Today, Specialized announced a complete overhaul of its S-Works Turbo tire line, and with that came news of another wheelset variant from sister brand Roval.
In recent years, Roval has done an impressive job of translating the key features of its high-end technology into more affordable price points. Roval’s all-terrain/gravel Terra CL ($1,750) uses the same carbon rim as the range-topping CLX ($2,500), but double round spokes and DT Swiss 350 hubs take it to a much more affordable level. Similarly, the Alpinist CL uses the same rim as the $2,650 Alpinist CLX, but also switches to rounded spokes and DT Swiss 350 hubs for a $950 price reduction.
Do you want to guess the story of the Rapide CL II bike?
You got it. The Rapide CL II ($1,750 / €1,800 / $2,600) uses the identical and recently revised hook and tubeless carbon rims as the Rapide CLX II aero bike. It also carries the same generous warranty. Meanwhile, the $1,050 price drop comes from DT Swiss 350 hubs (36T linkage) and DT Swiss Competition double-sweep direct-pull round spokes.
This wheelset isn’t exactly new – you used to be able to get it for $9,000 with a free Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro – but now you can get just the wheelset or even individual front and rear wheels.
Something that Roval didn’t mention is that the loss of the spokes with the vanes and the aero hub covers will likely cause a small reduction in aerodynamic efficiency. Roval couldn’t provide an exact number to our question, but it’s certainly a difference that can be measured. For example, Flo Cycling did such a test a few years ago and found that paddle spokes would save around 9 seconds over a 40km time trial.
A more noticeable difference can be seen in the weight, where this more affordable variant adds about 80 grams over the CLX version (1565g actual weight of the pair including rim tape and valves. 706g front, 859g rear).
The Rapide CLX and now CL rims offer unique front and rear specific profiles, with the more rounded front rim sitting 51mm deep with an ultra-wide 35mm outer width. The rear rim offers a more traditional profile with a depth of 60mm and an outer width of 30mm. Both rims offer an internal width of 21 mm.
We’ve covered the finer details of the Rapide CLX, including an in-depth review of the original Rapide CLX , and recently took an equally deep dive with the tubeless-ready edition of the Rapide CLX II .
In terms of how it drives, pretty much the same as the Rapide CLX version. As expected, there is no change to the relatively tight fit of the tire, which requires good or even great mounting technique to avoid filling the swear jar. On the road, they feel just as quick at speed and behave well in gusty conditions. And when coasting, the DT Swiss 350 hub is much less uncomfortable than the Swiss company’s slightly lighter EXP design.
A proven recipe for a wheelset we can recommend almost always includes reliable hubs (especially ones that are well supported by all the different freehub options), a good center spoke and a competitive rim. And so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that we’ve had some positive experiences with Specialized’s current line of second-generation carbon bikes. And while the round spokes will likely detract from overall performance in this aero-focused application, the Rapide CL II otherwise looks set to continue the positive trend for Roval.
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