Normally, I let the MTB/XC news pass me, and thereby you, alone. After all, while I end up living dangerously at times, it’s certainly not the intent when I get on the bike. But, after mistaking “XC” for “CX” when I ran the initial is-this-worth-my-time algorithm, I was already deep enough in the release when I realized my mistake, that it would have been a moral failing to abandon – and TBH, I’m both thrilled and saddened that I didn’t. Apparently, cyclists and whatever people who ride MTB call themselves, can unite around the same cause. Who knew?
That might not be a complete sentence, or paragraph even, but it’s an accomplishment worth annoying the English teachers in the crowd. Yes, this is a complete wheelset, for a MTB, that is 1240g in either SRAM or Shimano spec. You will, of course, pay handsomely for it, $2500 to be exactly, but with DT Swiss 180 EXP internals, ceramic bearings, and a fancy new hub body around it, Roval isn’t skimping on the non-rim hardware either. Speaking of the rim; there’s a lot of neat in the redesigned rim vs. the previous setup too: asymmetric design (stiffer and potentially more durable), better pinch flat protection (claimed), and a wider internal channel (increase volume -> + comfort + control). But that’s just the summary, more below…
Whether the name of the game is World Cup XC racing, racking up personal KOMs, or bagging peaks and backcountry exploration, it’s fair to say that the game is being played differently these days. Light weight is still a top priority, but the demands on today’s XC wheels are becoming more diverse as riders venture into new territory.Elite level XC racing now features terrain that guarantees a high pucker-factor and pushes equipment to its limits. Modern XC bikes are being designed with more aggressive geometry and suspension that makes them an alluring choice for going fast in rough terrain. And riders everywhere are looking for equipment that does more than just survive the quest for progression; they are looking for gear that enhances the performance that modern riding demands.To meet these demands and help riders unlock new levels of performance when challenging themselves on climbs and descents, Roval is introducing Control SL. Class-leading weight. Unprecedented strength and stability. And a hero of a rim that guarantees fewer pinch flats than whatever you are currently riding.
From axle to rim, the new Control SL is an exercise in radical design, no-holds-barred engineering, and state of the art production.
Weight is always going to be a paramount concern when it comes to XC wheels. Every single gram counts when hunting podiums or personal bests. Rotational mass is the enemy of speed; it dulls handling and saps precious watts. Being heavier than other light wheels doesn’t win races. Being the lightest might. At 1240 grams per set, the Control SL is one of the lightest mountain bike wheelsets on the market. It’s also lighter than most road wheelsets.
Durability matters. Having the lightest wheels used to be good enough for bragging rights, no matter how questionable the longevity. Those days are gone. The lightest wheels on the market aren’t worth much if they can’t deliver you to the finish line, or if they leave you stranded miles from the nearest road. Through rigorous prototyping and a grueling series of testing protocols — both in the test lab and in the real world — Control SL delivers toughness and durability exceeding that of many much heavier all-mountain wheels.
Ride quality is tailored to the demands of modern XC and trail riding. The shape of the Control SL rim is carefully designed and laid up to deliver excellent precision when taking rough lines, yet vertically compliant enough to deaden trail buzz and deliver a smooth ride. This ensures razor-sharp handling without harsh side effects, ultimately reducing rider fatigue and improving lap times.
Pinch protection is something that most people don’t talk about. Meanwhile, the single biggest time loss in XC racing is due to flat tires. So it makes sense that if the goal is getting from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible, then something should be done to reduce the risk of flat tires.
To reduce pinching, Roval re-envisioned bead wall profiles, iterating through multiple shapes en route to the unique final shape. The Control SL rim top is 4mm wide; this width and carefully designed shape means that it takes 22% more force to pinch a tire than on prior editions. Riders can now ride harder, on lighter tires, at lower pressures, with fewer flats. Beyond any talk of gains made by less rotational weight or improved ride quality, reducing the risk of flat tires GUARANTEES a faster wheel.
