Roval Terra CL carbon gravel wheelset review: impressively versatile
A US$1,400 wheel with the same rim as the US$2,500 flagship offering.
A US$1,400 wheel with the same rim as the US$2,500 flagship offering.
The Terra range is Roval’s answer to versatile and lightweight 700C carbon gravel/all-road wheels with a modern internal rim width, a proven no-fuss feature list, and one of the most generous warranties around.
Meanwhile, CyclingTips’s global tech editor James Huang has ridden the premium Terra CLXs plenty and shares a similar appreciation for how those (extremely similar) wheels perform. This review details why James and I are so fond of these carbon hoops.
The Terra CL shares an identical carbon fibre rim (700C size only) with Roval’s top-tier Terra CLX, a wheelset that you’ll find equipped on Specialized S-Works-level gravel bikes. This lightweight rim, which is used for both front and rear wheels, offers an on-trend 25 mm internal width and a 30.5 mm external width. And while tubeless-only hookless rims are becoming more common, the Terra CL/CLX rim remains as a tubeless crochet (aka hooked or TC) offering that works with all (size dependant) tubeless and tubed tyres of your choosing.
Officially this rim is intended for use with 28 mm to 47 mm rubber, but certainly going wider again won’t hurt anyone.
Gravel may be in the headline but that 25 mm internal width and competitive weight make these wheels equally suited to the new all-road category that sits somewhere between road racing and flannel-wearing gravel. After all, it’s the same width as Zipp’s latest all-round road wheels. And while Zipp’s hookless wheels carry a maximum 72.5 psi pressure rating, you can go higher with these Roval’s if you so please (although you shouldn’t if you care about speed and/or comfort).
While they’re surely more aero than an old box-shaped Mavic Open Pro, the 32 mm deep U-shaped rims clearly weren’t intended to excel in a wind tunnel. Rather the Roval CLs seek to perform in just about every other way you’d want from such a wheel, and there’s more to that than the widely compatible rim bed and the inner width. The Terra CL’s balance a competitive weight with proven durability, easy servicing, open compatibility, and simple tyre handling.
The foundation of the proven durability, easy servicing, and open compatibility comes from the stock standard DT Swiss 350 hubs that sit at the centre of these wheels. These Taiwan-made sealed bearing hubs feature DT Swiss’s time-proven – and now ‘old’ – Star Ratchet system with 36-tooth (10º of engagement) points of engagement. Not only are these hubs easy to perform basic maintenance on, but there is also arguably no hub system in the world that’s better supported for aftermarket servicing and availability of spares. The hubs will almost certainly be able to handle whatever new drivetrain or perhaps even axle system (within reason) your future may hold.
The hubs are strung up with straight pull DT Swiss Competition Race double butted spokes and DT Swiss Prolock aluminium nipples. There’s 24 of these spokes front and rear, laced in a 2x pattern. The wheels are supplied with a detailed chart detailing spoke tensions, tension balance, and trueness which displayed a nice balanced and snugly strung wheel. Such a chart is sure to never be looked at but the provided spare spokes and nipples are nice to store somewhere safe for you to forget about.
While these wheels can be adapted to fit just about every drivetrain and bike configuration, one tidbit to be aware of is that Roval currently only offers these with a Shimano 11-speed freehub body and 142×12 and 100×12 mm axle end caps. If you want to run SRAM XD/XDR or Campagnolo cassettes then you’ll likely be out of pocket for the required freehub adapter.
At an actual 1,410 grams for the pair (including the provided tubeless rim tape and tubeless valves), the Terra CLs are only 104 g heavier than the supremely light Terra CLX which save weight through the use of premium bladed spokes and DT Swiss’s top-tier 180 EXP hubs. Paying an extra US$1,100 for lighter (albeit substantially noisier when coasting) hubs and better spokes doesn’t exactly scream value to me, and that just makes the Terra CL all the more attractive.
