- Specialized Roval Traversée wheels
Roval is Specialized’s own wheel brand. The road wheels are particularly distinctive, what with the carbon fibre “starfish” hubs and the like, but the mountain wheels are no less packed with goodness even if their appearance is rather more conventional.
The Traversée wheels are designed “for aggressive trail riders that aren’t afraid to take risks and go big”. Two obvious features park them firmly in the “all-mountain” camp. First are the E5 alloy rims, which pack a healthy width ready and waiting for big tyres. They’re eyeletted and tubeless compatible (the wheels come with rim strips and valves for running tubeless). Second is the front hub, which features interchangeable end caps so you can run them with a conventional quick release, with a 20mm through-axle or with a 25mm through-axle if you’re running a Specialized fork.
While Specialized clearly believes that it can do some parts better than the rest, it’s chosen to rely on DT Swiss for a few key bits of the Traversée wheels. The freehub mechanism in the rear hub, the straight-pull Super Comp 2.0/1.7/1.8mm spokes and hexagonal nipples are all from the Swiss company. This is a very sensible move, especially when it comes to spokes and nipples – one of the criticisms often levelled at factory wheelsets is the prevalence of proprietary (read: hard to replace) parts. The Traversée’s spokes may be slightly wacky in that they’re straight-pull rather than elbowed, but they’re not unique to Specialized.
Both hubs pack big, forged-and-machined shells and reassuringly tucked-away bearings. At the back there are 28 spokes in a regular three-cross pattern both sides. Up front there are just 24, with three-cross on the disc side and radial on the other side. Specialized calls this “DoubleDrive” and claims more even spoke tension side to side. The dish on a front disc wheel isn’t so great as to lead to hugely out-of-whack tensions (as you’ll find in a rear wheel) so that would seem to be a marginal benefit. It looks good, though, and there’s a bit of a weight saving in the hub and spokes.
At a claimed 1,579g a pair (we got a number close enough to that on our scales), the Traversée wheels are lighter than Mavic’s CrossMax STs but without relying on wacky aluminium spokes and with the added benefit of those interchangeable front wheel spacers.
Out on the trail and it’s all good. We’re particularly pleased with the quick release skewers, which have a proper concealed cam and therefore actually work properly. The freehub isn’t annoyingly clicky, the wide rims give tyres an agreeable footprint, they’re really light for this kind of wheel and (fingers crossed) so far they’ve been durable – we’ve been running these on a variety of bikes for several months and they’re still straight and smooth. Of course, they’re also expensive – there’s probably room in Specialized’s range for a more budget-oriented version…
Ups and downs
Positives: Interchangeable front hub, sensible rim width, conventional appearance, easy to work on, light
Negatives: Expensive, no Centerlock option
Specialized hasn’t really made a big noise about these wheels, which is odd, because they’re really good. There’s no shortage of high-end wheelsets out there, but we’ve never really got on with the cartwheel look of oversized spokes – the Traversée wheels have enough in common with regular wheels to keep us happy, mixed with impressively light weight. Big money, though – we still think that better value can be had by carefully selecting parts for a custom wheelset.