The Roval Rapide CL II Wheelset offers an all-round fast ride, delivering top-end road riding performance at a price point a notch down from the top end. The design features apparently mismatched front and back wheels but it's a pairing designed for real-world riding conditions, offering great stability and handling to match their pure speed. Specialized claims these produce a performance close to its top-of-the-range CLX IIs while coming in £1,000 cheaper, which makes them a near shoo-in for our best road bike wheels buyer's guide.
> Buy now: Roval Rapide CL II Wheelset for £1,500 from Specialized
The first thing I noticed when unboxing the Rovals was the unmissable difference between front and rear wheels. The front wheel looks, well, massively wide, with an external width of 35mm, and when I came to mount my 26mm tyres onto something so wide it really did take getting used to. In contrast, the rear is noticeably narrower with an external width of just 30mm, though at 60mm its rim is deeper than the 51mm front. Got that?
But once you take some time to read Specialized's info on the wheels, the asymmetrical setup makes a lot of sense. Aerodynamically, the front and rear wheels face differing demands, and Specialized has designed this wheelset to focus on real-world riding dynamics. Effectively, by sacrificing a bit of depth on the front wheel, you're less susceptible to crosswinds and can hold a more stable position. The deeper rear wheel has a lower impact on stability.
The CL II s are tubeless compatible, with a hooked rim enabling pressures up to 110psi. My preference is for an old-school tubed setup that also worked perfectly well. Worth noting that you'll need some extra-long valves if you choose to run these with inner tubes. I tested the Rovals using 26mm tyres, but they're designed to cater for tyres from 24-38mm in width. To be honest, I think I'd select at least 28mm tyres for these wheels if I was buying tyres to match, as the exposed rim at the front look a little odd when you're riding.
The CL II wheels are marketed as being a more affordable alternative to Specialized's top-end CLX IIs. There is a fair saving, with the entire wheelset coming in £1,000 cheaper than the CLX IIs but, very impressively, the hand-built rims are identical, with the same quality of carbon. The key difference lies in the hubs, bearings and spokes, which means the CL II wheels are a little heavier at 1,590g.
The CL II wheels come with DT Swiss 350 Hubs, which contain stainless steel sealed cartridge bearings. The rear free hub is a 36-tooth system, which rolls really smoothly. I'm not one who obsesses with a freehub sound check, but these are quiet as well as smooth, and engage quickly once it's time to jump back on the pedals. I've used these hubs on another wheelset that I mainly use over winter and have found them to be reliable in tough conditions.
The key comment on these wheels is that they just feel fast. They are brilliant at carrying speed, particularly on the flat and rolling hills. I switched up to these from a pair of Roval CL32s and could immediately notice how much better they performed on the flat. The deep rear wheel is incredibly stuff, making it rather fun to kick over the top of each roller.
Lighter wheelsets certainly exist, but these still climb well, and it doesn't feel as if the aerodynamics come at the sacrifice of uphill performance. The 1,590g weight is still very good, even if's not the lightest in the wheelset continuum. This is heavily influenced by the depth of the rims, so other options are available if you're looking to trade off weight-saving against aerodynamic performance
Specialized makes a lot of claims about the stability of this wheelset and having tested these in some rather grim winter conditions, I would back this up. However, I can't really say I noticed much of a difference in stability compared a 'standard' setup of 50mm deep wheels. The cornering of the wheels is also as good as you'd expect. It feels like this may be mostly related to the 21mm internal rim width allowing more of the tyre to be in contact with the road.
In terms of directly measuring performance against other available wheels, it's hard to compare without a full controlled wind tunnel test. However, we recently had a crack at comparing a range of similar wheels in a real-world test.
The Roval CL IIs came out top in this, proving their all-round credentials, and Jamie picked these out as one of his favourites, commenting that 'the super-wide profile means they offer impressive stability for a multitude of conditions'.
These wheels are clearly aimed at road cyclists looking for top performance and it makes a lot of sense to save £1,000 compared with the £2,500 Roval CLX II wheelset, by having spokes and hubs that aren't quite so exotic. Retaining the identical hand-built carbon rims means you're accessing the same aerodynamic performance and stiffness as the CLX wheels while keeping a pretty serious chunk of money in your pocket.
Personally, I think the cost/benefit analysis makes these the better choice for me.
When it comes to value, at £1,500 these are still at the mid- to high-end of what you'd expect to pay for a carbon wheelset. Stu recently rated the £600 Prime Doyenne wheels highly, although these are a fair bit heavier than the CL IIs. Cannondale's Hollowgram R45 Wheelset didn't rate quite so highly when Steve reviewed them and they retail for £1000.
However, if you think £1,500 is expensive, then the Zipp 454 NSW wheelset that Jamie puts through its paces may make your eyes water at over £3500.
And for even more alternatives, check out our on-the-road real-world test.
Quite simply, I really loved riding these wheels. They are speedy but stable and it's easy to see why they came top in our recent test. Specialized has taken some steps to make these substantially cheaper than their CLX II cousin, but it doesn't feel that the designers have sacrificed much in the way of performance. Overall, I believe that with its new CL IIs Specialized has created an excellent carbon road wheelset.