As a quick side note, there’s also the entry-level Terra Cs (US$1,000) which roll on the cheaper DT Swiss 370 hubs and feature a lower-end carbon rim that accounts for much of the measurable 210 g weight increase of the wheelset. These wheels are still a strong value proposition, but they’re certainly not the high-end competitors that the Terra CLs are.
Getting rolling with the Terra CL’s is wonderfully simple. The wheels arrive already wrapped with tubeless rim tape (fine for use with tubes, too) and tubeless valves.
James and I agree that the rims offer a good middle-of-the-road fit that makes mounting tyres simple enough while still being tight enough to ease tubeless inflation. While it is certainly dependant on the tyre used, I had no issues in installing all of my tested tubeless tyres with my thumbs and then inflating them with a floor pump.
My only quibble in relation to inflating tyres was with the supplied tubeless valves and the flat shape of the rubber sealing grommets. I found these were susceptible to leaking and so I quickly replaced them with regular Universal Alloy valves from WTB (same as Stan’s). I’d like to see Roval make this change themselves so customers don’t have to.
It’s perhaps also worth a quick warning that Roval’s rim bead seems to hold onto tyres rather snugly. That’s wonderful for secure tyre retention but can require quite a bit of thumb force to pop the tyre bead away from the rim. Such a struggle is worse with certain tyres (Continental comes to mind) and it’s not an issue specific to Roval – it’s increasingly common with the latest wave of tubeless rims. I have no real solution other than suggesting you keep your tubeless tyre sealant topped up.
Once on the bike, I was pleased to not hear any sounds of popping or crackling spokes, a sign that the wheels were correctly built and pre-stressed at the factory. And James’s Terra CLX provided the same consistent experience.
Riding the Terra CLs provides little surprise, and in a good way. Despite the low weight, the ride quality is firm without being too jarring or overly stiff. Loading up the bike sideways (like in a skid) or smashing on the pedals reveals a welcome amount of support, while the low mass keeps the wheels feeling competitively lively beyond what their asking price would suggest. They just work and they do so super well.
I also like that the top lip of the rim offers a smooth and round profile, something that won’t act as a knife to a tyre sidewall in the event you bottom out the tyre. James remarked that despite understanding the technology of hookless, he still feels more comfortable using a hooked rim, especially when using tires with more supple casings like Challenge open tubulars.
James and I also agree that a 25 mm internal rim width is a sweet spot for modern gravel and wider road tyre use. It’s a width that provides good tyre support and a healthy volume to tyres in the common 32-45 mm range. Going with a wider rim than this really only benefits those running mountain bike-width rubber, while a narrower rim is seemingly only advantageous in providing a more rounded shape to tyres under 32 mm in width.
It’s worth noting that a 25 mm internal width rim is likely wider than what many tyre manufacturers base their stated sizing on and as a result you should expect the measured width of your tyres to be a little plumper. To provide one example, Continental Terra Trails in a 40 mm width often measure shy of the claimed width, but they sat at 40.8 mm here (at 35 psi).
After a few months of use, the wheels pretty much remain as good as new. The only obvious sign of use was the rear rim which had gone a millimetre out of lateral true, a quick fix given the external nipples. It’s also worth noting that at some point I fitted these wheels with tyre inserts and purposefully smashed into as many things as possible. I consider it a win that they’ve remained as straight as they have. Meanwhile, James’s CLXs are still dead straight.
With such a proven and simple approach there just aren’t too many negatives to speak of here. The leaky tubeless valves remain at the top of the list, but my other complaints are rather insignificant.
Aesthetically I’d prefer to see more subtle grey or black decals fitted to the DT Swiss hubs versus the stock white and red. There are a number of aftermarket decal producers who offer these very decals in whatever colour you like, but not feeling the need to make that change would be nice, too.
