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The Roval Rapide CLX sets out to be the fastest wheelset in the real world, and is so committed to weight and aero optimisation it forgoes tubeless compatibility. That will certainly divide opinion, but there's little doubt the result is a stupidly fast wheelset that balances the aero benefits of deep rims and the weight savings and improved handling of far shallower wheels.
Roval has pedigree in fast wheels: their CLX 64 has dominated time trials, the CLX 32s took Alaphillippe to a Polka Dot jersey and the CLX 50 is frequently found on stage-winning bikes. The new Rapide CLX wheelset aims to squash all their best traits into one wheelset to do everything fast, and combines a 51mm deep front with a 60mm rear for the aero of a deep wheelset without losing controllability when the wind picks up.
Unbox these wheels and it's not the depth that draws attention, but the width. At the back you find a 30.7mm external width, which is pretty wide and helps prevent the modern trend of 25mm and 28mm road tyres 'ballooning' on the rims. For comparison the Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 Disc wheelset measures up at 26.1mm, and that's by no means narrow!
And then there's the front rim at a whopping 35mm external width! Yep a whole 3.5cm of rim – enough to dwarf most road tyres, and pretty radical. Even gravel rims are rarely this wide.
Typical frame clearances mean that a few years ago, it simply wouldn't have been possible, but why the change now? Roval says the width makes the Rapides to be more stable, and claims a 25% improvement in gusting wind over the CLX 50.
As the CLX 50 has been my wheelset of choice for the past two years, I was eager to test these claims. I didn't have to wait long to find out, as even my first ride was positively blustery and yet I'm not having to write this from a ditch. The Rapides aren't just impressive for their depth, but impressive full stop.
Despite being quite light, I found it easy to forget I was on 50mm-plus wheels and, despite plenty of windy weather over the last month and a bit, I never wanted to swap to something shallower.
We measured these at a 10g over the claimed 1400g, but that's still extremely impressive, and lighter than the shallower, narrower CLX50 (1415g).
The lack of mass means the Rapides to accelerate quickly and climb with amazing ease – I've set plenty of climbing PRs during this test, despite my previous efforts being on tubular wheels designed specifically for climbing.
At the centre sits Roval's new 'AeroFlange' hub, stuffed with DT Swiss' new EXP freehub internals. If they're anything like the outgoing internals we're on to a winner, and so far, so good.
I've put about 2000km on them in all conditions and all is well; the sealed ceramic cartridge bearings still spin smooth and fast, and despite hitting some invisible potholes at a fair whack, both wheels remain true and unscarred.
Up front are just 18 DT Swiss Aerolite T-head spokes, while the rear gets and an equally sparse 24. Nevertheless, stiffness is exceptional. As you'd expect from kit that Sagan, Ackermann and the like use in earnest, the Rovals encountered no issues from my sprinting... they feel direct and fast. Oh, and they sound good whilst you do it.
I tested the wheels with several tyres and tubes – Vittoria Corsas, GP5000s and Maxxis Highroads – and all went on without issue. Tube choice varied between lightweight butyl and a set of Tubolitos to maximise the weight advantage. I found the Rapide's 21mm ID (up ever so slightly from the CLX 50's 20.7mm) widened all the tyres beyond their claimed widths.
Roval says you can expect around a 2mm growth over a traditional road wheel, and I found this pretty accurate (the 25mm Continentals and Vittoria's measured 26.5mm, whilst the 28mm Highroads were 29.8mm).
The rims are optimized for 26-28mm tyres – certainly the 28s do look more natural than 25s, especially on the front. This does seem a bit alien for racing, but it's certainly comfortable for training.
The only heavy thing about these wheels is the elephant in the room – their lack of tubeless compatibility. Roval has taken an almost Prime Ministerial U-turn on this, and the Rapides (alongside the new Alpine wheelset) are strictly for tubes only. Stickers on the rims and text on the tapes are there to really hammer it home.
