Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 Review

Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35

You can get into all kinds of crazy ‘geek-ing’ out about carbon layering, component groups, and aero or weight saving gadgets for your bike. However, the general consensus for the optimal way to upgrade your beloved bike is by acquiring a nice set of wheels. Durability, stiffness, lightweight, and strength are some of the key elements that go into making that decision, and nailing all those usually comes at a pretty penny. Spending $2000-3000 dollars isn’t unheard of these days when you start looking at the top of the line wheelsets. Roval creates a handful of wheels that definitely fall into that higher priced category, and I’m sure for the serious rider or racer they bring great dividends. The Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 wheels are more of an entry level wheelset (coming in at an MSRP: $550), but out of the box these appear to contain some of the same high quality standards that its more expensive counterparts sport.

Initial Thoughts on the Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 Wheelset

This is a really nice wheelset for the average cycling enthusiast wanting to upgrade, but not break the bank. The Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 are great all-around performance wheels. A slightly wider rim width will provide a bit of an edge through improved handling and cornering. Also the aerodynamic shaping of the rim and depth aids in that little bit of extra speed without sacrificing strength. Alloy construction is what keeps the price point in check.

Clean and simple downplayed graphics on the rim are a good thing in my book.

First of all, let’s talk a little about Roval. Roval is Specialized’s bicycles own in-house line that makes the wheelsets for many of their high performance bikes. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but from a business and performance angle they can control quality, innovation, and cost. Roval wheels are handcrafted, and one of their main focuses is on rider experience. Every rider be it on the road, trail, cross, or urban jungle has different criteria for being out on the bike. Making a wheel by hand is still the preferred way for many riders that I know. Technology and machines can create a precision product, but there’s something about a handcrafted set of wheels that put the complete package together for a better performing product. An experienced set of hands can pay attention to detail and make on the fly adjustments. The focus on tension of the wheel is oh-so critical. Each wheel is created with the various riders and bicycles in mind as the needs are different for road riders with aero, lightweight, carbon, aluminum, or titanium frames.

Rear DT Swiss Hub

Roval also focuses on quality partnerships and uses DT Swiss products to provide them with the nipples, spokes, and internal hub systems. These are high quality components that seem to be a nice match for the Specialized Roval Rapide 35 SL wheelsets.

Clean and aerodynamic Skewer

Technical Specifications (from Specialized’s website)

  • Rim Type: clincher
  • Rim Material: alloy
  • Braking Surface: CNC alloy
  • Brake Track Height: 9mm
  • Rim Depth: 35mm
  • Rim Width: 17mm internal, 22mm external
  • Front Spoke Pattern: radial
  • Rear Spoke Pattern: radial/2-cross (2:1)
  • Spoke Count: 20 front, 24 rear
  • Spoke Type: DT Competition, butted, straight pull
  • Nipple Type: DT Spherical alloy
  • Front Hub: Roval, sealed cartridge, alloy shell
  • Rear Hub: Roval, sealed cartridge, 3 pawl ratchet, 11-speed
  • Assembly Method: hand built
  • Total Wheelset Weight: 1,745g

Sleek and shiny with a nice set of wheels.

Key Features of the Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35

The Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 are a good looking pair of rims. Me and my pals joke about the visual aspect of rims as they are like lipstick for a bike. In my case, my almost retro old school ’04 Litespeed Vortex took a definite step up in the ‘eye-candy’ department.  The sleekness, clean lines, and 22mm rim depth were a great compliment to the simple shiny Ti frame. As mentioned this is a handcrafted wheelset which is an art form in its own right. If you’ve ever tried to put a wheel together, you can appreciate the energy and precision that it takes. A long time ago I tried only to have to take them to a professional to finish the job. Having the right wheel set-up is critical, because that is your point of contact with the road and any inconsistencies will quickly rise to the surface. A properly trued wheels is a visual delight and music to my ears. This rim sports the Roval rear hub with a sealed cartridge and is ready to go for an 11 speed cassette. I am in the process of upgrading my drivetrain, but I currently still run a 10 speed Ultegra Groupset. Luckily, the provided spacer ring allowed me to immediately put these wheels to the test with my current set up. I did have to look to my LBS (A Specialized Dealer) for some labor and assembly help as I neither have the proper tools, nor the complete mechanical confidence to do this properly. A mere 5 minutes later, and I was ready to hit the road. An “instruction guide” was included but was a bit general in the fact that it covered all the Roval Mountain and Road Wheels. Do take a few minutes to read through them to get more familiar with your new wheels. 1745grams is the total wheelset weight. That is a fair amount less than what I currently ride, so any weight reduction will definitely help. I have not totally rigged my bike with the lightest things possible, but over the years many components have simply gotten stronger and lighter. I suppose, I have kind of let the technology come to me. Something that was the bomb 3-5 years ago may now be more mainstream and affordable, and as I upgrade with wear I have seen noticeable improvements throughout. I can’t say I actually noticed the weight difference, but the speed, control, and responsiveness, was something quite obvious especially on out of the saddle climbs, fast cornering, descents, and overall feel for the road.

