Specialized Project Black mountain wheels

Prototype carbon mountain bike wheels take wins at Sea Otter

Specialized factory team rider bikes — both 26- and 29-inch wheel varieties — were fitted with prototype carbon rims for this year's races at the Sea Otter Classic. Todd Wells won Saturday’s short track on the 29-inch version.

Specialized global marketing manager Nic Sims wouldn't say much about the new wheels except "They're Project Black!". To our eyes, however, they look like a composite version of the company's existing Roval aluminum models.

Outer rim profile is similar with a roughly U-shaped cross-section and a flat inner wall supporting externally accessible alloy nipples.  Given the relatively short sidewalls, we're guessing these new rims are also tubeless-compatible (with tape and sealant) similar to the NoTubes-like system Roval currently uses for easy conversions.

Christophe sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples.  chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.: christophe sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples.  chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.
Christophe sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples. chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.: christophe sauser's rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples. chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.

Sauser's 26-inch rim sported a glossy finish and external nipples.  Chances are there's a tubeless-compatible rim bed hidden underneath there, similar to the one used on the company's current aluminum rims.

The aluminum hubs look to be standard Roval fare with straight-pull spokes – laced in a 2:1 pattern up front for more even tension between the two sides – a carbon fiber center section up front, and interchangeable end caps to maximize surface area contact on compatible forks. 

The roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.: the roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.
The roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.: the roval hubs will also feature interchangeable end caps to maximize the surface contact area with different fork makes.

The front hub bears the usual Roval trademarks, including 2:1 spoke lacing, a carbon fiber center section, and straight-pull spokes.

In spite of the carbon construction, we expect these to be lighter than their aluminum counterparts but not dramatically so as the alloy rims were already very light.  However, we are also expecting more significant jumps in stiffness and durability when these are eventually officially announced – we're guessing later this summer when Specialized holds its 2011 global launch.

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

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