Tested: Rolf Prima Ralos 27.5 Wheelset

27.5 Wheels
Born and bred in Eugene, Oregon, the Rolf Prima Ralos wheelset is engineered, built and tested to withstand the current demands of XC racers and trail riders.

We’ve never used a Rolf wheelset before but have heard about their technology as they have quite a following on the road scene. We’ve rounded up a bunch of 27.5 wheels and were eager to try their entry, the Rolf Prima Ralos. The basic specs are 1590 grams at $899. They got our attention with a light and affordable wheelset that’s built for XC, Endurance Riding and beyond.

So the specs check out but what about build quality, lateral stiffness, durability, tubeless compatibility, rim width and all those details enthusiasts geek out on? Well the news is good so read on.

Video: How bomb proof is it?YouTube Preview Image

Design and Engineering

The core of the Rolf design is their paired spoke technology. This design allows Rolf to put left and right side spokes to be placed close to each other and offset each other’s forces on the rim. Instead of forcing the rim to snake left and right to meet each spoke, each part of the rim is pulled equally from the left and the right side. This becomes more critical as the spoke tension gets higher, the rim gets lighter and fewer spokes are used.

The other key part of Rolf’s system is they design each hub, spoke and rim for each other. They optimize for the strength and weight they need for a particular purpose and build the components so the system has no weak links or overbuilt/wasted parts.

The hubs are nicely engineered to withstand the day-to-day abuse in all kinds of weather. The ratchet mechanism is sturdy and precise. And the freehub body is built out of stainless steel so it will not be marred by the cogset that eats into the freehub with each pedal stroke.

Video: Wheel Stressor – Wheel Building ProcessYouTube Preview Image

Wheel Build and Testing

Machines do a great job of building wheels these days. But they still do not compare to what a master builder can do. Thus all the best wheels are still hand-built. Rolf Prima hand builds every single wheel in Eugene, Oregon just as they’ve done since the company was founded in 2002.

A really good addition to their process is they load the hub laterally with a very powerful machine on each side during wheel assembly. They retrue the wheel, and load each side of the wheel again before truing for a final time. What this does is allow the spokes, nipples and hub to bed in to each other and settle in a little bit. This puts the alignment out of true a bit but retruing it dials it in for the long haul. This is why brand new wheels from other brands snap and pop during the first few uses. Rolf bypasses this ‘breaking in’ period with a wheel that stays even through the initial stresses.

Continue reading for more on the Rolf Prima Ralos 27.5 wheelset and full photo gallery.

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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  • Reformed Roadie says:

    Francis, any comment on the Hutchinson Cougars mounted to the test wheels?

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    Hutchinson Cougars yes. They’re perhaps the best 27.5 tires I’ve tested to date.

    fc

  • mp says:

    Rolf has been making mtb wheels far longer than 3 years. I have a pair of rolf satellites sitting here beside me… probably circa 2000.
    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/tires-and-wheels/wheelset/rolf-prima/satelite/prd_354628_157crx.aspx

    These were great wheels… as luck would have it I’m replacing them today… that’s 10 years of service. I didn’t love the proprietary rims, but they gave me no issues whatsoever so it wasn’t a problem ultimately. I don’t think I ever needed to true or tension them. Last year the hub bearing race pitted in the rear. The front is still running true.

    Wasn’t even aware rolf was still around. I’ll definitely give them a second look.

  • Mark Wynn says:

    Original Rolf “Sestriere” were on my Schwinn Paramount Ti (Serotta-built) and I got such great service out of them that I purchased two more Rolf Prima wheelsets, a very lightweight set for time trials and a more robust (but still light) set for hard duty training on rough county roads. I weigh about 215 and even the lightest set has retained perfect true for over 10 years.

  • roger says:

    “we just used this wheel everyday on every kind of trail and they just performed” -it wouldn’t hurt to name some trails you rode this on so as readers get a better feel. Fire roads don’t count!

  • Scott says:

    Per Rolf Prima, the older wheels were built under license by Trek. The compete details can be found on Rolf Prima’s website: http://www.rolfprima.com/products-rolfwheels.php

  • Scott says:

    I have personal experience with the earlier, Trek produced, Rolf Dolomite Disk wheelset, on my 2000 model-year 8500LT. I have ridden this bike approximately 2000 miles per year, 70/30 road & bike path/single track. Front and rear hubs are still good. I have broken 3 spokes over the years, all on the rear wheel. At least one of these breaks was courtesy of trail debris. Only truing required was after a spoke broke, until recently, when I discovered the rear rim had developed a small hairline crack. IMHO, this is excellent service life for a me, as I am 210 pounds, geared up,

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