Roval’s trickle-down continues with the Rapide CL II wheels

The same rims as Roval's top-tier aero road wheels, different spokes and hubs.

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Today Specialized announced a complete revamp of its S-Works Turbo tyre range, and along with that came news of another wheelset option from sibling brand Roval.

In recent years Roval has done an impressive job of trickling down the key features of its top-level tech to more affordable price points. Roval’s versatile all-road/gravel Terra CL (US$1,750) uses the identical carbon rim as the top-tier CLX (US$2,500), but double-butted round spokes and DT Swiss 350 hubs bring it to a far more affordable level. Similarly, the Alpinist CL uses the same rim as the US$2,650 Alpinist CLX, but also switches to rounded spokes and DT Swiss 350 hubs for its US$950 price drop.

Want to guess the story with the Rapide CL II wheelset?

You got it. The Rapide CL II (US$1,750 / €1,800 / AU$2,600) uses the identical and recently revised hooked and tubeless-ready carbon rims as the Rapide CLX II aero wheelset. It also carries the same generous warranty. Meanwhile, the US$1,050 price drop comes from the DT Swiss 350 (36T engagement) hubs and round DT Swiss Competition double-butted and straight-pull spokes.

Now, this wheelset isn’t exactly new – you could previously buy it for US$9,000 with a free Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro – but now you can get just the wheelset or even individual front and rear wheels, too.

The hubs feature a centerlock disc interface.
The 350 hubs feature DT Swiss’s Star Ratchet system, arguably making it the easiest hub to source spares for.

Something not mentioned by Roval is that the loss of the bladed spokes and aero hub shells is likely to introduce a small decrease in aero efficiency. Roval couldn’t provide an exact figure to our question, but it’s certainly a difference that can be measured. For example, Flo Cycling did such a test several years ago and found that bladed spokes would save approximately 9 seconds over a 40 km time trial.

A more tangible difference is seen on the scales, where this more-affordable option adds about 80 grams over the CLX version (1,565 g actual paired weight, including rim tape and valves. 706 g front, 859 g rear). 

The rims of the Rapide CLX and now CL offer unique front- and rear-specific profiles, with the more-rounded front rim sitting at a 51 mm depth with an ultra-wide 35 mm external width. Meanwhile, the rear rim offers a more traditional profile with its 60 mm depth and 30 mm external width. Both rims offer a 21 mm internal width.

We’ve covered the finer details of the Rapide CLX, including a deep-dive review of the original Rapide CLX, and more recently took an equally deep dive with the tubeless-ready Rapide CLX II release.

The front rim is one of the widest on the market and intended to protrude outward from modern road tyre widths. Specialized claims its 26 mm width tyre is the fastest combination with this wheel.

In terms of how they ride, well, basically just like the Rapide CLX version. As expected, there’s no change to the rather tight tyre fitment, which demands a good or even great fitting technique to avoid filling the swear jar. On the road, they feel just as rapid at speed and well-mannered in gusty conditions. And in coasting, the DT Swiss 350 hub is a whole lot less obnoxious-sounding than the Swiss company’s marginally lighter EXP design.

A well-proven recipe for a wheelset we can recommend almost always includes reliable hubs (particularly ones that are well-supported with all the various freehub options), a good mid-tier spoke, and a competitive rim. And so it shouldn’t be a great surprise that we’ve had several positive experiences with Specialized’s current range of second-tier carbon wheels. And while the round spokes are likely to hurt the outright performance in this aero-focussed application, the Rapide CL II otherwise looks to continue a positive trend for Roval.

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