An incredibly light wheelset designed to transition effortlessly between tarmac and gravel roads
- Beautifully designed wheels
- Despite stiffness, wheels are incredibly light and easy to control on myriad terrain types
- Compatible with tyre sizes ranging from 28-42mm (frame-clearance dependent)
- Glossy decals prone to surface scratches
- Not cheap
Roval Components, a subsidiary of Specialized, has gone all out on its new Terra wheel portfolio, pitching them squarely at the ever-growing gravel market. The range comprises a brace of options – the Terra CLX and CLX Evo – designed to cater for both speed merchants and gnar lovers of dirt-road riding, with the CLX Evo coming in both 700c and 650b guises.
Roval sent us a DeAnima Soul gravel bike tricked out in the lighter of the two Terra options to test, the Terra CLX gravel wheels. While not as wide as the Evo, the CLX wheels have been designed to play nicely with rubber ranging from 28-42mm. A 25mm internal width and the ability to accommodate lower pressures means improved ride comfort and performance levels across the board.
Appreciably versatile in application and design, the Terra CLX wheels can be paired with your road bike, cyclo-cross bike or gravel grinder. Our wheelset came wrapped in Specialized Trigger Pro 38c rubber that supplied a stellar mix of rolling speed and grip.
Design and aesthetics
While Roval has been known to deliver hoops with bold and expressive decal designs over the years – particularly when it comes to deep-dish road wheel offerings – the Terra wheels take on a far more understated appearance, which favours functionality over visual allure. That said, they're still impressively bold and characterful, the mottled carbon-fibre texture and gloss-black decals providing a stealth-like appearance.
Contrary to contemporary wheel-design trends, Roval has purposely eschewed the hookless rim design architecture for a conventional hook set-up aimed at improving tyre security across the sizing spectrum at any pressure. Given the harsh and often treacherous surfaces riders often traverse, Roval has ensured that the lightweight Terra wheels are also resilient enough to deal with the rigours associated with mountain biking.
To achieve this, they've undergone the same benchmarking and impact-testing protocol as the firm's MTB-specific systems, to ensure the correct layup and formula. The result? Mountain-bike wheel performance and strength at road-wheel weight.
Specification and build
With an internal rim width of 25mm, the Terra CLX wheels can accommodate a broad spread of tyre options – in this case, rubber ranging from 28-42mm, allowing you to tailor your set-up and ride quality for any occasion.
The 32mm-deep tubeless rims are built using disc-specific Roval AFD hubs and straight-pull DT Swiss Aerolite bladed spokes in a 2:1 lacing pattern. The hubs feature DT Swiss' new 180 EXP internals – comprising a 36-tooth star-ratchet with 10 degrees of engagement – which has increased hub stiffness by 15 per cent and helped keep weight to a minimum. The hubs support 12mm x 100mm thru-axles on the front and 12 x 142mm thru-axles on the rear.
A complete Terra CLX wheelset tips the scales at a scant 1,296g including its tubeless system (rim tape and valves). Not only is this incredibly light by gravel/mountain-bike standards, but it's also lighter than most high-end road bike wheelsets. Whether this will have any impact on its longterm reliability and durability in an off-road environment, only time will tell, but Roval reckons it has struck the perfect balance as far as the strength-to-weight ratio is concerned.
Performance, ride and handling
Our wheelset came shod with 38c Specialized Trigger Pro tyres, which sit in the upper range of the rim's maximum tyre width limit. During the course of our testing period, we racked up bang-on 450km – 349km of which were done on gravel roads and trails. Despite their lightweight properties, the Terra CLX wheels are very stiff, and while this can translate into a jarring ride quality at times – particularly on more abrasive gravel roads – pressure experimentation can help quell low-frequency vibrations.
In that respect, we ran the tyre pressures as low as 20 psi towards the latter part of our testing, which drastically improved outright speed and cornering grip. However, we found the perfect compromise between comfort and performance came at psi readings of 21 front/25 rear for this 62kg rider. Going any lower – which I did try – can have an adverse effect on performance as the tyres tend to move around on the rims, increasing the likelihood of burping.
And what of the wheels' on-road performance? Well, despite the rather chunky Spesh tyres, the wheels roll impressively well on tarmac when pumped to 70 psi. In fact, out on the road, you wouldn't know you're riding a set of gravel wheels, such is the alacrity with which they roll and respond to pedal inputs. Of course, some of this was partly owing to the incredibly light and stiff DeAnima Soul gravel bike, which rides very much like a road bike in many respects but also due to the semi-aero 32mm-deep rim profile.
While the wheels tend to behave in a moderate breeze, things can get a little unnerving when exposed to crosswinds as they've got a propensity to move around, despite the relatively shallow rim profile. This, however, is more a result of the Trigger tyres, which have increased the wheel's total height to a profile you'd expect to see on a 45mm section wheel/28c tyre combo.
It's incredibly difficult to critique a wheelset because the overall performance can be skewed by many external factors. Now throw in something that blurs the lines between multiple-terrain types and things get even more complicated. Despite this, however, these Rovals are hard to fault.
Not only are they achingly beautiful, but they're also incredibly well rounded and can be manipulated to dismiss anything you throw at them through tyre pressure experimentation, be it tarmac, gravel or even singletrack. As an all-round option, nothing we've tested thus far comes close to the value and versatility they provide in spades.
The Roval Terra CLXs, then, are neither a gravel- nor road-wheel-specific wheel option. Instead, they combine lightweight performance with an ultra-stiff chassis for use across every imaginable discipline. As a wheelset upgrade, the Terra CLX offer speed, cornering precision and a tailorable ride quality that will not just make you faster but improve the way you ride, especially on unpredictable surfaces like gravel.
At £1,850, the Roval Terra CLX wheels might not be cheap, but they're backed by a lifetime warranty and two-year, no-fault crash replacement policy. A worthy upgrade in our books.
Tech spec: Roval Terra CLX
- Material: Carbon
- Depth: 32mm
- Brake: Disc
- Tyre format: Tubeless and clincher (28-42mm)
- Rim width (internal): 25mm
- Spoke count: 21 front/24 rear
- Weight: 1,296g
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