Roval CLX 50 wheelset - review - Road Cycling UK

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Roval CLX 50 wheelset – review

These super-light, mid-depth carbon clinchers from Roval are stunningly quick and stable in equal measure

Whenever we test new high-end kit, it’s often a similar story that plays out. Once the initial razzmatazz and shiny-new afterglow has passed, perceptions settle down as senses become dulled to the excitement. Notes are compiled, judgments made and the review filed, before moving onto the next items in for review (tough gig, we know).

Every now and then though, we ride a piece of kit that we’re as genuinely excited to ride at the end of a test period as we were at the start. It retains its rose-tinted lustre, seemingly whispering to us each morning before we settle down to work: “go on, you know you want to.” And then we find ourselves pulling on kit as we head for a cheeky early morning ride instead.

– Buyer’s guide: should you buy lightweight or aero wheels? –

That’s how the Roval CLX 50 carbon clinchers wheels make me feel. Launched as a midway point between the lightweight CLX 32s and deep-aero CLX 64s, the 50s aim to tread that mid-ground between the two, balancing low weight, aero prowess and real-world stability. Does that leave the mid-section wheelset as a compromise? The opposite. These are among the most complete all-round carbon hoops on the market today.

By our reckoning, the Roval CLX 50s are among the best wheelsets out there

Up-to-date construction

The CLX 50s were launched by Roval in January to take the best of the new 32s and 64s and combine it into one wheelset, so some vital statistics are in order. The most obvious of these is the rim depth – 50mm – which is teamed with an internal rim width of 20.7mm and external width of 29.4mm.

Some might argue that rim width isn’t an ‘obvious’ feature, particularly when you’re often talking about a difference of millimetres, but let me tell you: right out the box, the sheer width of the rims is very clear indeed. As we said in our launch story, going wide is bang on trend at the moment, with wider rims allowing wider tyres to be fitted without the tyre ballooning over the rim, potentially improving aerodynamic efficiency and, more significantly, increasing the volume of a tyre, which in itself improves comfort. Mate a 25mm tyre with a wide rim and it will look more like a 28mm, and so on.

The name may be cheesy but the work Roval have done on these wheels in the ‘Win Tunnel’ means they’re super-fast

Width aside, the rim profile is on the money for a modern aero wheelset, with the CLX 50s sporting a notably blunt trailing edge. The rounded shape has been developed in sister company Specialized’s ‘Win Tunnel’ along with extensive CFD simulations, and is there to offer additional stability in crosswinds. The greater area of the rim profile afforded by the wider rim width also allows the rim to arc in a smoother manner than, for example, Mavic’s Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C hoops.

 – Should you be using wider tyres on your road bike? –

You’ll also find the rims ready for tubeless tyres with rim tape fitted (whether you’ve chosen to adopt the tech or not), while the rims are laced with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes to aero-profiled Roval AF hubs that feature premium CeramicSpeed bearings.

  • Specification

  • Price: £1,870 (£770 front, £1,100 rear)
  • Weight: 1,375g claimed; 1,438g actual with rim tape and tubeless valves  
  • Rim depth: 50mm
  • Rim width: 29.4mm external; 20.7mm internal
  • Website: Specialized

The CLX 50s are available in the rim brake, clincher (tubeless) format as we have here on test, as well as tubular, and disc formats of both without a brake track. Roval claim the disc brake version is marginally stiffer than the rim brake version.

Back to these rim brake wheels, however, and Roval say the brake track has a glass scrim layer built in. Unlike the laser-machined brake track of the Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C, this is material laid into the carbon to offer, from a number of prototypes tested closely with brake pad specialists SwissStop, improved braking performance. In fact, Roval say you need to use the Black Prince Flash Evo pads to achieve the best performance and use with any other pads voids the warranty.

As for weight, the CLX 50s come in at a claimed 1,375g, which is incredibly light considering the sheer amount of carbon in the 50mm deep and 20.7mm internally-wide rim. We weighed our set at 1,438g as they came, with rim tape and tubeless valves installed. The CLX 50s also come with wheel bags so you can protect your precious hoops should you decide to take them for a trip while not attached to your bike.

