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Specialized debuts carbon road clinchers with disc hubs

SNOWBIRD, Utah (VN) — Specialized is joining the carbon clincher market, and while some may say the Morgan Hill, California, company is a little late to the party, Specialized’s Roval wheel line is taking a jump ahead of some of its competitors by offering Centerlock disc hubs on one of its carbon clincher offerings for 2013.

Roval has offered full carbon mountain wheelsets for the past few years, but full carbon road wheels have been on hiatus since Specialized discontinued the Roval Carbon Star wheels. Specialized’s new carbon offerings, however, are very forward thinking. Most of the new Roval Rapide CLX wheelsets incorporate a new carbon layup aimed at dissipating heat better than the company’s previous offerings.

Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc and Non-Disc $2,200 ($1,900 for disc)

Specialized will offer the Roval CLX 40 Disc stock on the S-Works Roubaix (that’s right, a disc brake-equipped Roubaix is on the way!) and Crux Disc models, the S-Works Tarmacs, Roubaixs and other models will feature the standard rim brake version, the CLX 40. Both wheelsets will also be available aftermarket, likely this fall.

The rear hub on the CLX Disc has 135mm spacing, making it compatible with the existing Specialized Crux disc bikes as well as most disc ‘cross bikes on the market. The disc hubs use Shimano’s Centerlock rotor mount system to save as much weight as possible.

To counteract the forces of disc brakes, the CLX 40 Disc uses a two-cross lacing pattern both front and rear with 24 spokes in the front and 28 out back. The non-disc CLX 40 uses 18 spokes in the front and 24 in the rear. The rims of the CLX 40 Disc and non-disc are on the wide end of the clincher market, measuring at 26.2mm at the tire bead, making them virtually the same width as Zipp’s 404 Firecrest clinchers.

At 1,396g per pair, the Roval CLX 40 tips the scale at 160 grams lighter than the 404 Firecrest, which Specialized credits to lightweight rims. This weight advantage is compounded by Roval’s better pricepoint, at $500 less than the 404 Firecrest.

According to Roval wheel engineer Matt Urquart, while the disc and non-disc rims look astonishingly similar, the disc wheels do not have the heat dissipating treatment that would allow them to function with rim brake bikes.

Roval Rapide CLX 60 $2,200

While maybe not as enticing as the CLX 40 Disc, the CLX 60 offers an even wider and deeper rim than its new cousin. Like the CLX 40, the 60 uses Roval-branded hubs with DT Swiss internals and ceramic cartridge bearings. As you might expect, the 60 has a 60mm rim depth and a surprisingly wide rim that measures a porky 27.3mm. Specialized won’t offer the CLX 60 in a disc brake version.

The spoke count for the CLX 60 is lower than that of the CLX 40 thanks to the deeper rim profile, with 16 spokes in the front and 21 in the rear. Similar to the 40, the CLX 60 is also very lightweight. Compared to HED’s Stinger 60 tubulars (1,481g), the CLX 60 clinchers are only 34 grams heavier at 1,515g.

On the Road

I was able to get out on the CLX 40 and the CLX 60 around the slopes of Snowbird, Utah. While short rides, I was still able to feel the wheels under heavy load on the uphill, and test how well this new carbon layup was at modulating braking forces on the downhill.

I have become a fan of wide carbon clinchers for their handling advantages from my experiences on the Zipp Firecrest, Enve Smart, and Bontrager Aeolus carbon wheels.

While the 60mm rims were a bit twitchy in windy conditions, control under braking was very good. Both wheels handled well on the descents. The SwissStop brake pads are specific to these new Roval offerings, but the silver pads do closely resemble Zipp’s SwissStop-made Platinum brake pads. According to Specialized engineer Mark Cote, the Platinum pads do not work on the Roval surface, and likewise, the Roval pads do not work on Zipp rims.

The CLX 60 spun up to speed very well, even on the climbs, and between the CLX 40 and 60 I would choose the 60 as a go-to race wheelset. Having said that, I would give the lighter, less stiff CLX 40 a nod for a seven-hour gran fondo or any kind of long gravel ride.

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