At first glance, the wheels appear to be the existing Rapide CLX wheels. However, a subtle label positioned next to the valve gives away the game, confirming the wheels as being tubeless compatible.
When Roval launched the Rapide CLX and Alpinist CLX wheels in 2020, the major headline was the wheels' incompatibility with tubeless tyres, which marked a shift in attitude from Roval and, by association, Specialized too. Roval had previously been unwavering in its belief that tubeless was the future for road tyres, and the Roval CLX 32, CLX 50 and CLX 64 were all tubeless compatible.
Specialized, meanwhile, had spent the prior year waxing lyrical about the benefits of tubeless tyres in marketing its Turbo RapidAir tyres, which it launched at the 2019 Tour de France.
However, both brands backtracked on this narrative heavily when those wheels were launched.
Speaking at the time of the launch, Ben Capron from Roval's Brand and Marketing team explained the brand's reasoning: "Most pro riders and team technical staff appreciate the ride quality, puncture sealing properties, and low rolling resistance of tubeless road tyres. The weight of complete tubeless systems is what they don't like."
According to Roval, the increased force put on a rim by a tubeless tyre requires extra material. The benefits of tubeless tyres, Roval claimed, aren't high enough to warrant the increased weight that this reinforcement creates.
For Specialized-sponsored teams, the subsequent switch to clincher tyres was far from unsuccessful, despite the associated puncture risks. Julian Alaphilippe gained the most airtime when he won stages of the delayed 2020 Tour de France, but perhaps more impressive was the Deceuninck-QuickStep team's commitment to using clinchers throughout the 2021 Spring Classics, including at the belated Paris-Roubaix.
"We recognize the potential of tubeless road tyres," Capron continued at launch. "For now the performance balance tips in favour of tube-type wheel/tyre systems for the performance road rider. We will continue working to realise the benefits of tubeless road systems while reducing the drawbacks."
True to his word, it appears Roval did indeed continue to work on tubeless and now believes the technology is at a place where the balance tips the other way. As a result, a large number of sponsored riders are testing the fruits of the brand's labour.
Unfortunately, aside from tubeless compatibility, questions remain as to the other specifications of the new wheels. Firstly, it's unclear whether Roval has adopted a hooked or hookless rim, although with a quoted max pressure of 110psi, we're going to assume they will be hooked, it's also unclear whether Roval has been able to maintain the weight that it claimed so important in the past.
One thing that is clear is that Specialized has a new pair of tyres on the way, too, since a pair of as-yet-unreleased S-Works tyres accompany the wheels. This S-Works branded rubber has been spotted in two colours - black and tan - with a silver background housing the S-Works logo near the valve.
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1