First Look Review: New Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels

Roval has released two new wheelsets, the Alpinist CLX II and Rapide CLX II. Now tubeless-ready, it’s said that the wheels have a much improved overall performance

Roval has announced an update to both its Alpinist and Rapide wheels, meaning they are now tubeless-ready. While both wheels have been performing at the highest level for some time in a clincher version, this is the first time Roval has released them to the public as tubeless compatible. The brand’s sponsored WorldTour teams have already used the wheels to take 30 victories so far this season.

Roval explains that the decision to create tubeless-ready versions of the wheels came from none other than Peter Sagan himself. The process began when the Slovenian star cracked the rim and dismounted the tyre of his prototype Alpinist tubeless wheel when hitting a curb on a training camp in 2019. 

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The then BORA-Hansgrohe rider’s damaged wheel was returned to Roval HQ and a small crack in the rim bed was found. While the wheel had passed UCI regulations, Roval knew that when cracks like this occured, the resulting air pressure could create a failure of the entire system. 

Peter Sagan was a key factor in the brand's move to tubeless (Image: Chris Auld)

Thus came the idea to create tubeless-ready wheels that stayed structurally sound and kept the tyre on the rim so riders could stop safely if they crashed or hit an obstacle. Roval wanted to manufacture wheels with an internal standard and an impact resistance which almost doubled existing standards.

Months of extensive testing followed as the team attempted to build Rapide and Alpinist wheels that delivered the performance well-loved by the pros but with all the benefits of a tubeless system. After 21 months of testing different carbon layups, and the use of over 1000 different test wheels, the new tubeless-ready Alpinist and Rapide wheels we see today were created. Roval explains that they feature the strongest rims the brand has ever made at the lightest possible weight. 

While the old iteration of wheels reached the UCI’s 40 Joule drop test without a tyre, the new Alpinist and Rapide wheels go well beyond the current wheel requirements, so much so that Roval have “proposed these new standards to the relevant governing bodies so all riders can benefit from the work we’ve done.”

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Aside from safety, Roval also points to other performance improvements that come from running tubeless. Improved rolling resistance comes from less internal friction and better grip and control is created as the tyre deforms more easily in response to road imperfections. The tyres can be run at a lower pressure with no loss of power and more comfort.

Oliver Kiesel, Specialized tyre product manager, explains: “We can say the average rolling resistance reduction is 8%. In terms of a performance road racing tire at 40 kp/h, it is a 1.7 watt saving per tire, 3.5 watts per bike.”

Alpinist CLX II - First ride review

We were able to test ride Roval’s new Alpinist CLX II tubeless-ready wheels over the last few days. As the brand’s best-placed wheels for climbing, I wasn’t surprised by the featherweight of the wheels as I lifted them out of the box. Coming in at just 1250-grams for the set, there’s no denying that these wheels are optimised for the hills.

The Alpinist CLX II are handbuilt with the rims made of “the most precise carbon layup” ever created by Roval. The outer dimension of the hooked rims now has an extra 1.4mm of bead slack in the tyre which was a huge help when mounting the tyres. It will also be a big asset if repairs are needed while out riding. The wheels can take up to 110 PSI, though it’s unlikely many people will run this sort of pressure.

One of the most striking features of a wheelset of such premium quality (and a premium price point of £2500) is the minimalism. There doesn’t appear to be an ounce of ‘fat’ on these wheels, as they are paired down to come in at the lightest weight possible without sacrificing performance benefits. This is clear while riding – the wheels come in to their own on the hills, stiff enough to transfer power without any feeling of flex.

With this being said, the wheels perform well on the flat roads too. LFD Hubs with DT Swiss EXP Internals and Sinc Ceramic Bearings are silky smooth and the wheels roll really nicely, giving efficiency and peace of mind that no watts are being wasted. Roval explains it has carved 50 grams out of the previous Alpinist CLX hub with new low-profile hub bodies and machined rotor mounts.

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While they wouldn’t be the go-to choice for a ride which will consistently exceed speeds of 40kmph on the flat lands, the wheels hold their own as the road levels out and the shallower rims mean there is little to worry about when it comes to crosswinds. The pattern of the DT Swiss Aerolite spokes also helps to improve braking forces.

Tested on UK roads, I obviously encountered a few rough sections of tarmac littered with potholes and I found that the wheels helped to lessen vibrations. The fact they are now tubeless compatible is an added bonus. It greatly lowers the risk of damage to the rims and notably gives more grip when pushing the wheels to the limit. I was running the wheels at 70 PSI on the front and 75 PSI on the rear with 26mm Specialized Turbo tyres and I was comfortable with no feeling of drag.

For many, the barrier to the purchase of Roval’s previous Alpinist CLX wheels was the fact that they were clincher only. With Roval now solving this issue and offering a lighter, tubeless-ready version, we’d argue that the Alpinist CLX II wheels are market leaders when it comes to the best climbing wheels on offer.

Rapide CLX II

We’re yet to test the all new Rapide CLX II wheels, but Roval explains that the new iteration is both faster and more stable than its predecessor. The brand describes the wheels as ‘two in one’ with a 51mm-deep front rim with a 35mm external width and a 60mm-deep rear rim with a 30mm external width.

In heavy winds, Roval says that this will be a huge advantage to the rider – 25% more stable than the CLX50 wheels. Using an algorithm that factors in rider reaction times and optimises wheel stability based on that, Roval argues it has created “the best combination of pure drag reduction and stability within the reaction time frame that matters for a rider.”

Like the Alpinist CLX II wheels, the Roval Rapide CLX II are tubeless-compatible meaning they have self sealing puncture protection. They also have the same increased bead slack as the Alpinist CLX II wheels to aid installation. The Rapide CLX II wheels feature Aero Flange hubs and DT Swiss’ latest EXP freehub with new ceramic SINC bearings and a lighter and simplified ratchet system. The design spreads the bearings further apart which is said to give added stiffness while making the ratchet more reliable.

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Overall

While we’re yet to have a long enough test period to give a full in-depth review on the performance of Roval’s new Alpinist CLX II, we have been incredibly impressed during the time we’ve spent with the wheels. They are lightweight enough to be an asset on the climbs, but versatile enough to perform on the flat lands too. The responsiveness of the wheels to accelerations and the control they offer through corners proves that the Alpinist CLX II wheels have been created in conjunction with the best riders in the world.

At £2500, they are a hefty investment, but they do provide the type of performance which justifies this price. Roval offers a lifetime warranty and a no-fault crash replacement policy too which lowers the risk of such a big spend on a piece of equipment, as does the added protection which tubeless tyres give to the rims.