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Tubeless upgrade – Roval present the latest Rapide CLX II and Alpinist CLX II wheels

Roval have updated their flagship Rapide and Alpinist CLX wheels with tubeless technology. The Rapide II promises maximum efficiency, high stiffness and optimal aerodynamics while the Alpinist II is said to offer maximum agility and minimum weight. We’ve got all the facts about Roval’s latest wind-tunnel-developed wheels.

Roval Rapide CLX II | 1520 g (manufacturer’s specs, including tape and valves) | $ 2800 | Manufacturer’s-website

When we tested the previous iteration of the Roval Rapide CLX wheels, we praised their performance and aerodynamic properties. However, their lack of tubeless capability wasn’t up to modern standards. The wheel specialists at Specialized’s in-house brand have now put an end to that. The total weight has increased somewhat as a result, though it’s said that this is compensated for by the reduced rolling resistance of tubeless wheels.

Why tubeless?

Developments in the pro racing scene are clearly moving towards tubeless. Roval didn’t just answer our call for a tubeless-ready setup with the new Roval Rapide and Alpinist, but also that of the professionals, including the likes of Peter Sagan. The reason is simple: without a tube, there’s less material to deform as the tire contacts the ground. You don’t have two rubber layers resisting each other as you do with tubes, just the tire on the asphalt. In addition, the tubeless sealant can seal small holes caused by thorns or other sharp objects while you ride, occasionally even going unnoticed, saving you valuable time and securing your position in a race. According to Roval, you save 3.5 watts at a speed of 40 kilometres/hour, which would otherwise dissipate between the tube and the tire. The higher the speed, the greater the savings in rolling resistance of the tubeless setup compared to a conventional tube/tire combination. So, the faster you ride, the more you stand to benefit from a tubeless setup. If you want to know how to convert to tubeless yourself, check out our guide on how to go tubeless.

Roval Rapide CLX II 2022

The Rapide CLX II wheels remain true to their unequal design, combining a wider and shallower profile up front with a skinnier and deeper profile at the back. The external width of the front wheel is 35 mm, making it significantly wider than the tire, and the profile is 51 mm deep. The rear wheel, on the other hand, is 60 mm deep and 31 mm wide, both deeper and slightly narrower than the front. This is said to offer the best compromise between optimal aerodynamics on the front wheel, which can turn and is most susceptible to crosswinds, and the rear wheel, which always goes straight. Due to the wider design, the front wheel should also provide responsive and direct steering. This type of design with different shapes for the front and rear wheels has already proven itself in our review of the non-tubeless Roval Rapide CLX predecessors, and we can attest to their excellent efficiency. On the latest models, this trait promises to be further underlined by the new ceramic ball bearings.

In the background, you can see the turbines of the wind tunnel with the help of which the Roval Rapide CLX II wheels have been aerodynamically optimised.

At 1520 g, the wheelset has put on 110 g compared to its predecessor. According to Roval, this is the result of an adapted carbon layup in the rim, which aims to make the wheel stronger in the event of a hard impact from the ground. Employing a more pronounced rim flange, Roval’s top priority was to keep the tire on the rim even in the event of damage and thus avoid crashing. We’ll have to put them to the test to find out whether the Rapide II can still strike such a good compromise between fast acceleration and optimal aerodynamics, or whether the additional 110 g comes at the cost of its all-around capabilities.

Roval Alpinist CLX II 2022

Roval Alpinist CLX II | 1265 g (manufacturer’s specs, including tape and valves) | $ 2650 | Manufacturer’s-website

The Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels have also been given the tubeless update and they’re specially developed for the mountain goats among you, as the name suggests. Considering their extremely low weight of just 1250 g (without tape and valves), they promise to be particularly responsive and immediately convert every watt of input into acceleration.

Additionally, Roval promise razor-sharp handling through the corners on mountain pass descents. However, we can’t quite understand why Roval have opted against the use of aero hubs on the Alpinist II, resorting to the Roval LFD hubs instead. After all, improved aerodynamics can be helpful on mountain rides too.

No aero flair to speak of here: the Roval LFD hubs in the Alpinist wheels show little aero potential but rather sharp-edged, machined edges.

A wise man once said: what goes up, must come down. With this aphorism in mind, the Rapide are the more versatile option. They allow you to master high-speed sections in flat topography with minimal resistance, able to convert almost every watt of input into propulsion. On the other hand, the Alpinist wheelset is for all those who are at home in the mountain passes of this world and aren’t interested in anything else. With these, minimal weight and quick acceleration are priority numero uno. Both wheelsets take advantage of tubeless’ potential benefits, namely reduced rolling resistance and increased puncture protection.

Peter Sagan started riding for TotalEnergies this year and is known for his daredevil riding style. He’s already destroyed one pre-production model of the new Rapide wheels.

The new Rapide CLX II and Alpinist CLX II wheels remain an integral part of the Roval range and will continue to evolve. Tubeless is no longer just reserved for gravel bikes and the glamour of the pro peloton. With the new Rapide and Alpinist CLX II, Roval now allow aero enthusiasts and climbing experts to ditch their tubes too. We’re curious to see if going tubeless can justify or even compensate for the 110 g weight gain compared to the predecessor and can’t wait to put them to the test.

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Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Roval