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Roval Control SL Team LTD Wheelset

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Roval Control SL Team LTD Wheelset
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Roval’s New Control SL Wheels Are Crazy Light and Crazy Fast - Review

If you’re dreaming about better lap times and faster rolling wheels at night, then you’ve come to the right place.

Rating: Vital Review
Roval’s New Control SL Wheels Are Crazy Light and Crazy Fast - Review

When opening this box for the first time, we grabbed the front wheel first and went “damn that’s a crazy light wheel”, then we pulled out the second wheel and went “well looks like Specialized sent us two front wheels”. Then we looked a bit closer and found that thing where the cassette sits, sure enough it was a rear wheel but it was so light that we thought it was a second front wheel. Pretty crazy!

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Feathery light
  • Wide, very supportive rim profile
  • Top-level puncture resistance
  • Quick and responsive all around
  • Rim finish tends to crack and peel
  • Rough bearings after a month of use
  • Rear wheel developed a wobble faster than expected

Roval Control SL LTD Highlights

  • Carbon, asymmetrical rims, 29mm internal width
  • Wide bead lip for extra puncture protection
  • 24 spokes, F&R, single length all around
  • Roval own-brand hubs with DT 180 internals, ceramic bearings
  • 125 kg weight limit for bike plus rider
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Wheel bag included
  • 29”, BOOST 148/110, XD options only
  • Non-LTD version of wheel available in both Center Lock / Micro Spline and XD / 6-bolt versions
  • Weight: 585 (F), 676 grams (R), including rim tape and valves, verified (1261 grams total)
  • MSRP: $2750 USD (non-LTD version $2500 USD)

Initial Impressions

The Roval Control SL wheels are a completely new, redesigned from the ground up with a simple objective in mind - get to the finish line quicker than ever before.

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At the heart of the new wheels are Roval in-house hubs featuring the internals from the recently released DT Swiss 180 EXP hubs. These hubs spin on ceramic bearings and make use of a new ratchet mechanism with less parts, less weight but the same longevity and crisp engagement known from DT’s 54T star ratchet. The hubs are machined to perfection and every bit of material not needed is out the way.

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The new rim gets a ground-up redesign as well, with a generous 29mm internal width and a new profile aimed at protecting your tire from pinch flats. The rim bead is 4 mm wide across the top, which provides a wider area to take up impact forces and avoid the rim acting like a knife on your tire, something that happens a lot with narrower rim bead profiles. The rims are asymmetrical with the spoke holes offset to one side to enable more even spoke tension across two sides.

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Between the hubs and rims are 24 bladed DT Aerolite(™) spokes, laced in a 2-cross pattern. Roval were smart enough to create a wheelset with a single spoke length across all sides, which is always a blessing when buying spares. On the topic of spares, Roval went ahead and supplied 4 spare spokes as well as a full set of special tubeless plugs for each hole in the rim, which allow you to save a tiny bit more weight compared to most rim tapes. There is also a very nice wheel bag included (it fits two wheels with tires on, which is not always the case with such bags).

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A well known problem with light wheels and bladed spokes is “spoke spin”. It occurs under heavy load, the rim deforms and the spokes loose tension momentarily. In that exact moment straight-pull spokes tend to spin in the hub and not stay in the direction they were designed to work in. In extreme conditions, a number of spokes are spun over in the wheel, which can cause it to lose trueness and functionality. With that issue in mind, Roval gave the spokes an oval-shaped head for better retention at the hub. As for the nipples, they have hexagonal heads for easy and scratch free maintenance (requires a specific spoke tool, one that you would expect to find in any decent bike shop).

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Your wheelset will be built by hand and will undergo a thorough inspection for “true trueness”, using a digital spoke tension gauge. A wheel can spin round, but not have even spoke tension between the spokes which can translate to a weird feel and cause it to not roll as smoothly. With the Control SL, you’ll be provided with your individual wheelset’s report card which gives the tension specs of every spoke across the wheel plus “hop” and “wobble” parameters - and let us tell you, these are probably some of the best numbers you’ll see in the industry.

Installation and Setup

To test the new wheels, we were supplied with a set of FAST TRAK tires from Specialized in three different casing options - the very light S-WORKS, the CONTROL and the trail ready GRID. The wheels came pre-taped with tubeless valves already installed, and mounting the 2Bliss tires was easy without having to use any tools. The rear tire inflated immediately and had good air retention from the get go, the front tire gave us a bit of hard time but eventually popped in place after we did our best “sprint down the nearest pumptrack” imitation on the floor pump. Both tires seated nicely and evenly across the rim bead at 25 psi.

