Specialized Roval Control Trail SL 29er Carbon Wheels

29er Pro Reviews Wheels

The $1700 price

So when is $1700 for a wheels a good value? Well, wheels are probably the best upgrade for a bike. For 29ers, the effect is even more noticeable since the rotating weight is more and it is farther from the center. The other way to make the case is that the competition isn’t exactly cheap.

  • Easton EC90 XC 29: $2600 – 1437 grams
  • Reynolds MTN XC: $1949 – 1596 grams
  • Enve XC 29 Tubeless: $2550 – 1584 grams

As you can see, carbon mountain wheels seem to be priced for the upper echelons of the pay scale. Roval makes another case too for offering good value by including the Ti Skewers, tubeless valves, and a complete end cap adapter set.  I’ve had to pay  $60 for one pair of other brand end caps and that just doesn’t feel right.

Weight Limit and Warranty

I have  featherlight parts in my garage that work well for me and my Santa Cruz riding conditions. I wouldn’t feel comfortable though loaning them out to my bruiser friends that are going out to Rockville or going on an endurance race.  I’m happy to report this Roval wheelset has done both and it just keeps on spinning true.  Specialized has a very high 240 lb weight limit for this ultralight wheelset, so that instills much confidence. Also, it has a Limited Lifetime Warranty and that’s reassuring for a significant investment in a high stress component.

Tubeless

Tubeless is a curse and a blessing. When it is installed and it holds air, it can unlock the potential of a 29er bike.  It is a curse because there is a steep learning curve for installation and there are enough products out there that are just not reliable.  We’ve put these wheels with choice tires on a few bikes and we dropped 2 lbs of rotating weight instantly. Tubeless installed on this wheelset with Specialized and Panaracer tires and it has held air like a champ. My biggest testimonial is that one of my crew rode the 8 Hours of Boggs race. He put the pressure at 17 psi at the start of the race, the air held on every rocky corner, and he won the race on an 18 lb bike.

The Performance

Tired of the chatter yet? We’ve covered the bases so let’s discuss the ride. The biggest thing you’ll notice with these wheels over your old wheels is agility.  Most stock wheels are at over 2000 grams, so losing more than a pound of weight on 29er wheels is very noticeable. The bike will be easier to maneuver and it will accelerate and climb better.  Couple this weight savings with tubeless and more optimized tires and pressures and you’ll see another pound of weight savings.  Then, you’ll really see the potential of your 29er.

The other performance benefit is lateral stiffness.  Carbon is a stronger material than aluminum and it can be oriented to have better lateral stiffness.  A common problem with lightweight wheels is they ride like noodles specially under heavy riders.  The Roval Controls suffer no such comporomises and actually feel stiffer than the heavier, stock wheels it replaces. This is truly a big benefit for heavier riders, since 220 lb riders can ride the same wheels the 130 lb person is riding and still have all the handling benefits of laterally stiff wheels.  These wheels corner and hold a line very well and they go in and out of ruts with little deflection.

Braking and acceleration benefits are there because the wheel has excellent tension on the DT spokes.  They feel better but it is hard to quantify.

Finally, durability seems to be excellent as well. Our test wheels are as true as the day they were delivered. The bearings still spin smoothly and the ratchet has performed without a hitch. These hubs use the DT Star Ratchet internals for reliability. Also, straight pull DT spokes and DT Pro Lock nipples are used.  Finally, the wheels are hand built in Morgan Hill, so a good build with even tension has a lot to do with them staying true.

Conclusion

This is a fine component that delivers performance, durability and versatility. It can be used on any application and it can fit most bikes. For carbon wheels, it delivers a great value.  For wheels in general, it’s just difficult to justify that carbon wheels  are a good value compared to their aluminum counterparts.

But the Roval Controls make a strong case. They look good and do everything well. I would recommend them to any buyer, not just Specialized bike owners, but any bike brand.  In fact, I would even tell folks to buy the $3000 bike instead of the $5000 ones and upgrade the wheels to Specialized Roval Control SLs  or Trail Control SLs.


