There’s been a recent shift across the entire spectrum of mountain biking towards more capable equipment. The XC world, in particular, has seen drastic changes. While efficiency and low weight remain critical, there’s increasing attention being paid to trail worthiness. This gradual realignment is a welcome change. For years, UCI World Cup courses were barely more than fire roads, but more technical features are being reintroduced, which means burlier components are required.
To keep up with the changing landscape, Roval Components has completely redesigned their premium XC wheelset, the Control SL Carbon. The end result is a wider, lighter, and tougher offering.
Key inspiration for the new wheelset came from the Traverse SL, Roval’s all mountain wheels. These hoops have a 30mm inner diameter. That extra girth gives your tires better sidewall support, which allows you to run lower pressure for improved traction and less chance of burping.
Carrying that concept over, Roval has created a new hookless rim shape designed specifically for cross-country applications. The new rim has a 25mm inner diameter that’s 3mm wider than the outgoing version.
During testing, Roval found this setup offered impressive gains in ride feel, and resulted in a stiffer more impact resistant rim. More importantly, it was faster. They tested both the old and new wheelsets with the same Specialized Fast Trak 2.0” rubber at 20 and 30 PSI. In all of their rolling resistance tests, the wider rims were faster.
Despite the increase in rim width, the new Control SL wheelset is 50 grams lighter than the previous version. To further reduce weight, these wheels also receive Roval’s Tubeless Plug System. Unlike tubeless tape which add weight and can be unreliable, this wheelset ships with small plugs that snap into the spoke holes to seal the rim bed. On a wide MTB rim, the product team claims this can save up to 70 grams over a traditional tubeless setup.
Hand built, mechanic friendly
While machine built wheels have come a long way, nothing beats old school hand built hoops. All Roval wheels are built by skilled technicians in their factory in Taiwan, where they undergo multiple phases of tensioning, de-tensioning, and quality assurance checks.
While the rims and hub shell are designed by Roval, the remaining components are easily sourced. There’s nothing proprietary. If you break a spoke or nipple, you’ll be able to find a replacement almost anywhere in the world.
And mechanics will appreciate the use of external nipples. Carbon rims tend to break before they need to be trued, but if the situation arises, it’s nice to be able to fix them without removing a rim strip or sourcing an exotic nipple wrench.