Review: Roval Control SL Cross-Country Wheelset

First impressions of the lightest wheelset Roval has ever created

Cross Country Pro Reviews
The new Roval Control SL, is lighter, wider, and more resistant to pinch flats.

The new Roval Control SL, is lighter, wider, and more resistant to pinch flats.

Roval is rolling out a revamped version of its flagship cross-country wheelset, the Control SL, that’s lighter, wider, more resistant to pinch flats, and features fast-engaging DT-Swiss internals. We tested this new wheelset in early March on the sculpted singletrack trails at Rancho Cacachilas in Baja, Mexico, and came away impressed with their refined ride quality.

Roval Control SL Team Issue Wheelset Highlights

  • Weight: 1,248g (claimed weight with tape and valves)
  • Internal width: 29mm
  • Asymmetric rim design
  • Improved vertical compliance and pinch-flat protection
  • DT-Swiss EXP freehub with 54 points of engagement
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Price: $2,650
  • Availability: Now
  • Visit: www.rovalcomponents.com for more information

Back to the drawing board

Modern cross-country racing is much more demanding of riders and gear.

Modern cross-country racing is much more demanding of riders and gear.

Anyone who pays attention to World Cup racing will have noticed that cross-country courses are far more demanding than they were a decade ago. This trend toward steeper, more technical courses has necessitated a corresponding shift in equipment. It’s no longer enough for cross-country and components bikes to be light; they must also be durable. The evolution of XC from fragile featherweights to something closer to short-travel trails bikes is a welcome change for weekend warriors, who often need one bike to cover racing and general trail riding.

The product designers at Roval took note of how the category was evolving and sought to bring the next generation of the Control SL wheelset up to speed. According to Chuck Teixeira, lead engineer at Roval, the wheel development team went through no less than sixteen different iterations of rim shapes to figure out the best balance of pinch-flat resistance and weight savings.

Compared to the previous version, which will remain in the line as a more affordable cross-country wheelset called the Control Carbon, the new Control SL is twice as vertically compliant with 29-percent more impact strength. The new version features a 29mm internal rim width, compared to the 25mm bead-to-bead measurement of the previous version. The new Control SL retains the hookless profile of its predecessor with a carbon lip that runs along the exterior of the rim edges. This wider, 4mm profile, is claimed to reduce pinch flatting. Roval says the “Flat-Top” profile requires 22-percent more force to pinch flat a tire.

Connecting the lightweight carbon rims to the hubs are 24 straight-pull DT Swiss Competition Race Spokes. Roval left no stone unturned in shaving weight from the wheelset. The hub shells were machined down to shed every last possible gram.

Roval Control SL pricing, weight, and availability

The Roval Control SL has a scale-cheating weight of just 1,248g.

The Roval Control SL has a scale-cheating weight of just 1,248g.

Roval is offering Control SL in two versions. The limited-edition Control SL Team LTD version (tested here) features ceramic cartridge bearings and DT’s fast-engaging 54-tooth drive-ring. With tape and tubeless valves installed, this wheelset tips the scale at a very impressive 1,248g. “To date, it’s the lightest wheelset we’ve ever produced,” Roval’s brand manager Ben Capron said.

The slippery ceramic bearings and upgraded drive-ring bump the price up to $2,650. This wheelset is available now and will only be produced in limited quantities. According to Roval, only 600 of these wheelsets will available for aftermarket purchases worldwide. This wheelset is available for purchase now.

The more affordable, and widely available, version of the Control SL shares the same rim profile, spokes and hubshells, but trades the ceramic bearings for high-quality stainless steel and uses a 36-tooth DT Swiss star ratchet. Pricing, weight, and availability for this version are TBA.

Roval Control SL first ride review

Great trails and stunning views—what's not to like?

Great trails and stunning views—what’s not to like?

As mentioned in the introduction, I tested these at a media event in Baja, Mexico, on the twisty trails at Rancho Cacachilas, an eco-resort that’s a two and a half-hour drive north of Cabo San Lucas. The trails are stunning works of art, featuring impressive rockwork and miles upon of flowy singletrack.

The test rig was a Specialized Epic EVO, which seemed like a good fit for the more aggressive direction cross-country racing is heading. The winding terrain and bermed turns was a good proving ground to test for lateral stiffness. As expected, the Control SL’s spun up to speed quickly. Steering precision was excellent for such a lightweight wheelset, with no excessive deflection when loading the bike through turns.

Now, keep in mind, these are purpose-built cross-country wheels. If you’re thinking about putting these on your 120-130mm #downcountry rig, they might be under-gunned. That said, Roval’s test team did some of their field-testing on a Specialized Kenevo, which is essentially a downhill e-bike.

In addition to the low weight, the feature that interested me most was Roval’s claim of increased flat-resistance. I ran 18psi up front and 20psi in the rear and did my best to speed through rock gardens very little finesse. I never experienced a pinch flat or burped a tire.

The new Control SL wheelset proved fast and impressively stiff for cross-country wheels.

The new Control SL wheelset proved fast and impressively stiff for cross-country wheels.

Admittedly, the terrain wasn’t ideal for pinch flat testing—the granite boulders in this region of Mexico are weathered and round, unlike the jagged, square-edge rocks I’m accustomed to riding in Colorado. More riding on familiar terrain is needed to weigh in on the actual ability of the Control SL to thwart pinch flats.

I didn’t have any issues with my wheels, but if I did, Roval would be there to save the day. Roval backs up its wheelsets with an impressive warranty. All its wheelsets are warrantied against manufacturer’s defects for the lifetime of the original customer. Acknowledging that accidents can and often do happen, Roval also offers the original owner a no-fault crash replacement program during the first two years of ownership.

You can find more details on this policy here: https://rovalcomponents.com/pages/warranty

Early verdict

The Roval Control SL's are up to speed for the demands of modern XC riding.

The Roval Control SLs are up to speed for the demands of modern XC riding.

The new Roval Control SL wheelset is up to speed for the demands of modern XC riding. This wheelset is impressive for its class-leading weight as well as the lengths the company went to in order to balance ride quality, weight savings, and durability. It’s a serious contender with any other high-end cross-country wheelset on the market.


About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.


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Comments:

  • Jay Swavely says:

    Roval makes a pretty good wheel but the spokes tend to be really fragile. I usually end up respoking them.

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