It’s important to take any manufacture’s claims with a grain of salt; especially when it comes to bicycle kit. That said the new Roval Rapide CLX look very, very interesting due to their very different layouts front and back. What Roval has done is create a shallower (51mm), but massively wide (35mm) front wheel, and paired it with a more standard 30mm wide/60mm deep rear wheel. Claiming that this increases stability, which increases speed.
I certainly can believe the claim that, up to a point, stability = speed. I generally ride 65mm deep section aero wheels around here, and especially in the cross-winds it can be brutal keeping the bike going in the intended direction. It will be very interesting to see how these wheels test out in real conditions. Definitely something to watch.
This setup comes at a premium cost though, with the set running $2500. That’s not out-of-line with Roval’s normal pricing, or with its top-end competitors either, but still a significant outlay. It will be interesting to see if other wheel manufactures follow their lead.
They discovered that instability at the hands of wind gusts significantly reduces speed. At worst, this instability causes crashes. At best, instability causes you to slow down. A new development goal was established; reduce instability from wind gusts in order to increase speed. Spoiler alert; Rapides are 25% more stable than CLX50s.
The quest to increase stability lead them to examine human reaction time and how it intersects with aerodynamics and handling. The average human reaction time is between one and one-and-a-half seconds. That’s why short, sharp gusts have the greatest destabilizing effect. We tend to correct for these at exactly the wrong moment, after the gust has stopped. We slow down because these experiences are unpredictable and unnerving.