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The Roval Rapide C38 wheels are handbuilt and designed for use both on road and gravel surfaces, making them a very versatile choice. During testing they have been dependable, and the choice of DT Swiss components, including brass spoke nipples, mean durability should be excellent, although this does compromise weight a little. There are cheaper alternatives, but the Rovals have performed admirably; they make a great all-round package, a top choice for anyone looking for genuine year-round wheelset.
The new Rapide C38s are marketed as 'World Tour performance for everyone', claimed to be a true all-rounder capable of not only road rides but also robust enough to be used on gravel. At 1,620g (on our scales, with tubeless tape) they're not the lightest wheels in this category, for example the 45mm-deep Zipp 303S seem like an obvious competitor, and come in 70g lighter.
There are some areas where the weight is easily justified – for example, those hoping to ride these wheels year-round will be grateful to see the use of brass spoke nipples. This adds about 40g in weight to the wheelset but will drastically improve durability, especially in salty and wet conditions – well worth it if you're not looking to use the wheels for hill climbs, as it could prevent time-consuming and costly wheel rebuilds further down the line.
The use of a steel freehub body will also add some weight, but means it won't get chewed up by cassettes like a lighter, softer aluminium one would.
Both front and rear you'll find DT Swiss 370 hubs which, although reliable and dependable, do seem a little low spec on a £1,150 wheelset. For example, we've recently reviewed some £999 Vel 38mm carbon wheels that are built around DT Swiss 240 hubs, which are a step up in hub hierarchy.
An issue I found with the 370 hubs is the lack of engagement points thanks to the use of an 18-tooth ratchet design, which results in a 20-degree turn of the wheel in between teeth. This is particularly noticeable on gravel, where speeds are often lower and you tend to stop and start pedalling more often. It gives a less direct feel than higher counts, and when freewheeling means there are large periods with no resistance on the pedals, which results in less control.
The positives are that it offers better durability and lower maintenance needs than higher tooth-count options, but if I was to buy this wheelset, my very next purchase would be the 36T or 54T upgrade kit.
It is very quiet – which will please some, though not all.
The 38mm-deep rims measure 21mm wide internally and 26.6mm externally. This means they're optimised for today's wider tyres and can be used with anything from a 22mm road tyre to 47mm gravel-orientated rubber.
During testing I've used the wheels both on and off the tarmac, using a set of 28mm Goodyear Eagle F1s on the road and 45mm Schwalbe G-Ones for everything else.
Both were set up tubeless with no issues, the rim profile of the Rovals lending itself to sealing easily with just a track pump. In both cases the tyre bead made its way to the hook of the rim with minimal encouragement, unlike deeper central-channelled rims, which can be more stubborn.
The Rovals come with tubeless valves, so there's no need to worry about sourcing your own, and are also taped, making set-up a doddle.
In the real world I was pleasantly surprised by the performance – 38mm rims are a really good choice if you're looking to gain some aero benefits over box sections rims without them being unrideable in windy conditions. With the recent storms there's been plenty of wind to test these wheels in and I can happily say this is a wheelset I would use year-round no matter the conditions.
Roval also says their rim 'aerodynamically outperforms many deeper, aero-specific rims', but unfortunately it provides no data, nor does it specify which rims they outperform. I obviously don't have a wind tunnel to test these claims for myself, but I do have a timed local circuit that I regularly ride, and they haven't put in some bad times.
On climbs and during accelerations the C38s hide their weight well, which is likely down to the impressive stiffness. Their 24 J bend spokes are laced 2-cross/radial and 2-cross/2-cross front and rear respectively; these also coming from DT Swiss so most bike shops are likely to have spares readily available.
The wheels are rated for riders up to 109kg, and also included in the purchase is a lifetime warranty, covering all defects in materials and workmanship. This goes beyond what many manufacturers usually offer. Even if you're not the first owner of the wheels, you'll still be covered for two years from the original purchase date.
