The original Roval Alpinist CLX wheelset was impressively light and improved the agility and overall ride quality of any bike it was mounted to.
Yet this featherweight wheelset came up short against its competitors due to a disappointing lack of compatibility with tubeless tyres.
I put this second-generation climbing wheelset to the test on the paved and unpaved mountain roads of Colorado and was impressed by its ride quality and stiffness.
Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels details and specifications
As my first look at the Rapide CLX II noted, aside from the addition of tubeless compatibility, the Alpinist CLX II isn’t a significant departure from its predecessor.
Roval’s engineers reinforced the Alpinist’s 33mm-deep carbon rims with additional layers of carbon to improve impact resistance, thereby ensuring tubeless tyres would remain seated in the event of a severe impact.
The aero-focused Rapide CLX II received a 100g weight penalty from similar rim revisions.
With a low gram count as a design priority for the Alpinist II, engineers offset weight gain at the rims with updated hub shells that shaved every gram of excess material from between the Center Lock disc mounts.
Additional weight savings come from the DT Swiss EXP freehub and SINC ceramic bearings.
Despite the extra carbon reinforcement, the Alpinist CLX II is still the lightest set of road bike wheels Roval has produced, with a measured weight of 1,265g.
Many wheel brands are shifting to hookless rims, yet the Alpinist CLX II retains a hooked design.
According to Roval, a hooked bead provides an additional layer of security and offers the broadest range of compatibility with tubed and tubeless tyres – while avoiding sacrifices in strength or cut fibres.
If you find yourself confused by the marketing behind the pros and cons of hookless and hooked rims, take a few minutes to read our primer on the subject.
The hooked versus hookless debate will continue to rage, but for now, as long as many road cyclists want the option to run standard clinchers with inner tubes, there will be a place for hooked rims. The Alpinist CLX II caters for them as well.
Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels highlights
- Lightweight wheelset
- Front rim: 33mm deep, 27mm wide
- Rear rim: 33mm deep, 27mm wide
- 21mm internal width
- Optimised for 26mm-wide tyres (tested with 26 and 30mm tyres)
- DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, 21 front / 24 rear
- Roval LFD hubs with EXP Internals and SINC ceramic bearings
- 275lb/125kg rider weight limit
- Actual weight: 1,265g (including tape and tubeless valves)
- MSRP: $2,650 / £2,500 / €2,500
Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels performance
I spent three months testing the Alpinist CLX II on high mountain roads and mixed-surface routes through the foothills and plains of Colorado.
The ultra-light Aethos is the natural pairing with the Alpinist CLX II, which comes stock on select Aethos builds. With this wheelset mounted, a great-riding bike becomes even better.
The weight savings weren’t substantial over the Shimano Dura-Ace C36 wheelset it replaced (less than 100g), but there was a notable improvement in ride quality.
When mounted to my Aethos, these lighter, lower-profile wheels did a better job of muting road buzz.
The refined ride quality of the Alpinist CLX II was most apparent when riding on chipseal roads. These rough-hewn byways have a tendency to transmit high-frequency vibrations from the bike to the rider, and while the hum was still present, it was damped and much less of a distraction.
As expected, the Alpinist CLX II was at home traversing mountain passes. This 1,265g wheelset spun up to speed quickly and was a nimble companion when changing direction through hairpin switchbacks.
While I can’t speak to its performance under riders near the top of the wheelset’s 275lb/125kg weight limit, steering was precise and flex was never an issue under my 155lb/70kg mass.
After testing the Alpinist CLX II in its natural environment – and on the bike it was primarily designed to complement – I wanted to push the envelope and see how this wheelset would fare on more demanding terrain.
The next test mule was Allied’s ECHO, an all-road/gravel race bike that sits at the other end of the Alpinist’s intended use.
With 30mm-wide tyres mounted, the Alpinist CLX II wheelset tackled hard-packed dirt with ease. The muted ride of these wheels, along with the larger footprint and the lower pressure the use of 30mm-wide tubeless tyres brings, inspired confidence through potholes and over the chatter of braking bumps.
If, like me, your favourite ‘road’ rides include sections of smooth dirt and gravel that can be ridden on 30 to 32mm tyres, rest assured the Alpinist CLX II is up to the challenge.
Having said this, I would strongly consider investing in a set of dedicated gravel bike wheels with a 25mm internal width if your excursions call for higher-volume 38 to 40mm (or larger) gravel bike tyres.
Roval has done a lot of things right in creating the Alpinist CLX II, but one area where the company seems to lag behind its competitors is warranty support.
As I noted in my review of the Rapide CLX II wheelset, Roval offers just a two-year crash-replacement policy, with discounted crash-replacement coverage after that. It does feature a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.
Compared to programmes from ENVE, Zipp and Reserve (among others), which offer longer or lifetime crash replacement schemes, Roval appears to be behind the curve.
Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels bottom line
The Alpinist prioritises weight savings over aerodynamics, but the 33mm-deep rims still cut through the wind better than shallower rims, and, as mentioned, the ride quality is outstanding.
In fact, it might not be fair to pigeon-hole the Alpinist CLX II as a ‘climber’s wheel’ in isolation, despite the name.
My test impressions confirm a claim made by Ben Edwards, Specialized’s global marketing director.
“It’s a climbing wheel, but it’s also a wheel for anyone who wants to improve the ride quality of their bike,” Edwards says. “This is the wheelset most riders should probably be on.”
After three months of testing, this is a sentiment I share. The Alpinist CLX II builds on the impressive ride quality of the original with the addition of overdue tubeless compatibility. Warranty support is very good, but not as impressive as several of its close competitors.
The Alpinist CLX II is light, agile and supremely comfortable on rough roads, making it a great wheelset not only for weight-conscious climbers but for any cyclist searching for a comfortable set of wheels.
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, EUR €2500.00GBP £2500.00USD $2650.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 1,265g (700c) – including tape and tubeless valves, Array, g|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Roval|
|Brake type||br_brakeTypeSimple, 11, 0, Brake type, Disc|
|Hubs||br_hubs, 11, 0, Hubs, Roval LFD|
|Rim depth||br_rimDepth, 11, 0, Rim depth, 33mm|
|Rim internal width||br_rimInternalWidth, 11, 0, Rim internal width, 21mm|
|Rim material||br_rimMaterial, 11, 0, Rim material, Carbon|
|Spoke count||br_spokeCountFront, 11, 0, Spoke count, 21 front, 24 rear|
|Spokes||br_spokes, 11, 0, Spokes, DT Swiss Aerolite|
|Tubeless compatibility||br_tubelessCompatibility, 11, 0, Tubeless compatibility, Tubeless compatible|
|Wheel size||br_wheelSize, 11, 0, Wheel size, 29in/700c|