There is no better way to inject speed and performance into your bike than by treating it to a new set of wheels. On an average cross-country bike the wheels make up around 15 percent of the total weight, so they’re a big player in how it rides. Light wheels feel faster because you use less energy to spin them.
Last year’s Controles were a wispy 1,425g for the pair. For ’09 Specialized have lopped 40g from that weight, dropping it to 1,385g, and added SL to the name – presumably for ‘Super Light’.
To achieve this they have switched front hub shell material from alloy to carbon ﬁbre and used lighter gauge DT Swiss Aerolite double butted spokes with a 0.9mm central section instead of 1.5mm. Hub internals are the same quality Swiss-made units as on the previous incarnation.
As usual the Roval build is perfect out of the box, with even tension and zero run-out or hop, while DT’s Pro Lock hex head nipples make any remedial action easy to take.
You can run the Controle SL with tubes, or use the supplied tubeless kit. We run ours – both Controle and ’09 Controle SLs – without, and both set up and hold air (with sealant) as well as any we’ve tried.
For a light performance/race orientated wheel, the ’08 Controle impressed us with its ability to shrug off the rigours of regular rides in rough conditions, and so far the Controle SLs are doing the same.
That said, this is a cross-country wheel for pedalling not jumping or crashing through rock gardens, and therefore has its limits – but they are satisfyingly far away so you’ll have to be riding fast and loose to ﬁnd them.
These wheels really suit riders who like to pedal, climb and enjoy the classic athletic side of cross-country rather than the 5in travel trail bike version – you can get a twangy moment out of them if you load them hard in turns.
We’ve had no issues with our Controle set which has in the region of 800 fast, hard off-road miles on it and so far there are none to report with the SL.
It’s worth noting the narrowness of the rim – being only 24mm wide, they can make 2.3in (and wider) tyres feel a little squirrely. We ran 1.9 through to 2.3in wide treads with 2in and 2.1in giving best results for tyre shape and stability.
Overall, the Roval Controle SL is a genuinely stylish, race winning wheelset that can also do day duty without breaking the bank.