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Specialized prototype carbon mountain bike wheels spotted

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Specialized factory team riders were spotted in the pits with new carbon-rimmed wheelsets.

Specialized factory team riders were spotted in the pits with new carbon-rimmed wheelsets.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.

The Roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Christophe Sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples. Chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.

Christophe Sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples. Chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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29" versions of Specialized's new carbon mountain bike wheels were mounted on Todd Wells' S-Works Stumpjumper HT 29.

29" versions of Specialized's new carbon mountain bike wheels were mounted on Todd Wells' S-Works Stumpjumper HT 29.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The front hub bears the usual Roval trademarks, including 2:1 spoke lacing, a carbon fiber center section, and straight-pull spokes.

The front hub bears the usual Roval trademarks, including 2:1 spoke lacing, a carbon fiber center section, and straight-pull spokes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells' matte-finish rims look a little fresher out of the mold.

Wells' matte-finish rims look a little fresher out of the mold.
(Image credit: James Huang)

Specialized factory team rider bikes were fitted with prototype carbon rims for this year's races at the Sea Otter Classic. Specialized global marketing manager Nic Sims wouldn't say much about the new wheels ("They're Project Black!") but to our eyes, they look like a composite version of the company's existing Roval aluminum models.

Outer rim profile is similar with a roughly U-shaped cross-section and a flat inner wall supporting externally accessible alloy nipples. Given the relatively short sidewalls, we're guessing these new rims are also tubeless-compatible (with tape and sealant) similar to the NoTubes-like system Roval currently uses for easy conversions.

The aluminum hubs look to be standard Roval fare with straight-pull spokes – laced in a 2:1 pattern up front for more even tension between the two sides – a carbon fiber center section up front, and interchangeable end caps to maximize surface area contact on compatible forks.

In spite of the carbon construction, we expect these to be lighter than their aluminum counterparts but not dramatically so as the alloy rims were already very light. However, we are also expecting more significant jumps in stiffness and durability when these are eventually officially announced – we're guessing later this summer when Specialized holds its 2011 global launch. Stay tuned.