSpeed bearings and QR or 12mm thru-axle end caps. The rear disc brake hub is the Roval AFD2 with Centerlock, CeramicSpeed bearings, DT Swiss 240 internals and QR or 142x12mm thru-axle end caps.
The wheels are built as a complete system and each one is hand-built. This ensures the quality and reliability that today’s riders look for. With the CLX 50 falling perfectly in the middle of the CLX line up the weight is impressive with the clincher set weighing in at 1375 grams, Disc set at 1415 grams and the tubular set at 1230 grams. That means the rim brake clincher is only 7.5% heavier than the CLX 32, the disk is only 4.8% and the tubular is 6.5%. Then you calculate in the aero advantage, and the gap of performance is so close that the CLX 50 might be the go to wheel from Roval.
On our test ride, we used both the CLX 50 and for a comparison we also swapped to the CLX 32. Both wheels performed remarkably but had very subtle differences. The CLX 50 and CLX 32 were most different at higher speed (over 35 mph). The CLX 32 maintained a very nimble and responsive characteristic while the CLX 50 seemed to gain a bit of stability. Meaning the CLX 50 wanted to hold its line as the CLX 32 was unscathed by the speed and stayed ultra responsive. Our testing on each wheel was limited to only about 20-25 miles per set but with the amazing route, the team at Roval had chosen we got a good variety of surface conditions and elevation change on each. We can’t wait to get a set back home and try them on our local routes that we know so well.
Overall the new CLX 50 seems to be a great addition to the Roval line up and with its tubeless carbon rim and aero advantages its a great option for most. To make it even more appealing the wheelset with all its innovations and hand-built quality comes to the market at $2400. Check out the new Rovalcomponents.com for more info, availability and details. Big thanks to Verve Coffee Roasters for keeping us awake, Skratch Labs for keeping us hydrated and ProBar for the ride nutrition.