Performance of the Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35

I’d have to guess that I’ve put about 400-500 miles on these at this point in time, and have not experienced any issues. They are still as ‘true’ as the day I got them. I know weight of rider, weight of bike, ability, and positioning all play a role in the rolling resistance and speed, but on longer descents I seem to be rolling faster than my peleton mates. The descending has been super sweet as the rim shaping delivers a light weight high-performance set of wheels that are quite aerodynamic. I’d like to think that this wheelset and tires play a big role in giving me a bit of an edge. I suppose now I need to work on my conditioning a bit more to make it really count, but I can’t complain about the advantage these Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 wheels have already provided. Generally speaking, Roval wheels are made to be lightweight. Hence, they may not be quite suitable for heavier riders who would require a design with sturdiness in mind. I’m 6’-0”, 165 lbs. for reference. Also, keep in mind as to where you want to take these wheels. Keeping them on the road is probably a good idea, as they might not fare well on a more rugged surface. I do a little bit of exploring when out and about in the mountains, so I do hit the occasional trail, fire, or logging road. I tried to minimize dirt contact while riding these Specialized Roval wheels, but managed to find myself out on the plains rolling over a hard compact dirt road for numerous miles. I encountered no issues, but took extra care to steer clear of any rocks, ruts, and potholes. The handling and cornering are really something else. This is where I noticed a definite edge as the wider internal rim provides a better tire profile. This gives me a bit of extra confidence as I was descending and cornering. I could really tell the difference when taking a line through a particular corner I’ve taken a hundred times before. I could dive into it without having to worry about overshooting it. On top of that, the angle I was able to lay the bike down was more aggressive as the slightly wider rims and tires kept the rubber and tarmac working together in seamless precision. I would consider the Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 my all around riding and training wheels. Roval does make wheelsets that would be up for consideration if you want to take that next step into racing. Generally speaking, their carbon CLX line will give you a slight bit of weight savings and aerodynamic advantage, but the price point will quickly hit that $2000 mark.   I still find it hard to swallow to buy a set of wheels that would cost more than some bikes. Granted, I am not mixing it up with the CAT 2 and 3 riders at my local Crits, but have been able to train and ride with vigor on solo and large group rides. The Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35 were paired and tested with the Specialized Turbo Cotton tires. These are a low rolling resistance tire with extreme grip. Constructed with a very smooth and fast point of contact with the road, and a slight ribbed surface on the flanks for a bit of grip when cornering. I went through some unexpected wet corners once (irrigation run off), and my tires stuck like glue. These tires are definitely built for speed and competition, but with the cotton casing a level of comfort is added to provide some road, bump, and shock absorption. And unbeknownst to them, the yellow tires made for a nice match to my bike as I have yellow lettering on my Ti frame. I usually go with black, but this works great.

Specialized Turbo Cotton Tire

Final Thoughts on The Specialized Roval Rapide SL 35

I have really enjoyed putting these wheels through its paces (or pace lines if you prefer), and have yet to find any real weak spots or negative factors to prevent me from doing my thing on the bike. Time will tell how they fair, but the Specialized Roval Rapide are a real good bang for your buck. A great all around set of wheels that cater to many a rider out there. Lightweight and aerodynamic has provided that extra little speed. A slightly wider rim allows for added control and confidence in handling especially in the corners and on descents. If you are in the market for some new wheels, I would highly recommend taking a look at these Roval Wheels from Specialized.

MSRP: $550

For all the latest and greatest information on these and other fine road wheelsets please visit: www.specialized.com

Niels Oomkes: I am a multi-sport endurance athlete, and love to get out into the great outdoors to push the body to its limit. Most of my weekend expeditions, adventures, trips, or vacations are planned around running, biking, snowshoeing, camping, or anything else that will allow me to enjoy nature's exquisite beauty.
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