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Roval Alpinist CLX Review

A climbing wheelset that impresses all around—especially on descents

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When you think of ultralight climbing wheels, what comes to mind? Über-fragile wheels that compromise on ride quality to chase the lowest weight possible? That’s unfortunately often the case. But Roval challenges those norms with the Alpinist CLX, the lightest road clincher wheels that the brand has ever made—which do a whole lot more than just climb.

The Details

You’re probably wondering how light lightest Roval clincher ever is. Try 1,248 grams per set (562g front and 686g rear)…for wheels with mid-profile 33mm aero rims. To make a wheelset this light, complete control is required. Every single component needs to be made for one another as a total wheel system to remove any variables. In practice, this means that by designing the hub and specifying the exact spokes, nipples and lacing pattern used, Roval can drill spoke holes at the precise angle needed, reducing stress at the rim and allowing the bare minimum amount of material to be used. A complex, precise carbon fiber layup schedule ensures a strong, light rim.

Just as important as the rims are the hubs. The Roval Aero Flange hubs are, as their name implies, aerodynamically optimized to contribute to a fast experience on the flats. Wide bracing angles increase the strength of the wheels while also helping shave further weight from the spokes. The ever-reliable DT Swiss EXP freehub internals also help reduce weight while adding strength.

One feature that is conspicuously missing for a modern wheelset is tubeless compatibility, which Roval eschewed in pursuit of the lowest weight possible and higher stiffness. The design team felt that, when combined with a high end set of tubed clinchers with low rolling resistance, you get a wheelset with super quick acceleration and excellent overall ride quality. And at this moment, Roval feels that the benefits of lower weight are better for high performance wheels and outweigh the benefits of tubeless. If you absolutely have to have tubeless tires, this won’t be the wheelset for you.

Coming in at $2,500 ($1,100 front, $1,400 rear), these wheels are priced like high end race wheels, although at the same time are far from the most expensive race/performance wheels out there. The lifetime warranty and generous two-year crash replacement policy give you a couple extra reasons to consider these wheels.

The Ride

That a 1200-gram-and-change wheelset climbs well and feels light should come as no shock. But we were still pleasantly surprised by how light and snappy the Alpinist CLX wheels are on the climbs. They came to life on an epic 111-mile, 11,400-foot, seven-hour day hitting seven climbs. Whether we rode seated powering through the corners, or out of the saddle getting over the steep pitches, the wheels put on a show. They elevated the ride to another level, but simultaneously felt like they weren’t even present, such is the effect of wheels this light.

But the true testament to the Roval ALpinist CLX disc’s exceptional performance comes not from the hours spent climbing with them, but the hours in between, spent riding flat roads and descending.

The 33mm depth rims are still fast along the flats in between climbs, never feeling off the pace. And they’re almost immune to the effects of crosswinds. To achieve this, “the location of the widest point, rim profile, and the overall rim width need to work together with the tire to influence stability,” says Rival category leader Chris Wehan. “The width alone can give better yawing ability, but it does not necessarily guarantee stability. It’s the combination of the aforementioned factors.”

Despite their incredibly low weight, the Alpinist CLX wheels stay composed under stress. They can be ridden just as hard down a steep, technical climb as they can up the same climb. Under heavy threshold braking, the wheels never felt loose in our testing. We’re not referring to tire grip, but the looseness that a light or poorly built wheel can experience under heavy braking or hard cornering—a looseness that causes the bike to shudder under braking or come off line in the corner. The wheels instill the confidence needed to rip down epic descents.

With their performance on technical descents, these wheels really deserve the name “Alpinist,” since no great alpine ascent is complete without a descent. 

Specs:

Weight: 562g Front and 686g Rear = 1,248g

Price: $2,500 ($1,100 front, $1,400 rear)

Rim: 33mm Depth, 21mm internal Width

Front Hub: Roval AeroFlange Disc Center Lock, Prem. Sealed Cartridge Bearings, 100x12mm thru-axle compatible

Rear Hub: Roval AeroFlange Disc Center Lock, Prem. Sealed Cartridge Bearings, DT Swiss Ratchet EXP-36t, 142x12mm thru-axle compatible

Spoke Count: 21 front, 24 rear

rovalcomponents.com