Then there’s the quick complaint that straight-pull round-shaped spokes can be harder to true or replace if ever needed. The round spokes tend to spin in the hub flange under tension and you’ll probably need a smooth-faced plier or spoke holding tool to make adjustments. By contrast, J-bend spokes don’t have this same issue and are also far easier to source replacements for. Roval certainly has its technical reasons for equipping a straight pull hub, but I still prefer the old-school approach.
And then on the topic of spokes, Roval’s use of aluminium nipples is sure to twist the apron straps of many wheel builders. Many wheel builders shun the use of alloy nipples as they’re more likely to corrode or stress fracture, and eventually need replacing. Personally, I’m fine with alloy nipples on a wheel that’s aiming to be competitively light. Perhaps it’s not the ideal choice for those cyclists who ride in wet and salty conditions every single day, but they should prove suitably durable for just about everyone else.
Clearly, my complaints are limited and none were enough of an issue to have kept these wheels off my 10 Products I Loved in 2021 list.
Riding rough gravel roads or perhaps some single track on a fully rigid bike with somewhat narrow tyres can be super fun, but it also leaves the wheels somewhat exposed to rocks you may not spot in time. And so for me, a huge part of the value proposition of these wheels is the included warranty.
This lifetime warranty offers the usual coverage for product defects and similar, but also extends to general use, too. If you damage the product while riding within the first two years of ownership, Roval will replace or repair the wheel for free. And if such damage was to occur after two years, there’s a crash replacement policy that will get you rolling again at a fraction of the price of a new wheel.
Now Roval is far from the only company offering such a warranty on its carbon wheels, but it remains a selling point worth close assessment when you’re talking about a product that will spend its useable life just millimetres away from potential damage. Do note that this generous warranty isn’t offered in all countries though. Check before you buy.
Overall I’m sold on the Terra CL wheels and can comfortably recommend them to anyone seeking a versatile, light, and agile-feeling modern road or gravel wheel and who wants easy tyre compatibility and fuss-free ownership.
That said, it’s important to mention the elephant in the room here. The Terra CL wheels are seemingly far better value for money in the USA than they are in many other markets. The same wheels sold in the UK and Australia are noticeably more expensive than what a straight currency conversion would suggest, and while there are reasons for this, it fundamentally does change the competitiveness of these wheels. My appreciation for these wheels as a high-value and high-performing wheel is based on the USA pricing and how that stacks up to its rivals in that market.
Regardless of market location, there’s obviously also a huge number of alternative options at this price point and your decision should be based on the features you want, the warranty provided (and ease of using it), and your budget. Certainly, Roval’s Terra CLs are a brilliant option for those seeking a light carbon wheelset, but they’re far from the only option you should consider.
One closely comparable option is Reserve’s 32 GR. On paper, these wheels are incredibly similar to the Terra CL, and offer similar dimensions in the hooked rim, the same hubs, and a similar warranty, too. The Reserve wheels are a millimetre narrower, a tad deeper (and perhaps ride a smidge stiffer) and carry extra weight as a result – otherwise you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. The Reserve wheels do feature a better spoke, but that also comes with a higher, US$1,800 price tag.
Meanwhile, Bontrager’s 3V TLR Disc Road wheel is another closely comparable option at US$1,500. It too offers a 25 mm internal width, a crochet-style hooked rim, and a generous warranty. It is, however, a bit heavier, and Bontrager’s own hubs (while great) don’t have quite the open compatibility or long-term proven access to spare parts like the DT Swiss hubs.
And as your budget extends you’ll find an increasing number of options on the table from the likes of Zipp and Enve. Regardless, there are elements of the Terra CLs covered above that would still have me selecting them over a number of more expensive options.
And of course there are numerous cheaper consumer-direct options floating around the interwebs that offer a comparable spec list. And while some of these consumer-direct options are indeed good, I remain confident in saying Roval has at least produced a product that remains competitive – at least for those in the USA.
Roval is a componentry company owned by Specialized Bicycles. Maybe you’re wondering about our policies regarding potential conflicts of interest? Here’s our stance.