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On The Trail

Let’s cut to the chase: these wheels are quick, very quick. From the first pedal stroke on the tarmac and later on dirt, these wheels roll beautifully. The overall lightness is noticeable, as is the width of the rim. With only 24 spokes and a 2-cross spoke pattern, we were initially a bit skeptical regarding stiffness and toughness. We were terribly mistaken - these wheels are very stiff, right on the limit of almost being too stiff.

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Let’s cut to the chase: these wheels are quick, very quick.

As previously mentioned, we were supplied with a set of Specialized FAST TRAK tyres in three different casing options. We have been going back and forth with all three casings, each of which gives great performances for their respective applications. We found the heavy GRID option to be the most pleasant to ride, as it is more supple, grips real good and works better at lower air pressures. This option will complement the wheels best for a rider who likes a bit of compliance and “cushion”. The CONTROL tires will make them even snappier with very precise handling as a result.

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Using the S-WORKS tire for races brought good results and we suffered no flats whatsoever. These are the fastest option but the thin casing causes them to deflect more easily on landings or harsh impacts. For rougher trails or day-to-day training we'd recommend using the other two options. We should also point out here that we found these tires to be on the hard side of the spectrum and our preferred pressures went down a psi or two to reach the same feel.

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Throughout testing, some dings have been heard both from the front and rear wheels with no cracks or flats to be seen. We are using these wheels as they were meant to be used and we’re not trying to overload them for the sake of testing, but with that said, they’re holding up just fine to just about as heavy a trashing that we’re able to give them on our XC bike and our rough, rugged summer trails. The Roval Control SL are holding true to their claim of protecting themselves from us lazy and/or sloppy riders as we’re ripping down the trail.

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Let’s have a few words about stiffness. It is a term that is widely used across the bike industry, and often specifically regarding wheels. Overall stiffness is the sum of several elements:

  1. The rim itself, it’s profile and shape and the material which is made out of (carbon, aluminium, magnesium etc.)
  2. Number, shape and thickness of the spokes
  3. Hub width and design (bracing angle of the spokes, J-bend or straight-pull, inner axle dimensions, bearing size and more)

Now, did you ever ride a certain bike or wheelset that felt too stiff or harsh? Well we certainly did in recent times and it doesn't feel very nice. In our opinion the Control SL wheels are just on the right edge of stiffness. We should probably highlight the new rim in particular: it is shallower than before and gives better compliance, which in the real world translates to the ability to better absorb the forces that come from the front or below the bike such as square rocks or a big landing. The wide bracing angle and even spoke tension give the wheel its balance and a quickness of acceleration that is felt right away.

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After some time on the wheels we decided to try those tubeless plugs that are included with the wheelset. A set of 24 plugs weighed six grams on our scale, which is pretty light indeed. A strip of tubeless tape which weighs in at approximately 11 grams, so you’re not saving a lot, but in the realm of high-performance XC race products, every gram counts. Each plug has four clips and a rubber o-ring - fitting them is easy, just pop them in place until you feel a click.

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However, achieving a tubeless seal with the plugs was anything but easy. The rim profile and especially the shape of the spoke holes create a space for air to pass through which means the pressure cannot build up between the tire bead and the rim wall to help create the seal. We tried the regular high volume floor pump as well as a home tubeless booster with no success of popping the tire in place, it just didn't have enough seal to hold air and expand to the outer part of the rim bead (a high-volume compressor might get the job done, although we’re not 100% convinced of that either).

Because the rim is asymmetrical the problem was on one side only, so we inserted a tube and popped the tire in place. We then carefully released the air and dismounted the other side of the tire to remove the tube and insert the tubeless valve. Then the tire inflated easily with just the floor pump. Last thing was to add some sealant and voilà, we had a wheel to roll on again. With everything in place, the wheel has held air with no issues to report. Was the effort worth the 5 grams per wheel? Maybe not...

Things That Could Be Improved

The graphics are electric blue and won’t blend nice with every bike, we’d like to see a more subtle graphics option in black, grey or white (note: Specialized recently released a non-LTD version of this wheel with more subtle black graphics, although they also feature reduced hub engagement). The clear coat on the rims is so thin that it gets scratched very easily, making this feel like a true race only component that we don't want to always leave on the bike for training rides.

