Since I tested the Roval Rapide CLX 40 wheels two years ago, the US wheel brand owned by Specialized has been busy, and its new CLX 50 wheels are their spiritual replacement. They're a marked improvement, too, with better aerodynamic performance and an impressively low weight for the disc brake version I've tested here.
The aim for the new Roval CLX 50 was to marry the aero performance of the deeper section CLX 64 with the lightness of the shallower CLX 32. At 1,415g with a 50mm-deep rim and disc brake hubs, they would appear to have achieved that objective.
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> Buy the rear wheel online here, the front wheel here
This is a very attractive weight in a hugely competitive wheel market. They're not much heavier than the £4.8k Lightweight Meilenstein C Disc wheels, for example, and only a smidgen heavier than the so-called lightweight, shallow, rim-braked FFWD F3R carbon clinchers. You can have aero and low weight it would seem. And a Zipp 404 Firecrest Disc wheelset? That's a comparatively portly 1,715g.
A lot of good boxes are ticked. It's a full carbon fibre construction, tubeless ready and available in disc or rim brake versions, with a fashionably wide and bulbous profile rim. Internal rim width is 20.7mm, external is 29.4mm, ensuring wider tyres are happily accommodated; between 22 and 47mm can be used. Compared with the DT Swiss ERC 1100 Dicut DB Endurance wheels I tested a while back, the Rovals are wider, deeper, lighter and cheaper. Things really are off to a flying start.
With a choice of rim and disc brake versions, you might think Roval has simply changed the hub. It hasn't. The disc wheelset has a different rim – the same essential profile but a modified carbon fibre layup that results not only in a stronger rim but one that is also 20g lighter. That helps narrow the disc brake weight penalty. The clincher rims are tubeless-ready, using a hookless bead design that is favoured by a few other wheel brands, and claimed to provide a stronger rim with less weight.
At the centre of the wheels are new hubs with a design brief to minimise drag. That accounts for the smooth shape which Roval is calling Aero Flange. A wider bracing angle helps to increase wheel rigidity. Inside the hubs are DT Swiss 240 internals with upgraded CeramicSpeed bearings. DT Swiss also supplies the Aerolite spokes – 21 front and 24 rear – with a 2:1 lacing pattern and aluminium Prolock nipples. The freehub is Shimano/SRAM compatible; SRAM XD (for use with a 10-42t cassette) and Campagnolo options are available.
With a multitude of axle standards in the road disc brake market at the moment, Roval supplies the wheels with different end caps, providing compatibility with quick releases and 12mm thru-axles. The end caps are easy to remove and swap for the ones you need. Disc rotors are affixed via the CenterLock standard which offers easy and quick rotor installation and is vastly less fiddly than tightening six bolts.
A lot of changes then, but what are they like to ride? Not so hasty. First you need to install the tyres. Naturally I opted for tubeless, and this meant installing the small plastic plugs that fit into the spoke holes. Roval says this accounts for a lower weight than rim tape but isn't half bloody fiddly. I tested one wheel with some rim tape to test both approaches and had no issues with either system.
I installed new 25mm Hutchinson Fusion 5 tubeless tyres, and with the help of a tubeless inflator (a regular track pump just couldn't get enough air out to inflate the tyres) the tyres sealed on the rim. There was no satisfying bang and pop, but visual inspection showed the beads were locked into the rim. Air retention has been excellent, with only occasional topping up needed.
To really get a feel for the wheels I tested them over several months on two very different bikes: the comfortable Specialized Roubaix and the savagely fast Cervelo S3 Disc, to put them through their paces in a wide range of scenarios.
Testing on two completely different bikes was eye-opening. On the Cervelo, their aerodynamic performance was really well highlighted. They're superbly fast in a straight line and maintain excellent momentum when you're really pushing hard on the pedals. They're comfortably in the same league as an Enve or Zipp wheelset in real-world riding.
On the Roubaix, the Roval wheels showed that they can also be tough and dependable. They easily shrugged off bad road surfaces; I've smashed into potholes and ridden them along gravel tracks and they've taken all the punishment with no sign of loose spokes or going out of true.
