Roval CLX 50 carbon wheels first ride review

Lightweight mid-depth hoops round out Roval's impressive road lineup

Wheels
Roval CLX 50 Rim with Turbo Cotton Tire

The CLX 50 is Roval’s new entry into the mid-depth carbon wheel market. Photo by Ian Collins Photography / @iancollinsphotography

The new Roval CLX 50 carbon wheels slot squarely between their existing CLX 32 and CLX 64s. Designed to marry the benefits of its climbing and aero specific siblings, this mid-depth wheelset is marketed as a quiver killer, and has become the depth of choice on the WorldTour. To learn more about the new wheelset, RoadBikeReview visited with the Roval team to talk tech and test product.

Roval Learning Session

Learning about Roval from the product and engineering staff. Photo credit by Ian Collins Photography / @iancollinsphotography

Who and What is Roval?

Roval is sometimes mistaken as Specialized’s wheels house brand. Well, that’s only partially true. While the wheelset manufacturer is owned by the Big Red S, Roval has its own engineering staff, are available aftermarket, and even have a dedicated website. However, because the two brands are so closely linked, Roval does have some advantages that “name brands” might lack.

Roval CLX 50 Rim Bed

Roval was the first brand to bring hookless bead rims to market. Photo by Ian Collins Photography / @iancollinsphotography

The big advantage for the performance road market is access to the Specialized wind tunnel. During the rim development process, Roval systematically hones rim shape and depth via extensive CFD simulation, but nothing beats the knowledge gleaned from wind tunnel testing. The wheel brand also has special access to other branches within Specialized, including the tire team. Leveraging this brain trust is why Roval was the first to release a hookless bead rim.

The other advantage Roval has over competitors is economies of scale. Since they can rely on existing manufacturing partnerships and have a built-in OEM client, the brand can deliver product at attractive price points.

Roval CLX 50 Mid Depth Aero Road Wheel

Subtle decals are the best. Photo by Ian Collins Photography / @iancollinsphotography

The New Rims

The CLX50 rim is available in either tubular or clincher. The rim and disc brake clincher share the same shape and hookless bead, but the disc model ditches the brake track. Other differences include different fiber, fiber orientation, and resin. Roval claims these subtle changes allowed them to save 20g versus the rim brake model.

Each wheel in the Roval road lineup is named after the rim depth, so the appropriately named CLX 50 has a 50mm rim depth. The clincher version has a 29.4mm external width and a 20.7mm internal. The tubular rim has a 27.4mm external width. They are compatible with 22c-47c tires.

Specialized Roubaix CLX 50

Designed with wide tires in mind (and disc brakes), the Roubaix has no problem fitting the CLX 50 wheels.

These numbers push the upper boundary of current rim brake tracks, but Roval has found through wind tunnel testing that the extra width improves aerodynamics. And for those of us who aren’t fixated on Strava or race results, that added girth helps open tires up and creates a more compliant ride with less chance of flatting.

The rims are also tubeless ready out of the box. Rather than use traditional tubeless tape which can be heavy and unreliable, the CLX 50 ships with small plugs. These plugs snap into the spoke holes and seal the rim bed. On a wide tubeless road rim like the CLX 50, Roval claims you can save between 30-40g compared to standard tubeless tape.

All of Roval’s wheels are built around a wheel system. So you’re not just buying rims, you’re also getting extensively shaped aero hubs that have been custom built for the wheels they are mated with.

Roval CLX 50 AF Rear Hubs Thru Axle

The Roval AF hubs are compatible with standard QR and 12mm thru axle configurations. Photo by Ian Collins Photography / @iancollinsphotography

Configurations

The Roval AF hubs are convertible between standard QR and 12mm thru axles. The hubs are compatible with Shimano 9/10 speed, Shimano 11 speed, SRAM XD Driver, or Campagnolo freehub bodies. Because they use DT’s proven 240 internals, there’s also a healthy aftermarket for rebuild kits and miscellaneous go-fast hop ups. The only downside is that due to the hub shells aero shaping, they’re not compatible with the 15mm front axle found on some off-road oriented rigs. The good news is that Roval does offer its Control SL mountain bike wheelset with a 15mm, and it can be mounted on most through axle road/cross/gravel bikes with 142mm rear and 15mm front. And at approximately 1300 grams there’s little or no weight penalty over a standard road disc wheelset. 

Continue to page 2 for more on the new Roval CLX 50 carbon wheels

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  • Matty says:

    So looking forward to these guys underneath me in 2 weeks or less!

  • Jim in Colorado says:

    Do you have any pics of the 32s next to the 50s? Was there any crosswind during your ride and, if so, are the 50s significantly more affected?

    I have a new Venge with the 64s and it is pretty scary in gusty crosswinds. I’m considering getting a 32 or 50 front. Or maybe both front/rear. Very pricey, but I hate being scared to death on my new Venge during windy rides. Any and all feedback is appreciated!

  • Matty says:

    Here it is…several rides now on the 50′s. Insanely beautiful wheels. I ride an S-Works Tarmac. I,too, live in Colorado (near Golden)…most brutal winds in the U.S. reside here in Boulder/Denver/Golden…I hate it, I absolutely hate it. Yesterday, I rode a 60 mile loop in brutality at its best 30mph constant winds with higher gusts. I was in mainly cross winds and they did remarkably well. ALL DEEPER DISH WHEELS WILL BE AFFECTED BY HIGH WINDS…PERIOD. By HIGH winds, I do mean constant speed of 20+ mph. Get these wheels. They are SICK!

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