Specialized Roval Rapide CLX Disc
$2,500; 1400g, disc brake only, clincher only
51mm front (35mm external width, 21mm internal), 60mm rear (30mm external width, 21mm internal width)
While on one hand, Enve has looked to reduce the price of their wheelsets by creating a model that has two rim depths that are exactly the same, Roval has made a wheelset with two extremely different shapes for front and rear. The big news on the Rapide CLXs is a front wheel that is not only shallower (this is fairly common) but also substantially wider—not only wider than the rear wheel. The external rim width on the front wheel is a staggering 35mm, something you’d expect to see on a gravel-only wheel, not something made for the road. Even in this roundup of wheels, the next-widest offering behind this Rapide front is still a beefy 30mm, and that’s half a centimeter thinner. The rear wheel on this set is still a very wide 30mm, and both have an internal rim width of 21mm. The thinking behind this anomaly is that a wider wheel helps offset the shallower depth front to improve aerodynamics and handling. An odd side effect is that this wheel is NOT tubeless compatible—another rarity in the lineup.
With such an unusual pairing of an ultra wide front, a far thinner rear, and two depths, we thought that this wheelset would feel similarly unusual out on the road, but we were wrong. Oddly enough, the Rapides were by far the most stable in crosswinds, cut corners predictably—but also very precisely—and rode very very well. Even at a standard clincher pressure on 25mm tires (note that Specialized says these wheels are optimized for 26-28mm tires), these were shockingly smooth over high-frequency bumps and chatter. The Rapides were also quite good on mid-sized and large bumps—basically making them the smoothest in the category. Acceleration when standing was another good surprise, likely due to the low weight and wide-flanged hubs, and we felt very good power transfer at all levels of watts and torque. Though the price of this wheelset puts it outside of the budget trend we’ve seen this year, in this case you get what you pay for.