The rear hub uses DT Swiss 240 internals

All-round exceptional performance

Out on the road, what strikes you first is just how outstandingly quick the CLX 50s are. In order to maximise the potential of the wheels, I opted for a set of fast Michelin Power Competition 25c tyres, which subsequently sat flush with the rim, and from the moment I clipped in and rolled away from my front door, the hoops feel as though they’d given my bike a new lease of life, gathering speed quickly on the flat. What really impresses is the sensation as you accelerate from a standstill – through 10, 15 and 20 – with speed accumulating in as effortless a fashion as I’ve ever encountered.

I fitted these wheels to my Canyon Ultimate CF SL test rig, which isn’t an aero bike but is a generally clean and tidy setup, and it transforms the ride into something akin to the very aero Bianchi Oltre XR4 frame I tested a while back.

The first major ride during the test happened to be a century sportive held on the Somerset Levels (disclaimer to anyone who’s never ridden the levels – only some of it is actually ‘level’), and on the very flat roll out these initial impressions held throughout.

Roval CLX50 carbon clincher wheelset - review (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)
Roval CLX50 carbon clincher wheelset - review (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

Into a headwind the rims cleave through with relative ease, while as I quickly meandered through the open roads, crosswinds were shed with equal prowess. I expected that with 50mm rims, my riding weight and a slight natural nervousness of crosswinds, I’d be bracing against sudden gusts and gaps in the hedgerows, ready to let the bike run a little as I got pushed aside, but there’s none of that: no drama, just steady.

The CLX 50s aren’t just a rival for wheels of similar depth (and make no mistake, they’re pitched right into the path of the likes of Zipp’s 454 NSW ‘whale fin’ wheels), but I’ve felt less stable on shallow Fulcrum Racing Zeros and Mavic Ksyrium SLs in comparable conditions before.

I’ve also had plenty of time to scale a few climbs on the CLX 50s, and while of course they’re not quite on a par with lighter, shallower wheels for sheer responsiveness, they’re in the same ball park. Seated accelerations – especially at speed – are a doddle, while out-of-the-saddle spurts are fed back to you with responsiveness that reminds of a much shallower rim. That’s in no small part down to the light weight of the carbon layup, because you can really throw the bike from side to side and have no sense of unwanted mass rotating beneath you.

The hubs spin smoothly, too, thanks to the CeramicSpeed bearings and DT Swiss 240 internals. The freehub is almost silent when engaged, and what noise you can hear at high speeds over the gentle hollow carbon hum of the rims is deep, smooth, and somehow particularly assuring of quality.

The overall effect, then, is a blindingly quick clincher wheelset that’s incredibly confidence inspiring in gusty conditions and planted if you’re cornering downhill with the apex falling away from you. Throw in the fact that the glass scrim brake track performs brilliantly in tandem with the recommended SwissStop Black Prince brake pads, providing plenty of modulation and power through my Ultegra calipers without any glazing or heat fatigue that I can detect, and you really feel like you can really give it some with these wheels.

In the wet, there’s also impressive performance to be had too, albeit much reduced (naturally) compared to braking in the dry, although the SwissStop Black Prince Flash Evo pads do bite significantly if you really squeeze the levers. And, if truth be told, I really can’t tell the difference between them and the Black Prince Flash Pro pads I tested them against. That said, better safe than sorry: if you buy a pair we recommend using the Evo versions of the pads, if just to save that warranty.

The wheels come with tubeless rim tape and valves pre-installed

If I had to be ultra critical I’d say the track doesn’t feel quite as effective or tactile as Mavic’s latest carbon wheels, which I tested last year, but performance is still very good indeed, and is more than enough to provide stable and predictable stopping power in a range of weather conditions.

Conclusion

From the hubs to rim profiles, the Roval CLX 50 wheels are bang up-to-date on paper, and are blisteringly quick yet incredibly stable in any conditions you want to ride them in. What sticks with you is how rewarding they are to ride. You never tire of their desire for speed, proclivity for acceleration or how they slow you down again assuredly and consistently. Yes, with a price tag of £1,870 these are high-end wheels at the very top of the market, but they’re also among the very best out there.

Pros

  • Super quick in all conditions
  • Very stable in crosswinds
  • Wide rim width
  • Premium CeramicSpeed bearings
  • Very good brake performance

Cons

  • Using non-recommended brake pads voids warranty
  • Braking not quite on a par with the very best

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