Now, I never found the older CLX50s the easiest to fit tubeless tyres on, but having manufacturers bash on about it being quicker did encourage me to make the leap. I, like many, am still on the fence about them, and this move from Roval only adds to the confusion. That's not to say I've had a problem running tubes – I haven't – but it would be nice to have the choice.
So, you've just got over that hurdle, here's the next: they cost £1850. That's quite clearly not cheap, but it is somehow better than a lot of the alternatives. The Lightweight Lightweight Meilenstein C Disc wheels (1370g) are marginally lighter but cost £4799 and don't cope in winds as well... no comment needed with that one.
That set of Campagnolo Bora wheels mentioned earlier is nowhere near as light at 1590g, and is £1928.99.
We also tested the Bontrager Aelous XXX 4 TLR, which at 1420g are close, but they're not as deep and are £1999.98. If the ability to run tubeless is not an issue, the Rapides are extremely well priced against the competition.
While the lack of tubeless compatibility does seem a bit of a backwards step, the rest of the performance is a giant leap forwards.
Never have I used wheels that feel quite so at home whether on a 30% incline or a group sprint. The stiffness is incredible, the DT Swiss parts mean spares are readily available, and they handle exceptionally. If you want to make your bike faster, these are the quite expensive answer.
Stupidly fast carbon deeps that handle winds and hills brilliantly. But not tubeless...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Roval Rapide CLX
Size tested: 700c
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 say these wheels are for "Real Speed For The Real World: With the Rapide CLX, we set out to build the fastest all-around wheelset that money can buy. Stellar climbing performance meets slippery aero efficiency, with confident handling regardless of wind conditions."
These wheels are for anyone who wants to go fast whether on the flat or up hills, and they handle exceptionally well – but it's disappointing they aren't compatible with tubeless tyres.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
RIM WIDTH - 21mm internal, 35mm external F/21mm internal, 30.7mm external R
RIM DEPTH - 51mm F/60mm R
SPOKE - Radial/Two-cross (2:1) F/One-cross/Two-cross (2:1) R
SPOKE COUNT - 18F/24R
SPOKE TYPE - DT Swiss Aerolite T-head
NIPPLE TYPE - DT Swiss Pro Lock hexagonal
HUB - Roval AeroFlange Disc, Centerlock, Sealed Cartridge bearings, DT Swiss EXP internals, HG Freehub, 142x12mm thru-axle compatible
ASSEMBLY METHOD - Handbuilt
EXTRAS - Roval padded wheelbag. Lifetime warranty.
WEIGHT - 1400 grams (wheelset)
649 grams (F) / 751 grams (R)
A brilliant fusion of Roval rims and hubs with DT Swiss's reliable internals, spokes and nipples.
Stunning. They're stiff, accelerate amazingly, and are so light it helps everywhere.
I've hit some potholes hard and they're still true. DT Swiss' EXP ratchet freehub is supposedly extremely durable, though it hasn't been around long enough for anyone to prove that... certainly the nipples and spokes are readily available if you do break one. Also, the alloy Freehub isn't soft like on some lightweight wheels, so hasn't got chewed up by the cassette.
1400g for a 51mm/60mm wheelset speaks for itself.
They're obviously not cheap, and good £1000 carbon wheelsets aren't far behind in terms of performance. However these are the pinnacle of performance, and for that you pay a premium – their true competition cost at least this much, and in most cases a lot more.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues to report.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Rim tape is pre-installed, and the wheel bags are high quality.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very impressive performance in all scenarios. I had no issues riding them everywhere, over everything and all of the time.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Its hard to choose... they're light?
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
They're not tubeless.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Surprisingly well – the weight is really hard to beat at this price (the new wheels coming from Bontrager might come a bit closer in future). From the current competition, though, you have to sacrifice either weight, depth, handling or a whole pile of money.
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
With the option to run tubeless they could be a 10, but even so these are exceptional wheels. They can climb, sprint, cruise and – unlike many wheels this deep – handle poor weather as well.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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,