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The wheels were supplied with an XD driver in the new EXP standard. It’s still almost impossible to find a Shimano Micro Spline driver for these hubs, so we’d like to see Roval include one in the box as well or at least offer the option. Even if this would add some cost it would make these wheels more usable for people running Shimano drivetrains. Once again we'll point out the recently released non-LTD version of these wheels which is now available in both Center Lock / Micro Spline and XD / 6-bolt versions, with a 36T ratchet instead of the 54T version featured here.

Long Term Durability

After two intense months of use and something like 2500 kms, the front wheel bearings were dead, we’re not sure why, but they started rolling rough.

Since that point we’ve ridden another 1000 kms with the wheels during which time we managed to break a spoke in the rear wheel. The spare spokes came in handy and truing the wheel after the replacement was easy. The spoke hole finish is very smooth and the nipple spun easily without any oil or washer.

Unrelated to that spoke incident, the rear wheel developed a small wobble during testing. That gave us another opportunity to hit the truing stand, and once again the wheel was fixed in a couple of minutes. The front wheel still spins true to this day. As previously mentioned, the graphics tend to scratch a bit too easily, but other than that, this pair of wheels has held up to a pretty serious amount of abuse and is still going strong.

We should also point out here that Roval wheels are warranted against defects in material and workmanship for lifetime of the customer, and there is a “Shit Happens” no-fault crash replacement policy with pretty decent terms for US customers: If a rider damages their Roval product while riding within the first two years of ownership, they will replace or repair it for free. This policy applies to all Roval products purchased in the USA, whether it came stock on a bike or was purchased aftermarket. For additional details, check out rovalcomponents.com/warranty.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If money could ever buy you time, it would be in the form of the new Roval CONTROL SL TEAM ISSUE wheels. They are stiff, light, generously wide and will probably make your bike go faster. Small setbacks like the rough front bearings and chipping in the finish keep the five stars away, but for racing applications, the podium is on its way.

More than one time we were asked “why a Specialized/Roval wheel on a bike other than Specialized?” because a common thought is that these wheels are an OEM part built to bring manufacturing costs down and still offer top-of-the-line spec on the S-WORKS or PRO models. So let’s make it clear: this is a premium product that will boost any bike’s performance, no matter the maker.

For more information, head on over to www.rovalcomponents.com.


About The Reviewer

Yonatan Yatom - Age: 26 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Height :6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 157 pounds (71kg)

Yonatan is a born racer and a bike addict. As a true competitor the only thing on his mind when lining up in the start gate is the finish line. With a background in local enduro and DH races and even the occasional appearance in an Enduro World Series on his resume, Yonatan has more recently applied himself to building bigger legs and trying his luck racing XC. Throughout the week he’ll be manning the spanners at the bike shop, reading about new stuff on the internet, and thinking about how to improve everything he rides. Yonatan’s riding style is fully pinned, smooth, and quiet but he can be nasty to his bike when needed.

Photos by Johan Hjord

Specifications

Product Roval Control SL Team LTD Wheelset
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail
Wheel Size 29"
Rim Material Carbon
Rim Carbon clincher, 2Bliss Ready, Zero Bead Hook 4mm FlatTop design
Inner Rim Width 29mm
Hole Count 24 front and 24 rear
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub CNC-machined alloy body, SiNC ceramic bearings, premium DT Swiss EXP internals and 54-tooth quick engagement ratchet system, includes SRAM XD freehub and 148 end caps
Rear Axle 12mm x 148mm (Boost)
Front Hub CNC Machined alloy body, DT Swiss internals, SiNC ceramic bearings, 19 and 31mm OD end cap options included
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Disc Mount Type 6 Bolt
Spokes DT Swiss Aerolite Straightpull, 294mm (single spoke length), two-cross pattern
Nipples DT Swiss Pro Lock alloy
Colors Carbon/cobalt blue
Weight 2 lb 12 oz (1,248 g)
Miscellaneous • Lifetime warranty and no-fault crash replacement policy
• Recommended for 2.3"-3.0" tire widths
• Handbuilt
• Stock DT Swiss replacement freehub parts are compatible with the rear wheels
• Freehub bodies for virtually all component groups are available from Roval dealers
• 2020 product year release
Price $2,750
More Info

Fewer flats: 4mm flat-top requires 22% greater force to pinch-flat

Greater durability: System approach of combining asymmetrical rim with custom-designed hubs which help balance spoke tension and allow single spoke length assembly

More control: 29mm internal rim-width reduces squirm and increases tire volume

Better ride: Double the vertical compliance with 29% more impact strength keeps you on your line while maintaining grip and speed

Around, Down, and Cross Country - Roval Control SL Wheelset (press release)

Roval Components website

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