Roval is Specialized's in-house wheel brand and these Rapide CLX 40 wheels provide very good performance for the money, rivalling more established names in the carbon aero wheel market like Zipp and Enve.
Specialized has been developing its own wheels under the Roval label for about a decade now, after acquiring the French brand. They've been used by the likes of pro racing team Quick Step and Tom Boonen in the highest level races, and the Tinkoff-Saxo team race them currently.
Many of Specialized's top-end road bikes come specced with Roval wheels but you can buy them separately, and because they lack any Specialized branding you can fit them to any brand of bike without side effects...
These wheels are also available in disc version; I tested those on the Specialized Tarmac S-Works Disc road bike last year.
Specialized has developed a carbon fibre clincher rim with a 40mm-deep profile. They're 23mm wide externally and 16.2mm internally. That's a very on-trend set of measurements. Weight is impressive at 1,375g, and makes them some of the lightest carbon clincher wheels of this specification we've tested.
Carbon fibre hub shells look the part and are supercharged with CeramicSpeed bearings. The rear hub uses DT Swiss 240 internals with a 10/11-speed freehub. You're getting high quality bearings and proven reliability, and the parts should be easily replaceable and easy to get hold of when they wear out.
The hubs and rims are built up with 18/24 (front/rear) DT Revolution butted straight-pull spokes, with radial lacing in the front wheel and a combination of radial and 2-cross in the rear wheel. The nipples are concealed in the rims, no doubt enhancing the aerodynamic performance, but requiring removal of the tyre and rim tape to adjust the spoke tension. I didn't have to reach for the spoke key during my test, the wheels remained very straight and true despite giving them a hard ride.
Performance is really good. The wheels are smooth and definitely very fast. They're noticeably quicker to accelerate and better at maintaining speed than the Mavic Cosmic Carbon 40 wheels I was riding before, and the low weight means they're ideal for climbers. They're fast on the flat and quick up the hills, making them a really good all-round rim that is good in every situation.
Build up some speed and sling them into corners and sudden changes of direction, as you might in a road race, and the wheels display a high level of lateral stiffness. There's no discernible flex or squirm when you bank the bike hard over into the corner, or during heavy braking. They feel solid and very reassuring. They're smooth along the road as well, not exactly cushioning you from the ripples in the tarmac, but filtering out some of the harsher edges.
Aerodynamic performance is a tricky thing to measure, but against previously tested wheels on familiar roads, these are certainly up there with the fastest from the likes of Zipp, Reynolds and Enve. It would require a wind-tunnel test to really split the differences. What is easily noticeable is the silky smooth build-up of pace and easy momentum at high speeds, especially when riding in a chaingang or road race.
In strong winds the wheels demonstrate good stability. There's the slightest bit of nudge detectable when encountering crosswinds, such as passing a gap in the hedge. I'm quite a light rider and can get blown around the road quite easily, so a stable performance in the wind is something I really appreciate.
Braking performance is an area where the Roval wheels really impress. Rather than develop its own brake blocks, Specialized simply uses SwissStop Black Prince pads, which also means replacements are easily sourced from most good bike shops. While there's a distinct lack of bite when you first grab the lever, the brakes pull hard and firm with the satisfying feedback that they'll really stop you when required. They're certainly not as good as an aluminium rim, or a disc brake, but they're in the top tier of current carbon fibre rims.
There was also no horrid squealing during testing, whether in a heated descent or riding in the rain and muck. Typically, the degradation of performance in wet weather was in line with other carbon wheels.
An excellent road race and time trial carbon clincher wheelset with good all-round performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 wheels
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialized says: "The CLX 40 full-carbon clincher is the perfect all-around race wheel, proven by multiple grand tour wins. The aerodynamic, optimized rim shape slices through the wind while preserving the confident, stable handling of a box section rim. A wide internal rim width provides an optimal tyre profile for incredibly precise handling and stiffness."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rim Type: Carbon clincher
Rim Material: Carbon
Braking Surface: Carbon Fibre
Brake Track Height: 12mm
Rim Depth: 40mm
Rim Width: 16.2mm internal, 23mm external
Spoke Pattern: Radial
Spoke Count: 18
Spoke Type: DT Swiss Revolution straight pull
Nipple Type: DT Swiss Pro Lock spherical
Front Hub: Roval, carbon/alloy shell, CeramicSpeed bearings
Rear Hub: Roval, CNC machined alloy body, CeramicSpeed bearings, DT Swiss 240 internals, 11-speed
Assembly Method: Hand-built
Extras: Roval road sticker kit, Roval steel QR, SwissStop Black Prince brake pads
Full carbon fibre construction with high build quality clearly evident.
Rapid and light, and very smooth.
Bombproof rims and solid DT Swiss internals provide good durability and are easily replaced. Tensioning spokes is a faff though.
A really good weight for the specification.
Pretty smooth for a carbon fibre wheelset.
Yes they're expensive, but they're better than some other similarly priced carbon fibre wheelsets, and they're lighter and provide better braking too. The price for good quality carbon wheels is falling though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really good all-round performance; great for racing but also good for non-racers with good climbing ability thanks the low weight.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent braking performance and stable in blustery conditions, and durable too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The concealed spoke nipples for easy maintenance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
While the price of carbon fibre wheels is getting lower every year, these Specialized wheels are packed with high quality design and components, with no skimping on the details. And that shows in the performance, which is very good.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.