Tubeless Roval Rapide CLX wheels spotted at Opening Weekend

A close up of Roval Rapide CLX wheels that are tubeless
A close up of Roval Rapide CLX wheels that are tubeless (Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Cyclingnews has spotted an all-new pair of Roval wheels on the bikes of various riders from QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Bora-Hansgrohe and Team TotalEnergies at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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.

A close up of Roval Rapide CLX wheels that are tubeless

Thanks to this label, we can gather that Roval is set to continue its charge on tubeless technology (Image credit: Josh Croxton)

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.

A close up of Roval Rapide CLX wheels that are tubeless

New S-Works tyres are devoid of any branding beyond this silver patch (Image credit: Josh Croxton)

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