Specialized is one of, if not the, biggest brands in the bike industry, so it comes as no surprise that they are one of the first major brands to hit the market with a truly affordable carbon wheelset. The price of carbon hoops has come down for the past few years, but Specialized has essentially pulled the rug out from under the competition with the Roval Traverse Carbon wheels at a retail price of $1,200, with a lifetime warranty. They are inexpensive for carbon but make no mistake, they perform far above their asking price. They weigh just a touch more than their higher-priced competition, but they have a solid and dampened feel on the trail, and have the stiffness you expect from carbon with just enough flex to avoid being harsh. They're built around reliable DT 350 hubs with a respectable 10-degree freehub engagement. Our testers were impressed with the Traverse Carbon wheels, especially considering the price, earning them our Best Buy Carbon Wheelset award.
Roval Traverse Carbon Wheelset Review
Cons: freehub engagement could be better, heavier than other carbon models
Manufacturer: Roval Components
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Specialized makes just about everything there is for cycling, including a huge range of wheels for everything from road riding to enduro racing. In our experience, their wheels have typically come as an OEM spec on their complete bikes and are less popular as an aftermarket purchase than many of the other wheel brands. That all might change after the recent introduction of their $1,200 Traverse Carbon wheelset. These inexpensive carbon hoops are poised to make an impact in the carbon wheel market with their good ride quality, relatively low weight, and excellent durability backed by a lifetime warranty. Our testers were impressed by the Traverse Carbon wheels and we think you will be too.
The Traverse Carbon wheels are built with a symmetrical carbon rim with a 30mm internal rim width. The rims, like most carbon rims, do not have a bead hook which allows for a more consistent carbon fiber layup and a thicker rim wall that is intended to enhance the overall durability of the rim bead. The 30mm internal rim dimension is pretty standard and plays well with modern tire widths to increase air volume, better support the tire, and allow for lower tire pressures. The rims are matte carbon with subtle black logo graphics painted on underneath a clear coat.
For hubs, they have chosen the DT 350 which is made by wheel manufacturing giant DT Swiss. The DT 350 hub is known for its durability and reliability and has a standard 6-bolt brake rotor mount. The freehub uses a 36 tooth star ratchet system with 10 degrees between engagement points. The hubs are laced to the rims with 28 J-bend DT Swiss Competition Race spokes with DT Swiss Brass ProLock hexagonal nipples. The spokes are arranged in a 2-cross pattern on both the front and rear wheels.
The wheels come with tubeless rim tape and valve stems pre-installed. They are offered in both 27.5" and 29" wheel sizes in boost spacing only and only come with a SRAM XD freehub body, although Shimano HG freehub bodies can be purchased separately.
Considering the fact that these wheels are substantially less expensive than their carbon competition our testers were quite impressed with their overall ride quality. These wheels feel stiff and sturdy with just enough flex to avoid having the dreaded carbon harshness. Like the Race Face Next R31 and the Santa Cruz Reserve, they have a dampened feel that helps absorb trail feedback and vibration, although due to their stiffness they can occasionally get deflected.
They are just a little bit heavier than either of the above-mentioned wheels, and that weight is somewhat noticeable in their less lively demeanor and slower acceleration. This was something we noticed while riding these wheelsets back to back, but not something that would be very apparent if these were your daily drivers. The DT 350 hubs are the same exact hubs that come on the Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Carbon, which cost $399 more than the Traverse Carbon, and they roll smooth, fast, and drag-free.
The DT 350 hubs on the Traverse Carbon wheels come with a 36 tooth star ratchet freehub system. This provides a respectable 10-degrees between engagement points which is relatively standard.
Ten-degree engagement isn't terrible, especially at this price point, but it is noticeably slower and lower performance than the quick engagement of the hubs on the Race Face Next R31 at 3-degrees or the Reynolds TR 309 S with 5-degrees. Again, these are the same exact hubs with the same freehub engagement as the Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Carbon, but these wheels retail for $399 less. The DT 350 freehub can also be upgraded, for just over $100, to a 54 tooth star ratchet that speeds the freehub engagement up to 6.6-degrees.
The Traverse Carbon wheels weighed in at 1,866g in the 29" wheel size we tested. While they are the heaviest carbon model in this review, they are only 34g heavier than the Santa Cruz Reserve wheels, and just 90g heavier than our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Race Face Next R31, but they retail for $300-$400 less.
We feel this weight is impressive for such an affordable set of carbon wheels. That said, they don't feel as zippy, especially during accelerations, as the lighter models, but unless you test them back to back like we did you'd probably be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
We put the Traverse Carbon wheels through the same abusive testing process as all of the other wheels in this review and we are impressed with their durability. They have remained true and round with even spoke tension and no visible damage to speak of. We especially like their use of brass nipples, as they are typically stronger, longer-lasting, and less brittle than aluminum nipples.
A couple of our testers were carbon wheel skeptics when this test began and that has changed thanks to wheels like these. Not only do these wheels feel sturdy and can take a serious beating, but Specialized backs them with a lifetime warranty to the original owner against structural defects in materials or workmanship.
Have you always wanted a carbon wheelset but you just couldn't justify the expense? Well, with a retail price of $1,200 and a lifetime warranty, the Traverse Carbon is one of the best deals on a durable and high-performance carbon wheelset that we've ever seen. These wheels perform far above their asking price, earning them our Best Buy Carbon Wheelset award. If you've been on the fence about carbon wheels, now's your chance to climb down and see what all the hype is about.
If you've always wanted to step up to a set of carbon wheels but never thought you could afford it then check out the Roval Traverse Carbon. These wheels will still set you back $1,200 bucks, but they are $300+ dollars less than most of their carbon competition and the least expensive carbon option we've ever seen from a major manufacturer like Specialized. They have a stiff feel like you'd expect from carbon, but with enough give and dampening to keep them comfortable on the trail. They are also reasonably lightweight, highly durable, and backed with a lifetime warranty. We awarded them our Best Buy Carbon Wheelset award because we think you'd be hard pressed to find a higher performance set of wheels at this price.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Roval Traverse Carbon wheels are available in 27.5" and 29" (tested) wheel sizes. They are offered in Boost spacing only and come with a SRAM XD freehub body. Shimano freehub bodies are sold separately.
In addition to the Roval Traverse Carbon, Specialized makes a full line of mountain bike wheels in both alloy and carbon fiber. The Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels are a slightly lighter weight carbon fiber wheelset with a similar look an construction as those in this review, but with Specialized hubs and DT 240 internals and 6-degree freehub engagement.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens