The price tag will be hard to justify unless you simply have to have the best
While the Specialized Roval Traverse SL Fattie carbon, wide-rimmed 29er wheelset looks familiar, they’ve actually been completely redesigned for 2019.
Mountain bike bits are regularly updated to the point it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the changes!
With an almost £300 price hike, the top Rovals are now at the pricier end of carbon hoops, but extra cash is offset by a fresh hub and rim profile, and different carbon fibre, resin and lay ups. The hubs still use DT Swiss’ proven freehub ratchet system, but the shell is heavily machined with flange recesses so all spokes can be threaded from the inside out to improve triangulation (with the exception of the rear drive side). The wheels also lace with (identical length) J-bend spokes, rather than straight pull as previously, so are much easier to find.
A squared-off, shallow rim profile harks back to Specialized’s first Traverse rim in 2014. The lower depth improves tracking, and advances in carbon technology since have greatly improved durability and impact strength, albeit with a weight penalty. They’re still light, but these latest top-end Traverses are almost 170g a pair heavier than last years wheels.
The thread-the-same-side hub design appears to contort the spokes a bit close to the flanges, but I had zero issues with any loss of spoke tension or unwinding, and Spesh’s claims of calmness over rough ground are accurate; the Rovals are at the comfier, more conforming end of the spectrum compared to a chunk of carbon wheels recently tested.
DT’s 240 hub design has always been rock solid, but these SL’s often glitched and made some nasty noises due to poor ratchet engagement in cold, wet weather rides. I’m experienced enough to soft pedal when a hub’s playing up, but I’ve seen powerful riders blow up Specialized freehubs in the same scenario by ignoring warning signs and piling on power.
It’s unclear if Roval uses different or thicker freehub grease that’s less good in winter, but a ratchet clean out and re-lubrication cured the issue for me. It’s quick and easy, but not ideal on a £1600 wheel set.
Aside from this, the ride feel in terms of acceleration, cornering stiffness and overall balance is fantastic, with a real zip and liveliness and solidity through chunk and berms. The sub-1800g weight is low for an enduro-rated 29-er wheelset, but the SL’s arguably feel lighter still rolling along, even with a broad footprint and good tyre support.
Best compliment I can give is that these have stayed on my own rig when I have a lot of other carbon options, but the price tag being so high will be hard to justify unless you’re a total gear geek that simply has to have the best.