[Review] Roval Traverse HD Wheelset

Late this Fall and throughout an unusually warm Winter I’ve been spending time aboard my personal bike, a Santa Cruz Nomad, on a fully redesigned Roval carbon fiber wheelset – specifically the Traverse HD. Available at two price points, the wheels can be purchased laced to either DT Swiss 240 hubs or the more affordable 350 hubset. At the time that the samples went out, Roval was out of stock on the 240 rear wheels and I had the slightly unconventional request of a mixed wheel size (29″ front / 27.5″ rear). Eager to get me on some wheels, Roval sent out a 240 front and a 350 rear wheel. It’s worth quickly pointing out that the former is specced with bladed spokes and the latter with round spokes – both of which are standard J-bend. This makes for a slightly apples to oranges review but it also put me in the unique position to glean some insight into the value on tap with the two different offerings.


  • Carbon Fiber rim
  • 28 hole front and rear
  • 2-cross lacing front and rear
  • Zero bead hook design
  • 40mm external diameter / 30mm internal diameter / 24mm depth
  • “Flat Top” profile for reduced pinch flats
  • Threaded valve stem compatible with tire inserts
  • Weight: 1,737 grams (our scale, mixed wheels) 240 front / 350 rear hub
  • Price (USD): $2,300 (240) / $1,500 (350) … *currently on sale for substantially less*


The biggest part of the story here is that the rims have undergone a complete redesign, with increased compliance being the main goal. As such the rim profile has been radically reshaped. It features a lower profile and while still remaining asymmetrical, you can see that the bead walls flare out prominently away from the center of the rim.

Speaking of bead walls, above you can see how broad they are. Each side is about 5mm thick – in Specialized marketing speak this is called “Flat Top”. The broader (read: more blunt) surface is less apt to cut through a tire, and thus lowers the likelihood of suffering pinch flats on trail.

Another big part of the story here is the threaded valve stem, which is tightened internally via a 5mm allen key.

An aluminum insert with burly threads is impregnated right into the mold.

One downside to this approach is that it can come loose and to tighten it, unfortunately you’ll need to remove your tire, or at the very least, break the bead on one side.

A lightweight classic, the DT Swiss 240 hub features no access material but is built for the long haul. Note the “Torque Caps” installed for a RockShox fork.

Out back is the more economical and slightly heavier weight DT-Swiss 350 hub. It operates on their newly updated star ratchet system. You can still remove the driver and relube/clean the internals without any tools, but if you do need to completely remove the inner drive ring you will need a special tool nowadays.


When I first began installing this wheelset my immediate thought was wondering how they’d stack up against my current personal benchmark – the crankbrothers Synthesis E11 carbon, a rim that I think strikes the perfect balance between rigidity and compliance. The setup was a snap, although I do think that the tire fitment was on the slightly snug side. This means that you’ll need a bit of experience and extra muscle to install them, but they far less likely to blow off the rim and they’ll pop right on with a floor pump without a fuss.

Specialized was kind enough to include a set of Cannibals – a tire which I had not ridden prior, but has already proven its mettle on the DH circuit under the brains behind it: Loic Bruni. As a quick side note, my first ride on these tires had me completely rethinking my default tire choice on the local terra firma as I was utterly blown away by its performance on the loose rocks over hardpack terrain that “graces” my local trails. Cannibals are the real deal…enough so that I realized I should not let its performance taint my review of the Roval HD wheelset, so I made a point to spend some time on the tires I was riding prior to the review as well. One last side note before we get into the meat of the review…I initially scoffed at the idea of the threaded valve as I wrongly assumed it was proprietary. In the event that you should damage a valve while traveling, you can run any standard tubeless valve in these rims in a pinch.

On the trail

After some time getting used to these wheels and feeling out their general temperament on cruisy flow trails, I was eager to find some rougher, more ragged sections of trail to test their mettle. Much of the local routes here in Northern Idaho are shared use with motos and thus, there is no shortage of painfully sharp basalt rocks to be found as they get mined and churned from the dirt with ease under 250+ pound machines. Diving into some of the nastier sections of trail revealed a rim that is indeed noticeably more compliant than its predecessor. In fact, I had a few moments – particularly up front – where I smashed my wheel into some larger rocks at off angles and was not just surprised at the fact that I didn’t have any damage or a pinch flat, but also that I wasn’t really knocked offline. The reaction from the wheel was very muted and calm…I’d dare to even say kind of dead. Many other carbon fiber rims which are too stiff can have a pingy, erratic feel which can deflect impacts and knock you offline rather than absorb them and keep you rolling forward. That was not the case with the Roval HDs, and in addition to handling bigger strikes admirably, this wheelset also muted out the high frequency chatter and mid sized chunder extremely well.

I I were to make a comparison to the Synthesis E11 carbon wheelset, the Rovals have very similar ride dynamics. I’m not exactly a human test lab and don’t have any lab derived data on the comparative flex and give between the two rims, but on trail they do feel quite similar in the rough sections – which is a good thing! As a side bar, one aspect which I prefer with the Rovals is that they roll on DT Swiss hubs, as opposed to Industry Nine Hydras. While the Hydras are very fine hubs, they do drive up cost and have such fast engagement that you can feel a bit more pedal feedback with them – particularly on bikes which are kinematically predisposed to it.

As far as the ride quality is concerned outside of the more haggard sections of trail, I found the new Traverse HD to be excellent all around. Mainly we’re talking about cornering feel here, but regardless of whether I was riding riding off camber sections down into rutted little catch berms or highly sculpted bike park style turns, the ride quality was admirable…Not too stiff and not too flexy – rather, they are just right. When you push into them they give back, but they don’t deflect abundantly. One last aspect worth pointing out is that the Rovals tip the scales at a considerably lower weight than most of their competition. As a ballpark, the 240 version weighs around 150-200 grams less than similarly priced alternatives. That is something you’ll notice on the climbs during long days in the saddle.


I typically spend a considerable amount of time discussing value in my review summaries so here we go…Looking at the 30,000 foot view of MTB wheels, it has become harder to justify the cost of carbon fiber wheelsets lately as the quality (and ride quality) of aluminum complete wheelsets has improved massively. With that in mind, Roval’s budget conscious offerings have historically been stellar and the $850 Traverse AL looks like no exception. To gauge the value of the 240 vs the 350 wheelsets, I think that the 350s hit the sweet spot. While I don’t feel that the lower weight of the 240 hubset alone justifies an extra $800, you do gain some additional compliance and lose further weight via their bladed spokes. That said, I think the rims themselves are the crown jewel of this wheel system and do a fine job of offering a great balance between stiffness and compliance, so for me a better value is found in the 350 version.

Regardless of where you stand on the budget front, Roval offers a lifetime warranty and a 2 year crash replacement policy for both options. Whether you’re in the market for an “enduro” rated complete aftermarket carbon fiber wheelset or if you’re trying to gauge their relative performance as OEM spec on a new Specialized bike, the Roval HDs are excellent wheels that are very much worth considering. I certainly won’t be taking them off my personal bike any time soon…


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