Review: Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

Race ready carbon wheels deliver top flight performance

Cross Disc Wheels
Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

Early in the ’cross season I mounted the Roval Rapide CLX with a set of 33c Challenge Fango tires, and they remained the go-to race day hoops from September to December.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Cyclocross Race Bike Shootout series, which also includes reviews of top competition steeds from Trek, Jamis, Specialized, and Van Dessel, as well as SRAM Force CX1 and several ’cross tires.

The Lowdown: Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubular Wheels

If you’re a cyclocross racer in the market for a top flight set of disc-compatible race day carbon tubulars, Specialized‘s Roval Rapide CLX 40 are worth serious consideration. They’re an ultra-stiff, speed-seeking set of carbon hoops that yield true performance gains over traditional alloy wheels. Wheelset weight is a wispy 1,340 grams for the set, which goes a long way toward diminishing the weight penalty that comes with choosing disc brakes over cantis. And these 40mm hoops are built around a pair of alloy hub bodies that encase smooth running CeramicSpeed bearings, and in the rear, best-in-class DT Swiss 240 internals. Bottom line, they’re at least in the same conversation with the heretofore leaders in this space, Zipp’s 303 Disc Tubulars, which cost about $500 more and are listed as being 95 grams heavier.

Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

At $2,000 for the set, they cost more than some of the ’cross bikes raced by competitors in my old guy cat. 3 category, but they are cheaper than some of the main competition.

Stat Box
Rim type: Tubular Nipple type: DT Spherical alloy
Rim material: Carbon Front hub: Roval with CeramicSpeed bearings
Braking surface: Disc only Rear hub: Roval with DT Swiss 240 internals
Rim depth: 40mm Assembly method: Hand built
Rim width: 23mm external, 16mm internal Max air pressure: not applicaple
Front spoke pattern: 2x cross Total wheelset weight: 1,340 grams
Rear spoke pattern: 2x cross MSRP: $2,000
Spoke count: 24 front, 28 rear Rating: 4 Stars 4 out of 5 stars
Spoke type: DT Revolution, butted, straight pull

Pluses
Minuses
  • Light weight
  • Susceptible to crosswinds
  • Laterally stiff
  • Rotors can be tough to remove
  • Hand built
  • Rims susceptible to scuffing
  • Wider rim for better tire shape
  • Stem rattle
  • All-around rim depth
  • Price overall
  • Center-lock rotor compatible
  • Straight tracking in deep sand
  • DT Swiss spokes
  • Smooth running DT Swiss 240 hub internals
  • CeramicSpeed bearings
  • Aero enhancing on road
  • Price compared to close competitors
  • Stealth look
  • Durability
  • Wheel bag included

Full Review: Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubular Wheels

First an important caveat: Being that we’re deep into winter here in snowy Colorado, my time on these wheels has been limited to cyclocross training and racing. I’ve yet to glue on a set of road tires and can only speak in general terms about their aerodynamic efficiency or crosswind performance.

Same goes for the all-important brake track performance, which is moot here because these wheels are disc only, which frankly is how all wheels should be. (If you’re a hold out for old technology, Specialized offers its Roval Rapide CLX hoops in clincher and tubular non-disc versions in 40mm and 60mm configurations, and claims that braking performance is on par with the other leaders in this space.)

Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

Rim width is a reasonably generous 23mm external, 16mm internal, which allowed my go-to Challenge Fango tires to take a nice rounded profile when glued up.

What I can say with conviction is that on the dirt — with disc brakes — the Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc tubulars are an ultra-stiff, speed-seeking set of carbon hoops that yield true performance gains over traditional alloy wheels.

Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

Coming out of corners, they spun up with ease. And when it came time to slow down, stopping was on-a-dime good thanks to the Shimano hydraulic braking system that’s compatible with the center lock hubs.

Early in the ’cross season I mounted the Roval Rapide CLX with a set of 33c Challenge Fango tires, and outside of a couple muddy days that necessitated a little more tire bite, these were the go-to race day hoops from September to December. They were raced on singletrack trails, wheel-sucking grass, and loose gravel. They were smashed into curbs, crashed in corners, and even jumped a few times. Not once did they come out of true or suffer anything more than a few scuffs to the otherwise stealthy matte black finish on the rims.

Wheelset weight is a wispy 1,340 grams for the set, which goes long way toward diminishing the weight penalty that comes with choosing disc brakes over cantis. But the guts of these 40mm hoops are a pair of alloy hub bodies that encase smooth running CeramicSpeed bearings, and in the rear, best-in-class DT Swiss 240 internals. I can’t say the hubs were exposed to the kind of muddy Armageddon that racers face in Belgium or even the Pacific northwest. But they did get gunked up on occasion, and they did get blasted with a garden hose, and through it all they continued to spin free and fast.

DT Swiss hubs can also be converted into most current axle standards by swapping out the press fit end pieces (no tools required). I was running standard QRs during this test while riding test bikes from Specialized and Trek. But odds are high we’ll see more and more thru-axle cyclocross set-ups next season, so it’s good to know you’re not locked in. The hubs paired star ratchets engage quickly, and the press fit assembly makes them easy to service. Same goes for the freehub bodies, which can be swapped without tools.

Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

The hubs paired star ratchets engage quickly, and the press fit assembly makes them easy to service. Same goes for the freehub bodies, which can be swapped without tools.

Spokes are robust DT Revolution, butted, straight pull with DT Spherical alloy nipples, which lend to the stiffer, more responsive feel of the wheel. Lacing is sensible and solid 2-cross front and rear. Spoke counts are 24 up front, 28 in the rear. It all adds up to a hand built wheel that’s purpose built for the increased stress of disc braking and racing ’cross.

Rim width is a reasonably generous 23mm external, 16mm internal, which allowed my go-to Challenge Fango tires to take a nice rounded profile when glued up. I never ran crazy low pressure (usually in the 27-28psi range), but the wheels capably withstood the occasional bottoming out — and the tires held firm, a tribute to the expert glue job courtesy of the Boulder Service Course.

The wheels wide stance also benefits lateral stiffness, yielding a precise and sharp handling feel. During testing I did everything I could to unnerve these hoops, but even when driven hard into the high-bermed corners at Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park, they confidently tracked straight and true. Coming out of corners, they spun up with ease. And when it came time to slow down, stopping was on-a-dime good thanks to the Shimano hydraulic braking system that’s compatible with the center lock hubs.

Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubulars

I ran these wheels both on a Specialized Crux and Trek Boone Disc pictured here.

But that’s about what you’d expect from a set of high-zoot wheels, which the Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc Tubular certainly are. At $2,000 for the set, they cost more than some of the ’cross bikes raced by competitors in my old guy cat. 3 category.

Niggles were sparse, but there were a few. The stems rattled like a loose muffler on a beat up Honda Civic. But this was easily remedied with a small strip of electrical tape. I also had to grapple to get the rotors off the hub body on the several occasions when I opted to run a different set of wheels and had to swap over the rotors. And while I’m not exactly sure how, I managed to scuff the rims in a few places.

Bottom line, if you’re a cyclocross racer in the market for a top flight set of disc-compatible race day carbon tubulars, the Roval Rapide CLX 40 are worth serious consideration. They’re at least in the same conversation with the heretofore leaders in this space, Zipp’s 303 Disc Tubulars, which cost about $500 more and are listed as 95 grams heavier. Obviously, I’d never tell anyone not to buy a set of Zipps, but $500 is $500.

For more information visit www.specialized.com.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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