Back in early March, I spent a few days riding the new Roval Control SL Team Issue wheelset at Rancho Cacachilas, an eco-friendly adventure ranch located in Mexico’s Baja peninsula.
As Roval’s lightest wheels ever produced, the Control SL Team Issues’ lack of weight was immediately noticeable and made my bike accelerate like a drag racer. What’s equally impressive is that the wheels held up solidly through the trip. No one ever pinched or burped a tire, and no one caused any notable damage to their wheels.
In this article we’ll discuss how the limited edition Team Issue wheels performed on the trails, but be sure to check out my other article covering the specs and details of the Control SL Team Issue wheelset.
A featherweight feeling…
As Roval’s parent company, Specialized provided the bikes for our demo rides. We were set up on 29” S-Works Epics, which have 100mm rear travel and run 120mm forks. These bikes are more XC-focused than what I usually ride, but ideal for the 60+ kms of cross country trails at Rancho Cacachilas.
The most noticeable thing that set these wheels apart from other sets I’ve ridden is their weight. At a mind-blowing 1240g per pair, the 29” Control SL Team Issue wheelset is the lightest set Roval has ever produced (and that includes their road wheels).
As soon as we started riding, as I was still getting familiar with the Epic, I accidentally lifted my front wheel in the first steep corner we tackled. That featherweight wheel lifted up so easily I laughed out loud!
If I wasn’t looking down at the moment, I could have nearly looped out before even noticing I was poppin’ a wheelie. As I settled in on the bike I had no further trouble keeping both wheels on the ground, but this initial bobble emphasized to me how crazy light these wheels feel.
Acceleration is the other area where the wheels’ low weight pays dividends. The first few cranks on every ride told the tale – Normal pedalling efforts produced quicker acceleration than I usually achieve, and it was obvious during continuous cranking that it takes a little less power to keep these wheels spinning versus a heavier set.
I had to do one ride on the previous Control SL wheelset due to a faulty tubeless valve, and when I got the Team Issue wheels back on the next day, I could immediately tell they were lighter and snappier.
We did a fair bit of climbing on this trip, and bursting uphill was a treat with the Control SL Team Issue wheels. I’ll admit the Epics we rode were pretty light overall, but I still found the wheels made cranking away easier than it could have been. So yes, these wheels feel every bit as light as the numbers suggest, which has obvious advantages… but what about ride qualities?
…with heavyweight trail performance
Roval wanted to soften the ride from the standard (and current) Control SL wheelsets, so they made them 50% more vertically compliant than the previous version.
We didn’t have a ton of rough terrain to play with, but there were some armoured and loose rocky sections on the ranch’s trails. I did notice a comfortable degree of compliance when pounding over rocks.
It didn’t feel like every bump was transferring directly through the bike and into my grips, it seemed there was a hint of softness to the ride. This kept me from feeling beat-up after our long rides, and helped keep my tires glued to chattery terrain.
While we didn’t get a chance to do much hard berm railing (the baja’s switchback corners are often tight and a bit loose) I couldn’t detect any lack of lateral stiffness in the wheels.
We did ride some nicely meandering trails where you’re constantly transitioning from left to right, and I never felt any squirming or flex from below. One thing I love to do is work the terrain, pumping rollers and whoops for all they’re worth. The Team Issue wheels are definitely stiff enough to rocket you off the backsides with a little extra gusto.
The Epics we rode were set up with 29×2.3” Specialized Ground Control tires, and the 29mm internal width of the Control SL rims gave them a generous amount of surface area and traction. Since the trails weren’t too rough I ran mine at 24-25psi, but likely could have gotten away with less. The Control SL rim was designed to resist pinch-flatting (read our launch story for more details on that), and nobody on this trip pinched or burped a tire at any point.
The mounted tires’ profile made for very smooth cornering transitions. On those left-to-right winding trails the tires leaned side to side with a consistent, predictable feel. As MTB riders of all disciplines are re-evaluating how much good traction is worth, I guess it’s not surprising that these XC wheels handled pretty similarly to my personal bike’s enduro wheels.
If you like loud hubs, you’ll love the Team Issues’ Roval rear hub. Its 54t DT Swiss EXP freehub just buzzes down the trail! I found engagement to be quick, but I wasn’t blown away. The wheels are snappy off the line, but there’s still a bit of wiggle in the crank before you’re rolling.
While we didn’t have the gnarliest, roughest terrain to test on, not one rider on this trip had any issues with the Team Issue wheelsets… and some of my fellow writers are pretty aggressive, fast riders! Roval has managed to make an extremely light set of wheels that are also wide, tuned for ride compliance, have thick sidewalls that help resist pinch flats, and feel tough enough to handle the rigors of modern XC riding.
The Control SL Team Issue wheelsets sell for $2,750, with a double wheel bag included. A limited edition run of 600 pairs with special Team Issue graphics are available online and through Roval dealers as of today. The wheels are covered by both a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects, and Roval’s “**It Happens” no-fault crash replacement policy (USA only).