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by James Huang
October 9, 2019
Photography by James Huang
It’s now been nearly three years since I reviewed the Enve Composites SES 4.5 AR Disc wheelset, and I’ve been wondering aloud in that time why a competitor hasn’t stepped in with a similarly wide concept given that model’s obvious (at least to me) performance advantages. It’s light and aero, yes, but also stupendously comfortable with tremendous traction gains. And for three years — barring a handful of smaller outfits — it’s stood alone.
Roval Components has announced that it’s now finally stepping into that ring with two new carbon wheelsets under the Terra moniker, aimed at the burgeoning gravel and all-road markets.
Roval has debuted two new carbon wheelsets aimed at all-road and gravel riding, but more are sure to come.
The Terra CLX is the most direct competitor to that 4.5 AR Disc, with a 25mm-wide (internal width) and 32mm-deep tubeless carbon clincher rim designed for tires ranging in width from 28-42mm. Those rims are joined to custom disc-only DT Swiss-made hubs (featuring the company’s new EXP driver) with straight-pull DT Swiss Aerolite bladed stainless steel spokes, with a radial/two-cross pattern up front, and one-cross/two-cross pattern out back, both with two-to-one lacing to help balance out the spoke tension from side to side.
Claimed weight is a paltry 1,296g per set, including tubeless tape and tubeless valve stems.
The Terra CLX Evo is also a tubeless carbon clincher, but more gravel-specific, with a more generous 30mm internal width and shallower 25mm depth for use with tires between 38mm and 47mm across. The same hubs, spokes, and lacing patterns are used here, too, but with 24 spokes up front instead of 21.
Claimed weight for the 700c Terra CLX Evo is 1,357g, and there’s also a 650b variant tipping the scales at 1,303g.
All three wheelsets carry a retail price of US$2,500 (pricing in other currencies is to be confirmed). And it’s certainly worth noting that while Roval has only announced carbon wheelsets so far, aluminum models with more attainable price points are sure to follow.
A few tech details stand out here.
First off, both of the new Terra wheelsets are exceedingly light given the rim dimensions used, and the Terra CLX, in particular, is more than 200g lighter than the Enve 4.5 AR Disc, and over 100g lighter than the Enve 3.4 AR Disc. Granted, the Terra CLX is shallower than both of those Enves, but it’s debatable how much customers in this segment are concerned with wheel depth and aerodynamics, anyway.
Roval offers the 30mm-wide (internal width) Terra CLX Evo in both 700c and 650b diameters. Photo: Roval Components.
Perhaps more important are Roval’s claims that the new Terra CLX and Terra CLX Evo both pass the same impact standards as the company’s dedicated mountain bike wheelsets, and are likewise covered by the same “**it Happens” no-questions-asked warranty policy as on other Roval wheelsets.
Roval hasn’t hedged (much) on allowable inflation pressures, either. While there’s an increasing amount of data to support the use of lower tire pressures than what has been traditionally used in years past, personal preferences are still personal preferences, and Roval has apparently built the new Terra rims to suit. Maximum allowable inflation pressure on the Terra CLX with 28mm tires is an impressive 90psi, while Enve’s maximum pressure is a much more modest 67psi.
Roval doesn’t seem to be messing around with tire security, either. Hookless designs have become more popular in recent years, partly for improved impact strength, but also partially for ease of manufacturing. Both the Terra CLX and Terra CLX Evo, however, have subtle hooks for more reliable tire retention, along with “descending shelf profiles” that make it more difficult for the tire bead to unseat itself under hard cornering or when flat.
Actual width for the 28mm tire is 31.5mm on the Terra CLX, which matches perfectly with the rim’s external profile.
It remains unclear, however, whether Roval’s new Terra rims fall inline with the new road tubeless standard that is rumored to be introduced some time in the next year or two.
Roval has only just announced these new wheels today, but I’ve been riding a set of early-production Terra CLX wheels since mid-August, paired with Specialized’s new 28mm-wide S-Works Turbo Rapid Air tubeless road tires. And to say that I’ve been impressed would be quite the understatement.
Actual weights are within spitting distance of claims, with my pair tipping the scales at 1,314g (592g front, 722g rear) with tubeless tape, valve stems, and a standard Shimano freehub body (a SRAM XDr body is also available). The tires are light as well, with actual weights of 305g apiece.
Despite being 5mm wider than the Terra CLX, the Roval Terra CLX Evo is still extremely light with a claimed weight barely over 1,350g. Photo: Roval Components.
The tires are a bit tough to install — still fairly standard fare for road tubeless, I’m sad to report — but inflate and seat easily with a standard floor pump. At a modest 50/55psi front/rear inflation pressure, actual width is a healthy 31.5mm.
On the road, the experience is much the same as what I experienced with the Enve 4.5 AR Disc: smoother, grippier, more confident, and yes, generally faster on anything other than glass-smooth tarmac. And that 200g weight difference does seem noticeable, but only just slightly so, and only when accelerating from a standstill or on the steepest of climbs. Otherwise, it’s really not a big deal at all.
More noticeable, however — and as expected — was the shallower wheelset’s improved stability in crosswinds. And while I can’t comment on aerodynamic performance, I do at least find it encouraging that these 28mm tires make for an almost seamless transition between the rim sidewalls.
Roval may fall under the Specialized umbrella, but it’s by no accident that all of the full-bike marketing images provided feature bikes from smaller builders, not from Specialized. Might buyers finally be thinking of Roval as more than just a house brand? Photo: Roval Components.
I’m still in the process of gathering information here, and still need to play with a wider range of tire models and widths, as well as more demanding terrain than the dirt and gravel roads I’ve ridden with the Terra CLX so far. But between my positive experience so far here, and the still-impressive performance of those Enve 4.5 AR Discs, there’s no way I’m voluntarily going narrower any time soon.
Stay tuned for a more detailed review in the coming weeks, but I’m convinced more than ever that the future is wide.
The maximum allowable inflation pressures are unusually generous given the application, which bodes well for rim durability.
The tubeless-compatible rims are designed for easy inflation and seating, and a secure hold even at very low inflation pressures. Photo: Roval Components.
The rear hubs feature DT Swiss’s new EXP single-ratchet driver mechanism, which is said to run with less friction than the company’s proven dual-ratchet system. Photo: Roval Components.
Roval builds all of the Terra wheels with two-to-one spoke patterns to help even out tensions from side to side.
The front hub is certainly one of the prettier disc-compatible models on the market. All of the new Roval Terra wheels are disc-only, and are ideally paired with Center Lock rotors (although six-bolt rotors can be used with adapters).
Straight-pull DT Swiss Aerolite bladed stainless steel spokes are used throughout.