At £1,150 the C38s are a little more expensive than some comparable wheelsets. Those Vel 38 RSLs I mentioned earlier are not only the same depth but also have brass spoke nipples, are slightly lighter at 1,490g, and have an rrp of £999. Like the Rovals, the Vels are also handbuilt, which usually results in closer tolerances in trueness and spoke tension.
I've also looked at purchasing a set of Zipp 303S wheels. As I mentioned earlier, they're lighter than the Rovals at 1,550g, despite being 45mm deep, and cost £985, which makes them a very attractive proposition, but I've been seriously impressed by the performance of the Rovals, which can also be used with a wider range of tyres because of their hooked rims, whereas the Zipps have straight-sided rim walls, restricting you to to specific tubeless-ready tyres (with or without tubes).
Overall, the Rapide C38s are a very capable set of wheels and a great option for year-round riding. The brass spoke nipples, steel freehub body and use of DT Swiss components mean they should be extremely durable and cope with bad weather better than others. This does add a little weight, but doesn't appear to affect performance too drastically out on the road. My only other issue is the 18T freehub, but that's an easy fix with higher tooth-count options for the 370 hubs readily available.
Very good versatile and durable year-round wheelset
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Roval Rapide C38
Size tested: Shimano
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?
Roval says: "The C38 brings carbon fiber high performance to the real world." I agree with that, and although there are cheaper and lighter carbon wheelsets out there, these perform very well and are a great choice for year-round riding especially if you want a wheelset that can delve into gravel riding too.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rim: 38mm Carbon clincher, 2Bliss Ready
Disc brake only
Rim Width: 21mm internal, 26.6mm external
Front spokes: 24 Two-cross/Radial
Rear spokes: 24 Two-cross/Two-cross
Spoke type: DT Swiss Competition Race J-bend
Nipple type: DT Swiss Pro Lock Brass hexagonal
Front Hub: DT Swiss 370 Disc for Roval, 100x12mm, Center Lock™
Rear Hub: DT Swiss 370 Disc, 18T Ratchet LN, 142x12mm, Center Lock™, 11-speed
Bearings: Sealed Steel Cartridge Bearings
Included in box: Roval tubeless tape and tubeless valves
Weight: 1600g w/ Tubeless Rim Tape
Max system weight:109kg
Handbuilt and arrived very true, well dished and with excellent and consistent spoke tension throughout.
That's what this wheelset is for – it has a lifetime warranty for a start, brass spoke nipples are a big bonus in this regard and will increase time between rebuilds dramatically. The 370 hubs are very durable, especially with the low maintenance required for an 18T freehub.
Likely lighter than your stock wheelset, but most wheels of this depth at this price are lighter, though some of this weight is easily justified.
There are cheaper comparable wheelsets, but the choice of components such as hubs, spokes and nipples mean that durability should be excellent and in the case of an accident very easy and cheap to replace.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Not bad at all – both road and gravel tyres fitted with no issues; the central channel isn't too deep so tyres don't get stuck down there. All four tyres were fitted with a standard track pump.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Tubeless valves and tape are included which makes set-up very easy. No issues with these.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well: stiff and surprisingly fast for their weight, have survived plenty of abuse from potholes and rocks, and roll well on the road too.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
I liked how versatile they are. They're good on road climbs and have stood up to gravel abuse as well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Freehub degree of engagement of 20 degrees felt huuuuuuuuge. But it is an easy fix swapping out the 18T ratchet for either a 36T or even 54T.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As mentioned in the review, they do seem a little more expensive than wheels of comparative weight and materials.
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 overall score
When I first saw the weight and price of the Rapide C38s I didn't think for a second I would be scoring them this high, simply because of the strong competition in this sector. But having used the wheels for six weeks, both on road and gravel, they have seriously impressed with great performance (stiffness/aero/crosswinds) and I am now seriously considering buying a set for foul weather riding thanks to the durable components such as steel freehub and brass spoke nipples. The only negative is the 20 degrees of engagement of the freehub, but this is an easy fix.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,