The Roval Contrôle XC Race Discs are the lighter of Specialized’s 2008 mountain bike wheels at just 1,428g for the pair (666g front, 762 rear, without skewers, rim strips or valve stems). We made a point of deliberately spanking them down our roughest trails and are very impressed with how well they’ve held up.
Some light wheels don’t feel that fast, but these Contrôle E5’s most certainly do. This feeling is obviously helped by their lack of mass – they’re about 100g lighter than many other top-end cross-country production wheels – but Specialized has also done a good job of keeping the bulk of the mass near the center of rotation for low inertia, too.
If you’ve never ridden super light wheels then the effect of removing a large lump of rotational weight needs to be explained. It’s blisteringly fast, not only uphill where the diet wheels feel like you’re climbing on air but also on descents, where they accelerate quickly and are eager to change direction.
Light wheels can come at the expense of stiffness though, and these Rovals were no exception. Our lighter testers found these stuck firmly to their lines for the most part but heavier riders found them twangy and might be better sacrificing grams for something a bit beefier. On tackier terrain, we even generated enough lateral flex to rub the insides of our forks and some riders found the wheels’ spring-like loading and unloading tendencies to negatively affect handling predictability.
The Roval hubs are built by DT Swiss and their alloy bodies have been CNC-machined to within a gram of their featherweight lives before being neatly finished in a pretty high gloss black. Both ends use oversized alloy axles and the rear hub features the same star ratchet internals as the top-end 240s model. The bearings were smooth from the off and still feel silky smooth despite some proper stormwash/mud fests during testing. Even when required, freehub overhauls are remarkably quick and easy.
Straight-pull DT Swiss Revolution spokes and alloy ProLock hex nipples hold it all together, with the rear wheel sporting a sensibly minimal 28-spoke, three-cross pattern. The front wheel features Specialized’s DoubleDrive system – 16 three-cross spokes on the disc side to cope with braking forces, and eight radial on the drive side to help equalise spoke tension for a stronger wheel. Both flanges are rather small in diameter though, which doesn’t help with the wheels’ lateral rigidity.
The lightweight titanium Roval quick release skewers work smoothly thanks to sensibly-sized levers and brass bushings and are a great inclusion for the money.
The E5 disc-only alloy rim is only 24mm wide though, making big tyres ill-advised for lack of casing support but we ran 2.2s without any problems. As with Stan’s ZTR hoops (to which the Roval rims bear an uncannily strong resemblance), the wheels are tubeless ready when fitted with the included valve stems and rim tape. Slip on your tyres, slop in your sealant of choice (they’re not UST-compatible so you’ll need sealant even with UST tyres), add air and hit the trails.
Save for their relative lack of stiffness, the only other thing we take issue with about these wheels is the aesthetics – silver rims, black hubs and a mixture of black and silver spokes just ain’t right. But as we couldn’t see the trail for the speed blur – let alone the wheels beneath us – we’re not going to quibble, plus Specialized will offer an all-black version for 2009.
While stiffness may not be the Roval Contrôle XC Race Disc’s strong point, there are still enough positives here to make them awfully appealing to the go-fast crowd. Just make sure you’re not too heavy or riding them too hard and they shouldn’t disappoint.