As usual, Specialized have got the aesthetics down pat on their Roval Rapide SL 45 road clinchers, what with their in-your-face graphics, bright red bladed spokes and hubs, and speedy-looking 45mm-deep aluminium and carbon rims. And thankfully, their on-road performance mostly backs that up.
The aerodynamic carbon cap on the alloy clincher rim does a good job of reducing drag and holding speed relative to a conventional box-section rim, lateral stiffness is very good on account of the widely set spokes throughout, and the proven DT Swiss star ratchet freehub internals reliably transfer power with nary a bit of maintenance required. Those running Campagnolo will find the freehub body very easy to swap, too.
That speed is easy to control too, thanks to machined alloy braking surfaces that provide a strong and predictable bite – especially in the wet or on long mountainous descents that would cook many all-carbon clinchers – and the not-too-deep profile is still manageable in gusty crosswinds.
Long-term durability is promising as well thanks to the excellent initial build quality with superb trueness and roundness out of the box and nearly perfectly balanced rear spoke tension thanks to the widely set high/low flanges and 2:1 lacing pattern. We haven't had to touch our set since beginning testing nearly three months ago.
Even so, we found the Roval Rapide SL 45s best suited for steady-state rides like all-day cruising rather than more frenetic events like criteriums that require frequent accelerations. While total weight is decent at just under 1,600g for the pair (without skewers), much of that weight is placed at the outer edges.
Claimed rim weight is a substantial 525g apiece and you can definitely feel the extra mass when trying to surge on a climb or close a gap. Ride quality is also a tad stiff on account of the deep carbon cap, and while the hidden nipples make for better aerodynamics, they require the tyres to be stripped when truing is required.