Excellent wheels with hand-built aero rims that are speedy, stable and great fun to ride
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
Make and model: Roval Rapide CL II Tubeless Wheelset
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?
The wheels are clearly aimed at road cyclists looking for top performance.
"The all-new Rapide CL II wheelset brings the Rapide CLX II's speed, efficiency, incredible handling, and stability in any conditions to more riders. Built on the exact same rims as the Rapide CLX II to elevate all this performance with tubeless-done-right technology, the Rapide CL II makes that performance easier to catch at check-out and you almost impossible to catch on the open road.
"Deep-section front rims are affected adversely by crosswinds. This negatively impacts handling, in turn causing a rider to slow down. By utilizing the first modeling algorithm designed around riders' real-world reaction times and validated by on-road testing, we developed a front rim that both reduces drag AND increases stability by 25% in sudden wind gusts compared to our previous 50mm rims.
"The rear wheel is the last thing the wind sees, so we developed that rim shape to minimize drag at the trailing edge of the bike. At 60mm deep with a 30mm external width, the Rapide CL II rear rim reduces turbulence and yields the greatest aerodynamic benefit. Since the rear wheel doesn't affect steering the way the front does, this deep section doesn't adversely impact handling. Together, they represent the fastest package for real-world race conditions."
You could cut £1,000 off the price tag by making some simple adjustments to the hubs and spokes. Retaining the exact sake carbon rims means you're accessing the exact same aerodynamic benefits.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rim Type: Carbon, tubeless-first clincher
Spoke Count: Front/Rear: 21/24
Rim: Rapide CLX Carbon Clincher, 700c, Disc Brake, Tubeless.
Spoke Type: DT Swiss, Butted J-Bend
Nipple Type: DT Swiss Pro Lock hexagonal
Hub: DT Swiss 350 Straighpull Center Lock, Star Ratchet 36t internals (10 degs) , 100x12mm & 142x12mm, Shim. RD. 11SP HG freehub.
Front Hub: DT Swiss 350, Center Lock, Sealed Cartridge bearings
Bearing Type: DT Swiss Sealed Steel Cartridge Bearings.
Rear Hub: DT Swiss 350, Centerlock, Sealed Cartridge bearings, DT Swiss internals, HG Freehub, 142x12mm thru-axle compatible
No-Fault crash replacement policy. Lifetime warranty.
Nipple: DT Swiss Hex Prolock Al 2.0x14mm.
Weight Front/Rear: 690g/844g (Avg w/o tape or valves)
Weight: Wheelset 1,590g, Front 725g, Rear 865g (including 15g, tubeless rim tape and tubeless valve).
Extras: Roval Rim Tape, Spare Spoke & Nipple Kit, System Weight Limit: 275lbs / 125kg.
Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Faultless. The wheels come boxed with a full hand-completed quality control checklist, which is reassuring.
The wheels also come with a lifetime manufacturing warranty.
Rate the wheel for performance:
The key performance benefit was the speed on flat and rolling terrain. I found the wheels to be stiff and responsive when putting out higher power numbers.
Rate the wheel for durability:
Hard to comment on after a limited period of testing. However, the exact same DT Swiss 350 hubs have lasted really well on another wheelset I own.
Rate the wheel for weight
At 1,590g they're not the lightest – you can find significant weight savings in other wheelsets. However, it's a good balance of aero performance and weight.
Rate the wheel for value:
£1,500 is a serious of money for a set of wheels, however in the greater scheme of carbon wheelsets, this is pretty good value. The wheels are of the build quality I would expect for this price tag and the performance is of the standard you would expect.
And though you could obtain similar levels of performance without spending as much, you may have to compromise on wheel weight or build quality.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues over the testing period.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
I tested them using Specialized S Works Turbo 26mm tyres, with an inner tube. Note that you will need an extra long valve to run these wheels using a tubed setup. The wheels come fully ready to be run tubeless, with rim tape and tubeless valves installed.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
No issues with these. I really like the design of Roval skewers – balancing a minimal build while also being easy to open and close.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly. The wheels are designed to be fast over varied terrain and I found this to be true.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The speed – they just feel FAST.
They also sound incredible. It always sounds extra cool when putting down the power on some deep carbon wheels.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
I found the look of the extra-wide front wheel a little odd. Although I did quickly get used to it.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Firstly, compared to their bigger 'cousins', the CLX IIs, they are £1,000 cheaper.
Stu recently rated the £600 Prime Doyenne wheels at 8/10, although these are more than 15% heavier than the CL IIs.
The Cannondale Holowgram R45 wheels weren't rated quite so highly and retail for £1000.
And if you think £1,500 is expensive, then the Zipp 454 NSWs may make your eyes water at over £3,500...
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Definitely
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These wheels are excellent. The performance and construction quality match the high price tag.
Age: 32 Height: 182cm Weight: 69kg
I usually ride: S-Works Tarmac My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, club rides, Gravel on a CX bike
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