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About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • C Allison says:

    As far as the valves go, we have been using the WTB valves in the Rovals and they are bomber, removable core and hold a seal! Great wheel set!!!

  • Bill Jucha says:

    Could you please ask Mr Benedict a question. What are existing customers with Roval MTB wheels, suppose to do for tubeless valve stems. I am owner of a ’10 Epic Marathon with two sets of Roval wheels, that I am trying to convert to tubeless use. I have been told by my Specialized dealer that Specialized no longer sells tubeless valve stems for their one or two year old Roval wheels. The same dealer also told me he has no idea what I can do to ever run tubeless with these wheels as other stems from Stans or American classic simply won’t work with my Rovals. In short I have no way to run my existing Rovals tubeless. Please help.

  • Doug P says:

    People who ride wheels where a tube cannot be inserted to get back home in case of tire failure must not ride very far from the car. I ride a helluva way away from my car in areas with no cell service. Pardon me if I want to have the ability to put in a tube! So if I get it right, the non-removable valves can be switched for removable cores that allow a tube in case of tire failure. Is the wheelset still under warranty if the valves are switched?

    • Troy says:

      People who think non-removeable valve CORES are the same as non-removable valves must not read very well…

      The valves are removeable so you can carry a spare tube if you want… the vavle core is just the actual ‘switch’ that holds the air in and removing it let’s you pour sealant into the valve instead of having to unseat a bead of the tire. That said, if you’ve ever spent time on tubeless, you’d know the frequency of flats drop significantly. In the last 4-5 years of riding tubeless on everything from XC to DH, I’ve had exactly 2 flats… and one of those was due to me overtightening a Stans valve and breaking the seal.

  • Francis says:

    Doug P,

    The tubeless valves are removable so putting tubes is a non-issue. The ‘core’ that we point out is the center tip of the tubeless valve. It can usually be removed to provide a bigger hole in the valve temporarily. The 2012 valves that we got did not have removable core but the valves can be switched or removed at any time.

  • Loll says:

    As I am reading this, I am thinking why would you get these over the Stan’s Flow wheelset. 1/3 the cost, actually 1/4 if there is a sale, weights about the same.

    I think the advantage of this is the unlimited endcap possibilities and the stiffness of carbon.

    Is $1700 better than $478, I think to each his own. Love to have a pair though.

  • Francis says:

    >>As I am reading this, I am thinking why would you get these over the Stan’s Flow wheelset. 1/3 the cost, actually 1/4 if there is a sale, weights about the same.

    Stans Flow 29ers are 1870 grams at $545 so you probably have them mixed up with another set as the Stans would be almost a pound heavier than the SLs.

    The Control SLs can really be compared to the Stans 29er Race Gold at $950. The Stans will be lighter but will have a 170 rider limit and will not be as laterally stiff.

    That being said, Stans is the king of value and performance in aluminum wheels.

  • Brad says:

    I don’t have kids and as a Specialized rider I would love to put a set of these puppies on the epic but will they be doing a 26 version?

  • Francis says:

    Hey Brad, 26er is available. I would recommend the Roval Control SL that are $1650 and weigh 1200 grams http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCEqProduct.jsp?spid=64364.

    Put some tubeless Fastracks on that and your Epic will fly.

  • Alan says:

    Would you recommend both the trail and XC version as daily riders? Most people that purchase carbon wheels seem to only run them on race day. In my eyes, they would definitely need to be trusted as a daily rider to justify that kind of coin.

    On another note, how well does Specialized handle both warranties (manufacture defects) and crash replacement?

  • Francis says:

    Yes, Control SL and Control Trail SL can both be daily riders. They are equally stiff and both have a very high weight limit of 240 lbs. The Control SL cannot take a 20mm front thru axle but that is just DH forks these days anyway. The Control SL has revolution spokes which are very thin so if you hit your spokes a lot on debris, then that would not be ideal.

    fc

  • Rich says:

    I have the Roval Control SL 29, came with my 2012 epic. I thought initially these would be great wheels but since i’ve had 2 failures in 5 races there not so great. Maybe they’ll do well in other parts of the country but the North East we have lots of rocks.

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