The new Roval Control Carbon 6B XD 29er mountain bike wheels roll performance and value into one package.
In April, Specialized's wheel brand, Roval, announced a new addition to their carbon wheel range. The Roval Control Carbon 6B XD 29er wheels would take the new Roval Control SL rim from the Control SL wheels, and lace it to a DT Swiss 350 straight pull hub. With a price of $2000, you end up with the same rim and therefore rim and tyre interface of the top 1240g Control SL wheels that come on the S Works model Epics, albeit without the DT Swiss 180 hubs or DT Swiss Aerolite spokes.
But it's the rim that is where the trail feel and performance come from. With a 29mm inner width and 4mm flat rim hook, you end up with a wide rim to support modern cross-country and light trail tyres, with a rim hook that is wide and flat to stand up better to impacts, and reduce the chance of damage to tyres if you do donk a rock too hard. Bear in mind that Specialized state the rims are not compatible with inserts.
We have done a bunch of playing around with tyre and rim widths, and 29-30mm really is a sweet spot for cross-country, marathon, trail and enduro riding. The 29mm internal width is a good match for a range of tyres in he 2.25"-2.4" sizing. The wider rim bed allows a tyre to inflate with a wider profile, for a better supported ride at lower pressure. You'll also find you get a better footprint on the ground, and that helps with acceleration, braking, cornering - just about any time where you need traction.
These wheels have a claimed weight of 1450g with the tubeless tape fitted. The come out of the box with tape and alloy valves, and this set weighed 687g for the front, and 781g for the rear. That's 1468g, with the valves in, so Specialized's claimed weights are bang on. For a wide rimmed carbon wheel this is a really competitive weight. To get much lighter from here relies on big investments in hubs (like the DT Swiss 180) and spokes, and that can increase the cost of the wheels by at least 50%.
DT Swiss 350 hubs
While the Roval Control SL rims are the same as the top wheels, Roval use the updated DT Swiss 350 hubs in a straight pull, 28 hole, 6 bolt arrangement. Much of the changes to the DT Swiss 350 are on the hub shell, and include tool free end caps. Yes, the end caps were tool free before, but with a bit of a lip they're more tool free. I'd be lying if I said my older DT Swiss 350 end caps didn't have some subtle vice grip marks... the ones on these wheels come off with a firm tug by hand.
That makes it easier to swap freehubs from the stock SRAM XD, or change out the front end caps to the provided 19mm or 31mm OD options.
The DT Swiss Star Ratchet remains, with the two ratchets and springs allowing very low resistance freewheeling, with a high torque load and 36t. You can upgrade to 54t if you like, but the DT Swiss engineers feel 36 is the sweet spot for resistance, strength - and even reducing pedal kick back.
The straight pull DT Swiss Competition Race spokes are strong - they don't have a bend in them - but Roval supply spares, the lengths you need if you need more, and some spare nipples. You also get a build sheet check list for each wheel. They're built by hand, so you get the recorded tension for each spoke. Just incase you're curious.
How do they ride?
I set these up with a 2.4" Maxxis Rekon WT on the front, with a Maxxis Rekon Race 2.35" on the back. I've run this sort of combination for about 12 months, and I know I can run around 20psi or lower on most wide rims with this combination, for my own XCish use.
So far, the wheels ride as you would expect. They roll really nicely, and spin straight and true. I pulled an alloy trail wheel set off my bike to put these on, and they're notably stiffer both vertically and laterally - but also several hundred grams lighter.
I need to spend more trail time on them and I'll put them on my full-suspension bike after some time on a hardtail. What I haven't mentioned yet is what sets these wheels apart from ordering a set of rims from a supplier and using DT Swiss 350 hubs.
The Roval Control Carbon 6B XD wheels come with a lifetime warranty - and along with the quality of the build and components, that is really worth something. I would suspect you'd be unlikely to put a set of wheels like this on your daily commuter, and if you're chasing a strongh sub 1500g wheel then chances are you are performance minded. And that mind set typically involved calculated risks, which don't always pay off. And that's exactly where a good warranty comes into play.
I'll have a full review in Issue #191. Get more details from your Specialized dealer.