Here at Cyclingnews, we recently spent some time in the wind tunnel with 10 sets of wheels and found that between best and worst, the difference was fewer than two watts at 30kph. With that in mind, our concluding advice was to ‘get in the ballpark’ with a budget set of aero wheels and spend the difference elsewhere. For anyone heeding that advice, there’s a new option to consider, as Roval has today unveiled a new, cheaper version of its go-fast performance road race wheel.
Known as the Rapide CL II, the new wheelset will use the exact same rims as its more expensive sibling, the Rapide CLX II, but paired with a cheaper hub using cheaper spokes for a more affordable overall package. Accompanying them are three new tyre offerings from Roval’s parent company, Specialized.
Roval Rapide CL II: Aero and (more) affordable
The use of the same rims as the Rapide CLX II means the Rapide CL II wheels boast the same claims of tubeless compatibility as their stablemate. With a hooked bead, they are compatible with all tubeless-ready tyres and can be safely inflated to 110psi, though maximum pressures vary by tyre size. Commonly used pressures will likely fall well below this figure anyway.
Specialized claims the rims ‘almost double’ the current industry impact standards, thanks to an extensive period of research and development that ensued following a problem found in late 2019. This came when Peter Sagan hopped onto a kerb during testing of the original Rapide CLX wheels. He hit the kerb, cracked the rim, and the tyre came off in an instant. Specialized decided that despite passing impact resistance tests, this wasn’t safe enough and set about redesigning them, but not before releasing those wheels as ‘inner tubes required’.
The rims also boast the same dimensions as their more expensive siblings, pairing a wider and shallower front wheel with a deeper, narrower rear. The front wheel measures 51mm deep, with a particularly wide 35mm external width. The rear measures 60mm deep, but is slightly narrower at 30mm. Despite the differences, both feature a 21mm internal width. They are optimised for use with 26mm tyres but can handle anything from 24mm to 38mm. Specialized says that tyres up to 35mm can be run at a maximum of 110psi, but those running 36mm or higher should not exceed 60psi.
Roval says that by focussing on stability rather than straight-line speed, in the real world, the Rapide CL II is faster than most 65mm wheels, and 25% more stable than its now-two-generations-old CLX50 wheelset.
While the rims remain the same, the rest of the wheel is where Roval has found the cost savings. This does come with a weight penalty, albeit a small one.
Both use hubs from rival wheel brand DT Swiss, but while the top-tier wheels use the lighter-weight Ratchet EXP hubs, the Rapide CL II opts for the more affordable DT 350 hubs. Lacing the rims to those hubs is also handled by DT Swiss, with its Competition Race Straightpull spokes – a downgrade from the DT Swiss Aerolite – with 18 spokes at the front and 24 at the rear.
Specialized’s claimed weight for the Rapide CL II wheels is 1,590g. Despite their spec differences, this is just 70g heavier than the CLX II.
Compared to their fancier stablemates, the Rapide CL II is priced at a slightly more pocket-friendly £1,500.00 ($1,750.00 / €1,800.00 / AU$2,600.00). They could well be a popular option in the budget-friendly aero wheelsets segment, but will meet stiff competition from the likes of Zipp’s 303S, Enve Foundation 65, and Hunt 60 Limitless Aero Disc.
It’s Turbo time
Joining the Rapide CL II wheels is a trio of tyres from Roval’s parent company, Specialized. Each will bear the Turbo name, with the cheapest among them being priced at £45 per tyre, rising through £55 for the mid-tier option to £65 for the top-tier Turbo SW RapidAir 2BR.
2BR is a moniker that stands for 2Bliss Ready, a play on words phonetically similar to ‘tubeless ready’. It adorns two of the three new tyres, while the third – the cheapest – is tube-type clincher only.
Specialized cites the development of two new rubber compounds (Gripton T2 and T5) as a key difference, enabling improvements to durability, rolling resistance, grip and puncture protection across all three tyres.
In the bigger picture, the quoted rolling resistance savings are small. Specialized claims just one watt for the Turbo SW RapidAir 2BR compared to its predecessor. However, that one watt is significant saving when considering the previous RapidAir was widely regarded as fast. When compared to the similarly-small savings found in our wind tunnel testing on wheel upgrades that cost thousands, the cost-effectiveness is also worth noting.
The S-Works Turbo RapidAir 2BR, priced at £65.00, is said to weigh 230g, and is currently available in 26c only.
The S-Works Turbo 2BR, priced at £55.00, is available in 26c, 28c and 30c, weighing 260g, 280g and 300g respectively.
The cheapest of the three, the S-Works Turbo is a tube-type clincher and is priced at £45.00. It is available in 24c, 26c, 28c and 30c, weighing in at 200g, 220g, 240g and 260g respectively.