Roval Control SL wheelset first ride review

Stronger, wider and lighter than before

The Roval Control SL 29 wheelset has a winning pedigree, having been ridden to World Cup and Olympic wins under Specialized’s top cross-country racers.

The latest generation of this wheelset is wider, lighter and still more affordable than many of its competitors. It’s no slouch on the singletrack, either.

Roval Control SL 29 highlights

  • Hookless carbon rims
  • 25mm internal width
  • DT-Swiss internals w/54t Star Ratchet
  • Boost or standard axle spacing
  • 1,330g (claimed weight)
  • Available now on select Specialized models
  • Available for aftermarket sales in May
  • Pricing is set at $1,900 (UK and Australian pricing TBC)

Boost axle spacing is also now available on the Control SL
Boost axle spacing is also now available on the Control SL

As we’ve seen over the past few seasons, cross-country tracks are getting more technical. Bikes are following suit and the new Roval Control SL 29 wheelset seeks to keep pace by increasing width and durability.

Roval claims the impact strength of the Control SL 29 rims has been increased by 10 percent through refinements in the carbon layup. Despite the increase in rim width, Roval also claims no increase in rim weight.

In addition to improvements in rim strength and width, these hand-built wheels are now laced with more robust 2.0/1.6/2.0 DT Swiss spokes, rather than the 2.0/1.5/2.5 spokes used on the previous version.

As for the weight savings? Much of that comes from the use of airtight plugs in the spoke holes, rather than tape, to seal the rims for tubeless use.

The Control SL rims have an internal width of 25mm
The Control SL rims have an internal width of 25mm

Roval Control SL 29 first impressions

I tested the Control SL 29 wheels at the same media camp as the CLX 50 road wheels in Santa Cruz, California.

For the sake of comparison, I rode these lightweight XC hoops back-to-back with the Roval Traverse SL wheelset, which is designed for trail and enduro use.

Two things stood out right away: first, the Traverse SL wheelset gave the test bike a more accurate feeling when speeding through rocky terrain — no surprise here, given the very different intended uses.

The Control SL wheelset outperforms many other lightweight wheelsets in rough terrain
The Control SL wheelset outperforms many other lightweight wheelsets in rough terrain

Second, while the heavy-duty TraverseSL hoops were more precise when launching into rock gardens, they were also more jarring than the Control SL 29 wheelset.

This was very easy to perceive on the Specialized Epic hardtail used for this test. This also provided a classic example of the importance of pairing the right wheels with the right frame for the right purpose.

Roval Control SL 29 early verdict 

So yes, the Traverse SL is the stiffer of the two wheelsets, but is the Control SL 29 stiff enough for aggressive XC racing or trail riding? My early opinion is yes. 

Many featherweight XC wheels let you know you’re riding them too hard through tight downhill switchbacks by flexing as you push through the apex or lead you toward the outside line. The Control SL 29 was appreciably precise in these scenarios.

Lastly, the drop in weight is good and the increased rim width is great, particularly for riders who prefer to run higher volume tires.

It's a promising lightweight XC wheelset that can be pushed to trail duties.

Josh Patterson

Tech Editor, US
Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 170cm / 5'7"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 72cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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