Specialized not only makes a huge variety of 29er bikes but they also make a full range of 29er wheels under the Roval name. 29erOnline has had the opportunity to spend time on 3 different sets this riding season; the Roval Control, Roval Control Trail, and Roval Traverse. We have been riding the Roval Control and Control Trail wheels for more than a full season. More recently, we have added a set of Roval Traverse wheels to or fleet. We can now review all three sets of wheels with full authority based on long term experience.
First up the Roval Control Wheels. The Control wheels are an XC wheel set. They have a generous weight limit at 240 pounds, and 32 hole, straight pull hubs with the highly reliable and excellent performing DT 240s internals. The rear is laced cross 3 and the front is cross 3 drive side, and radial disc side. The hubs come with everything you need to convert between 15qr and standard qr, including Specialized OS end caps that distribute more surface area to the fork drop outs for increased stiffness while still using a open drop out. The difference is noticeable and appreciated, especially teamed up with a RWS style ratcheting QR. The rear has end caps (included) that allow you to switch between a 142x12 and standard open drop out. In addition, Specialized includes QR levers to secure the wheels to standard open drop outs. These hubs have excellent response, are stiff, and have been very durable - awesome qualities for an aftermarket wheel set with a MSRP of $700.
The wheels are tubeless compatible and come taped and with valve cores. Specialized 2Bliss casing tires with this rim are as good and reliable as tubeless gets. The only item you need to purchase in addition to the tires is sealant. We use Stan's, mainly because it is readily available and works well. Out of the 3 wheelsets, we have only one wheel that has given us any problems with the tubeless tape used to seal the inner rim for use with sealant.
The Roval Control wheels weigh 1,680 grams. They have an external width of 24mm. This width is really best with 2.2 tires, or narrower. We have run a variety of tires and have settled on 2.1- 2.2 tires for our terrain as they provide the best mixture of speed and traction. If you ride 2.3 to 2.4 tires, we advise using one of the wider rimmed wheels like the Roval Control Trail or Traverse.
A few words on weight limits and riding style. The weight limit of 240 pounds is not a license to ride these wheels as a heavy duty wheel set - even if you come in well under 240. The 240 pound limit is for 240 pound riders that keep these wheels within their intended use; XC. XC is a style of riding based on finesse, riding smoothly, picking lines, and covering ground quickly and efficiently. Realistically, even the 29erOnline riders that come in well under 240 pounds don't ride this way. We are within the specified weight limit, but ride through rocks and like air time, although limited amounts of it. Generally, we pick fast lines rather than smooth ones and go fast into deep trail depressions with lots of roots and rocks. Eventually, we taco'd the Control front wheel and the rear has a bunch of dents and dings in the rim. In the end, our riding style does not match what Specialized intended for these wheels.
Who should buy these wheels? The rider who would like to ride these is a rider looking for a great balance between weight and value. The Roval Control rider picks the smoothest route, is light on his/her bike and rides XC trails.
In the end, we can't recommend them because of our experience with them as it relates to durability. Will you have the same experience? Probably not. If you are looking at them, the hubs are awesome, the rims are made to be light and ridden with finesse and a light hand. If you fit this description, keep researching, as our experience may be an exception.
This brings us to the Control Trail wheels. We have a hard season of riding under various riders on this wheel. They are scratched up and beat down. They have seen plenty of air time, rock gardens, crooked landings, rear wheel drifts, and are still plugging away.
Like the Control wheels, the Trail wheels use DT 240s hub internals. The front wheel can be converted from Standard drop outs using Specialized OS system of end caps (24 and 28) 15qr and 20mm. They have straight pull hubs laced 32 hole cross 3 rear and the front has cross 3 disc side and a radial drive side. The rear can convert to 142x12 and standard drop outs. This requires no tools. The internals of 240 hubs are easy to service. The hub has the buzz of a quality hub but it isn't so loud that it is annoying. The set weighs 1,800 grams
The rims are wider than the Control rims at 26mm. This allows the tires to have a closer square profile allowing for better traction and reliability when set up tubeless. Like the Controls, the Control Trails are tubeless ready with everything but the liquid sealant.
The Control Trail wheels, so far, seem to be just about perfect for my riding. They are stiff, strong enough for how I ride, but light enough to be lively during acceleration. They feel light and responsive. Best of all, they have been very reliable. The only thing I would like to see here is a different tubeless valve core. During initial set up, it takes more sealant to seal up the valve core interface to the rim. Not a huge deal, as, once it sets up, no more problems come up. It just seems the initial set up with round rubber seals at the rim is a bit easier to set up.
So far, the Control Trail wheel is my go to XC / Trail wheel. They do everything I want a wheel to do day in and day out at an relatively attainable price of $700. Who should buy these wheels? Any rider more looking for high performance wheels that let you ride day in and day out with peace of mind and minimal maintenance. Who shouldn't look at these wheels? New England aggressive riders looking for granite rollers and the most difficult lines on the trail. These are not free ride wheels or made for shuttle runs or lift service runs. I believe they would survive but the rider is rolling the dice at these types of riding.
The last wheel set of this group are the Roval Traverse. These are the Trail wheels designed to be ridden hard.They are still a Trail wheel, just with fewer boundaries than the already excellent Control Trail. Close in use? Yes. Still, the differences are noticeable. The Traverse shares the same features as the Control Trail, but with a slightly wider rim at 28 mm and a slightly heavier weight at 1,860 grams (a difference of 60 grams). The price is even less expensive at $650 a set. Tubeless compatibility is, again, excellent. The Traverse wheels have excellent stiffness but they ride slightly harsher because if it. They are a bit more responsive to pushing the bike into a drift. Control is accentuated. Any flex in the frame is quickly revealed. They are not as quick to accelerate - something that is felt on long steep climbs; not in the first mile, but as the climbing miles come on, the weight becomes more significant. Not sure how 60 grams make any difference but the weight is felt. maybe because more weight is at the rim ? Still, I feel this is a small price to pay for the reliability.
Who should buy these wheels? Aggressive trail riders looking for reliability. Yes, you will work a little harder on the way up than riders on the Control Trail wheels. The tradeoff is that the precision and confidence on the descents is noticeable. Heavier riders who frequent rocky, steep terrain with ledges will be best served by the Traverse wheelset. Riders who are aggressive in corners and pump rollers and corners will notice the stiffness that comes from the Traverse wheelset.
If you are looking for a dedicated wheelset for your bike that is compatible with most available axle standards, is reliable and very competitively priced for the number of features, both the Roval Control Trail and Traverse wheels are great choices that have served me and the testers well on a large variety of bikes, from hardtails to 130mm travel Trail bikes. I have no doubts they will do the same for the overwhelming majority of 29er riders out there.