They're also smooth and comfortable for a deep-section wheelset, something you really appreciate when riding along a washboard or chattery surface, where the rapid vibrations can easily unsettle an otherwise smooth ride, and especially if you head off onto gravel or dirt roads. The wide rim makes the most of a wide tyre and contributes to the performance.
It seems to be eternally windy where I live and I'm always battling headwinds and crosswinds. I'm quite a light rider too, but the Rovals handled the winds superbly. The rounded rim profile provides exceptionally good stability with little sign of buffeting even in the strongest gusts, and they're as good as, if not marginally better than, the best carbon wheels I've tested in similar conditions.
Handling is impressive too. There's ample lateral stiffness to ensure they feel sharp and decisive through corners or when making sudden direction changes, such as when in a fast moving peloton or chaingang. On climbs the weight is low enough to flatter any bike they're fitted to, and the extra stiffness they provided over the Roubaix's stock aluminium clincher wheels was noticeable on the steeper gradients when really honking on the handlebar.
> Buyer's Guide: 22 of the best 2017 road bike wheels
Roval is owned by Specialized and is often called the company's in-house wheel brand, but Roval has its own engineering team and its own dedicated website (for the US market, anyway). The aim is to draw a clear line between the two, in the hope that people who might otherwise be worried about mixing their brands will be tempted to choose Roval even though they don't own a Specialized. It's a big ask... but I had no qualms fitting the wheels to a bike without Specialized written on the frame. The understated decals go a long way to helping, and they looked sharp on both bikes I fitted them to.
I've tested a lot of carbon wheels over the years, but the Roval CLX 50s really impressed with their combination of outright speed and stability in strong winds. There are probably more aero wheels and there are definitely lighter wheels, but these strike a really good all-round balance that works well in every situation.
Add the impressive durability and competitive price, plus the aftersales support, and you have a thoroughly decent carbon disc brake wheelset option. It would definitely be on my shortlist.
Fast, light and wide, these tubeless carbon disc brake wheels offer excellent performance
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Make and model: Roval CLX 50 Disc Wheelset
Size tested: 700C Rim Depth: 50mm Rim Width: 20.7mm internal, 29.4mm external
Tell us what the wheel 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: "After the success of both our CLX 64 and 32s, we knew that the best option was to continue to expand our wheel range. And while the 64s are the fastest wheels we've ever tested, and the 32s have the best combination of aerodynamics and weight, we needed one wheel to be a true quiver killer – and that's where the CLX 50 comes in."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Specialized lists these features:
Assembly Method: Hand-built
Rim Width: 50mm
Front Hub: Roval AF1/AFD1, CeramicSpeed Bearings
Rear Hub: Roval AF1/AFD2, CeramicSpeed bearings, DT Swiss 240 internals, 11-speed
Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Rate the wheel for performance:
Really good aero performance, fast in a straight line and cope well in crosswinds. They're a competitive weight against other 50mm-deep carbon disc wheels too (see below).
Rate the wheel for durability:
I've been testing them for several months and I haven't been nice to them, but they've been just fine with no issues to report at all.
Rate the wheel for weight
They're 200g lighter than Zipp's 404 Disc wheelset for starters, and not much heavier than the £4.8k Lightweight Meilenstein disc wheels.
Rate the wheel for value:
There are definitely cheaper carbon wheels, but against their true competition these Roval wheels strike a fiercely competitive price, with all the support you'd expect from a big company.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, they stayed true.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Quite easy. Installing the small plastic plugs that fit into the spoke holes is fiddly, and I had to use a tubeless inflator to get the tubeless tyres to seat on the rim.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
You get all the extras you need for going tubeless, and nice wheel bags to keep them in when not in use.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very impressive performance in all scenarios. I had no issue riding them everywhere, over everything and using them all the time.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Aero performance and low weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Not really much to report here.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
There are cheaper and there are more expensive options, but the Rovals strike a really good price point and offer excellent aero performance, a very competitive weight and durability. And running them tubeless is easy with everything you need to ditch the inner tubes.
Age: 31 Height: 180cm 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
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