Luxury Bikes

(Review) Roval Traverse HD wheelset

Late this fall and during an unusually warm winter, I spent time aboard my personal bike, a Santa Cruz Nomad, on a completely redesigned Roval carbon fiber wheelset – specifically the Traverse HD. The wheels are available in two price ranges and can be purchased laced with either DT Swiss 240 hubs or the cheaper 350 hub set. When the samples were sent out, Roval’s 240 rear wheels were no longer in stock and I had the somewhat unconventional request for a mixed wheel size (29″ front / 27.5″ rear). Eager to get me on a few wheels, Roval sent me a 240 front wheel and a 350 rear wheel. It’s worth briefly pointing out that the former features knife spokes and the latter features round spokes – both are standard J-bend spokes. While this is a somewhat comparable review, it also puts me in a unique position to gain insight into the value that the two different offerings provide.


  • Carbon fiber rim
  • 28 holes front and back
  • 2-cross lacing at the front and back
  • Zero bead hook design
  • 40mm outer diameter / 30mm inner diameter / 24mm depth
  • “Flat top” profile for fewer crushing areas
  • Threaded valve stem compatible with tire inserts
  • Weight: 1,737 grams (our scale, mixed wheels) 240 front wheel / 350 rear hub
  • Price (USD): $2,300 (240) / $1,500 (350) … *currently significantly cheaper*

The biggest part of the story here is that the rims underwent a complete redesign, with increased compliance being the main goal. The rim profile was therefore radically reshaped. It features a lower profile, and although it still remains asymmetrical, you can see that the bead walls flare significantly away from the center of the rim.

Speaking of beaded walls, you can see how wide they are above. Each side is about 5 mm thick – in technical jargon this is called a “flat top”. The wider (read: duller) surface is less likely to cut through a tire, reducing the likelihood of a flat tire on the trail.

Another important part of the story is the threaded valve stem, which is tightened internally with a 5mm Allen key.

An aluminum insert with a strong thread is impregnated directly into the mold.

A disadvantage of this approach is that it can become dislodged. Unfortunately, to tighten it you have to remove the tire or at least break off the bead on one side.

The DT Swiss 240 hub is a lightweight classic and has no access material, but is designed for long-distance use. Note the “Torque Caps” installed for a RockShox fork.

At the rear is the more economical and slightly heavier DT-Swiss 350 hub. It works with their newly updated star ratchet system. You can still remove the driver without tools and re-lube/clean the internals. However, these days if you need to completely remove the inner drive ring you will need a special tool.

Set up

When I started assembling this wheelset, I immediately wondered how it would compare to my current personal benchmark – Crankbrothers’ Synthesis E11 Carbon rim, a rim that I believe offers the perfect balance of stiffness and compliance . Setup was a breeze, although I think the tire fitment was a bit spot on. This means you’ll need a bit of experience and extra strength to install them, but they’re far less likely to fly off the rim and they’re easy to put on with a floor pump.

Specialized was kind enough to include a set of Cannibals – a tire I hadn’t ridden before but which has already proven itself on the DH track, under the head behind him: Loic Bruni. As a quick side note, my first ride with these tires caused me to completely rethink my standard tire choice on the local terrain as I was completely blown away by the performance on the loose rocks over firm terrain that “graces” my local trails. Cannibals are the real deal…enough that I realized I shouldn’t let its performance affect my review of the Roval HD wheelset, so I made a point of spending some time with the tires before testing too that I drove. One final side note before we get to the meat of the review: I initially scoffed at the threaded valve idea, incorrectly assuming it was proprietary. If a valve is damaged while driving, you can install any commercially available tubeless valve in these rims if necessary.

On the path

After spending some time getting used to these bikes and figuring out their general behavior on cruisy flow trails, I was keen to find some rougher, more rugged sections of trail to test their capabilities. Much of the local routes here in northern Idaho are shared by motorcyclists, and as such there is no shortage of painfully sharp basalt rocks that can be easily mined and dug out of the dirt using 250+ pound machines. Diving into some of the more difficult sections of the track revealed a rim that is actually significantly more compliant than its predecessor. In fact, there were a few moments – especially at the front – where I crashed my bike into some larger rocks at an awkward angle, and I was surprised not only that I didn’t have any damage or a puncture, but also that I wasn’t actually taken offline. The steering wheel’s response was very muted and quiet… I’d even say kind of dead. Many other carbon fiber rims that are too stiff can have a sticky, erratic feel that can deflect impacts and throw you off balance rather than them to absorb and let you roll forward. That wasn’t the case with the Roval HDs, and this wheelset not only handled larger impacts excellently, but also did an excellent job of dampening high-frequency chatter and medium-sized rattle.

To make a comparison with the Synthesis E11 carbon wheelset, the Rovals have very similar driving dynamics. I’m not exactly a human testing lab and don’t have any lab data to compare flex and compliance between the two rims, but on the trail they feel pretty similar in the rough sections – which is good! On a side note: One aspect I like best about the Rovals is that they roll on DT Swiss hubs, as opposed to Industry Nine Hydras. Although the Hydras are very good hubs, they drive up the cost and have such a quick engagement that you feel a little more pedal feedback with them – especially on bikes that are kinematically predisposed to them.

When it comes to ride quality outside of the more challenging sections of the trail, I found the new Traverse HD to be excellent all around. Mostly it’s about cornering feel, but whether I was riding off camber sections into rutted little berms or heavily sculpted bike park style corners, the ride quality was admirable… not too stiff and not too flexible – rather, they’re just right . When you push on them, they give way, but don’t bounce much. One final aspect worth mentioning is that the Rovals are significantly lighter in weight than most of their competitors. Overall, the 240 version weighs around 150-200 grams less than comparable alternatives. You notice this on long days in the saddle uphill.

In total

I usually spend a lot of time discussing value in my test summaries, so here we go… Looking at the 30,000 foot view of MTB wheels, it’s become more difficult to judge the cost of carbon fiber wheels lately. Justifiable wheelsets, as the quality (and ride quality) of aluminum complete wheelsets has improved enormously. With this in mind, Roval’s price-conscious offerings have historically stood out $850 Traverse AL seems to be no exception. To assess the value of the 240 wheelsets compared to the 350 wheelsets, I think the 350s are the way to go. While I don’t think the lighter weight of the 240 hubset alone justifies an $800 premium, you do gain a bit more compliance and lose some additional weight with the knife spokes. Still, I think the rims themselves are the crown jewel of this wheel system, offering a good balance between stiffness and compliance, so for me the 350 version offers better value for money.

No matter where your budget stands, Roval offers a lifetime warranty and a two-year crash replacement policy on both options. Whether you’re looking for a complete aftermarket carbon fiber wheelset with an “Enduro” rating or you’re looking to assess relative performance as an OEM specification for a new Specialized bike, the Roval HDs are excellent wheels that are worth considering. I definitely won’t be taking them off my personal bike any time soon…

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