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 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.
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.
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.