- Fewer flats: 4mm flat-top requires 22% greater force to pinch-flat
- Greater durability: System approach of combining asymmetrical rim with custom-designed hubs which help balance spoke tension and allow single spoke length assembly
- More control: 29mm internal rim-width reduces squirm and increases tire volume
- Better ride: Double the vertical compliance with 29% more impact strength keeps you on your line while maintaining grip and speed
A Proven Winner
1240 grams is seriously light when talking about mountain bike wheelsets– the kind of weight that XC racers dream about. But light weight alone is no longer enough. So Roval sweated the details and engineered the new Control SL wheels to be sharp handling, smooth-riding, extra durable, and less likely to pinch-flat your tires, in addition to being some of the lightest weight production wheels on the planet.
No punches were pulled. These wheels use the lightest hubs Roval has ever made, period, along with a rim that has been designed from the ground up to meet the rigors of modern high-performance XC riding and racing.
Control SL wheels have proven themselves under pro riders, racking up wins in 2019 while flying under the radar, and recently helping the Specialized women’s XC team dominate the Swiss Epic in August 2020.
CONTROL SL / TEAM HUB
To build the lightest wheels, you have to consider every single component that goes into those wheels. The hubs on the Control SL Team Issue are a prime example of that detailed scrutiny. They are the lightest Roval hubs ever made. Straight pull spokes use slightly less material than j-bends, so they were used here. The spoke holes are drilled at a precise angle to match the rims directly without any undue stress.
Up front, the entire new Control SL hub weighs less than the hubshell alone on the prior version This was another exercise in re-envisioning, with Roval engineers removing the inner axle and slimming the hub while moving bearing and spoke placement to optimize stiffness with minimal mass. In the rear hub, the freehub utilizes DT Swiss’ EXP mechanism with 36t engagement and fewer moving parts than before. This delivers more stiffness, less drag and better service life, ensuring that these wheels deliver strength and durability without any excess flab.
First introduced in a SRAM XD/6-bolt configuration on the LTD Team edition of these wheels in May 2020, Roval now extends compatibility to Centerlock rotor fans. Centerlock hubs ship with a Shimano Microspline-compatible EXP freehub.
Asymmetry begets symmetry
The asymmetric design of the Control SL rim offers some subtle but important benefits. With the spokes offset to one side of the rim, this allows Roval to reduce the spoke offset that usually occurs at the hub. In turn, this means we can generate greater bracing angles for the spokes between the hub and rim, while also minimizing the spoke tension differential that often occurs between drive and non-drive side spokes. The end result is a wheel that is stronger, laterally stiffer, more durable, and in the case of the Control SL, allows Roval to utilize the same length spoke throughout the whole wheelset– yet another benefit in serviceability down the line.
Design. Prototype. Test. Test again. Every step of the Control SL design and prototyping process leads to this. Field testing included a deep pool of critical and talented riders around the globe, who punished our work in all conditions, from World Cup races to crushing backcountry miles. They made it their mission to sniff out weaknesses and expose them. Sometimes they sent us back to the drawing board, and we thanked them every time. Control SL wheels also endured thousands of hours of gruelling lab tests—simulating exaggerated real-world forces – generating relevant data regarding strength, stiffness, weight, and other critical measures. We compared the test data to all the relevant wheels we’ve made in the past, and to every respected wheel in the market.
The result? Control wheels excel in both qualitative and quantitative test results.
Control SL By the Numbers:
- 1240g (SRAM XD / 6-bolt) 1240g (Shimano Microspline/ Centerlock)
- Roval Control Hubs, DT Swiss 180 EXP Hub Internals, 36t Star Ratchets
- 29mm inner rim width
- 22% More pinch-resistant than prior edition Control SL rims
- Both hub variants include regular and Torque Cap hub endcaps
- System Weight Limit: 275lbs / 125kg
- MSRP: $2500