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Specialized Roval Rapide SL 45 Wheelset

Review: Specialized Roval Rapide SL 45 Wheelset

scottmares's picture

We Liked

The Roval Rapide SL 45 wheelset is designed with aerodynamics in mind. And these wheels are definitely aerodynamic. With a 45mm rim depth and a 20/24 spoke count, the SL 45's are stiff, strong and slice right through the wind which gives you an edge when sprinting into the wind during your bell lap.

One thing that everyone will notice is the eye-catching graphics that Specialized designed for this wheelset. The white decals on the 45mm aerodynamic rim are bold stripes that incorporate the Roval logo. Specialized added a unique twist with painting some of the SL 45 spokes red. So the wheels look really cool when your blazing down the straight away to the finish line. As the rider, when you look down, you will see a flutter of red spokes mixed in with the rest of the black spokes. Guaranteed, post-race festivities will have folks checking out your bike to see who made these beautiful wheels.

After looking over the rim, the hubs will catch your eye next. Especially the front hub, which has a low profile with carbon main body and red painted outer cups. Pretty pimpin'! The rear hub is made out of aluminum and is also painted red to match the front hub and works with the entire design of the wheels.

What if you wanted to go from Campy to Shimano cassette or back? Well, it's really easy to switch out the cassette body on the SL 45's, which makes the serviceability on them really nice.

So the weight on the Rovals is not super light. However, when you do some comparison shopping you will find that they are right in there with the best of them. We compared the SL 45's to the Zipp 404 clinchers. When you look at the numbers you can see why we selected the SL 45 over the Zipp 404. The Zipp 404 has a 16/20 spoke count, weighs 1658g and has an average MSRP of $2,284.00. The Roval wheels are 20/24 spoke count, weigh 1595g and have a MSRP of $1,500.00. So that makes them $700 cheaper and 63g lighter. Oh and by the way you don't get free wheel bags with the Zipp wheels. You do get some really cool padded wheel bags with the Specialized Roval 45 SL wheelset.

Speaking of wheel bags, man these are some nice wheel bags! With the Roval SL 45 wheelset you get some extra heavy padded wheel bags! Not just the single layer cheap kind that you got from MAVIC back in the day. These are the heavy-duty padded wheel bags with interior pockets. When you buy a pair of Zipp 404's you have to pay for the wheel bags in addition to the cost of the wheels.

One thing to point out here is that the SL 45's are not as deep as a set of Zipp 404's and they are not as shallow as a set of 303's. They are in between the 2 sizes, which means that this single wheel has more applications than a 404 or a 303. This is why the Specialized Roval Rapide SL 45 wheelset shines.

The quick release skewers are another really nice feature. Specialized created skewers that are very light on the scales at 106g/pair. The quick releases are titanium and feel very feathery in the hand. So they are lite, but do they bite? Yes! During evaluation, we had no issues with wheel slippage at all when really putting the power down. Sprint after sprint after sprint, we could not pull the wheel out from the drop outs. So the skewers do their job very well.

When you get a set of the Specialized Roval SL 45 wheels, get ready for the compliments to start rolling in. We have had them for a while now and we still get them every time we are in a group.

We Didn't Like

There are tons of things to love about this wheelset and only a few things not to like. One of those things was the rim edge. It seems that there is a lip on the breaking surface and it has a edge to it, but you will only notice it if you put your finger on it. The rim is also a bit too tall, which makes getting a tire on and off quickly very challenging. While riding the Roval wheels, we had to change some flats and we even ended up pinching a few tubes. Even though its not critical, it would be nice if the wheels were UST ready. More companies are now making tubeless technology tires for road and off road use and that seems to be the direction things are headed.

The Final Say

If you are looking for an aerodynamic wheelset that will pull double duty on the road and in the mud, then the Specialized Roval SL 45 might be the wheelset for you. The Roval SL 45's are definitely fast, lighter and $700 cheaper than a set of Zipp 404 clinchers. They earned 5 cowbells because they are fast, cool looking, save you a boat load of money and you get a nice set of padded wheel bags!

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