First Impressions REVIEW

Roval Control Carbon 29 Wheels (XC Hoops on the Shore?)

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae
Date Apr 26, 2021

There are times when my first instinct is to take a pass on some test product, but upon reflection I start to think about fiendish possibilities. That was the case here with Roval's 1350 USD Control Carbon wheelset. The copy uses the words 'durability' and 'strength,' and that was enough to make me gloss over the phrase, "World Cup XC Qualifiers," and skip straight to 29mm internal width and 1450 grams. They sound a lot like the pair of ENVE M630s that I've been successfully beating the hell out of for more than a year (long term review to come). Initially I was going to put them on the Santa Cruz Tallboy we have in the stable, but the similarities between the Controls and the ENVEs made me think a back-to-back ride was in order, so I put them on my Yeti SB150. Once I get an XD driver from DT Swiss for the set of Roval Control SLs we also have to test, they'll go perfectly on the Tallboy.


These are clearly nicely made wheels, and they aired up tubeless quickly and easily.

Before you think this is a savage and unfair strategy, you should know that I've comfortably become a full-time insert user. You might think putting an insert in such featherweight wheels is like lifting a Lambo, but in this case I used Octamousse's feathery 100g Octa 45 high volume noodles. Subjecting these to what is essentially DH riding without some sort of buffer between wheel and trail could be considered barbaric and this seemed like a good compromise. Beyond that, the disclaimer for the lighter SL Team version of these wheels specifies a max 'system weight' of 275 lbs. The SL Team wheels weigh a ridiculous 1240 grams a pair, so these should have a higher limit. My system weight (bike and rider fully loaded) is under 200 lbs and it's not like you can't encounter rough terrain riding in spandex so let's see what these can do shall we?


The 4 mm sidewall is designed to reduce flats by increasing the surface area, and thus reducing the force in a given area, in the event of a pinch. It is flush in the inside but sits a little proud on the outside as you can see here.


The silky carbon finish is quite fetching.

These wheels look very promising. The new DT Swiss 350 hubs are tidy and precise, as you'd expect. I don't love the white on black logos in the centre spindle though. That's a spot that's tough to keep clean and it looks a little cheap to me. The Red that the 240s get looks better, despite the new versions having a similarly gaudy billboard, and I'm pretty sure you can spell 350 in red. Many riders, practical ones who break spokes, aren't going to be happy with the straight pull spokes, considering it's likely impossible to find them in most bike shops. The counterpoint is that you can often install a replacement without removing cassette or rotor, (or tire, assuming the nipple has survived the altercation).

The rims have nice wide 4mm sidewall base which Roval (Specialized has owned Roval since 2005) claims reduces flats by 22%. I think the Octamousse will take that to about 90%. The construction, unlike the SL version, appears to be symmetrical and they come with perfectly installed rim tape ready to go, and four spare spokes. Make sure to ask for these extras if you buy these from a shop.

Engagement is just fine for me; 36 points = 10º. DT feels that higher engagement hubs can impact suspension performance on frames that have some chain growth, which is most frames. I realize there are many who think less is more here but I've yet to be in a situation when that has been true for me. If anything I appreciate having those 10º to get a little crank momentum going before the system connects. If you want more, DT offers an 'upgrade' to 54 points or a little under 7º for about 100 USD.


So far the only thing I don't like about these wheels is the white billboard on the DT Swiss 350 hubs. If you aren't going to show us that nice black aluminum finish, maybe a little more subtlety and a better colour is in order? The previous generation 240 hubs with the subtle red logo and white accents was just right to my eyes, unfortunately the new 240s have a similar treatment to these but in red.

I've only had one ride on these wheels and so far I'm impressed. Unsurprisingly they are a pleasure to climb and quick to accelerate but I was also very pleased with how forgiving and compliant the ride is. Back-to-back with the ENVEs (also with Octamousse installed) it's not a big surprise that these are more compliant, but we're not comparing these to the ENVEs of old and the M630s are also a nice riding wheel, these just smooth things out a little more. I haven't had the chance to tip them into some steeper lines or corner a little harder so I can't yet comment on the torsional rigidity in challenging situations, but nothing from today's ride gave me pause either. They certainly went where I wanted them to and never surprised me at all.

The idea here is to treat these a little like trail wheels for lighter riders (ie. no 6-footers to flat), and in the process learn something about Roval wheels for every discipline.

What follows is the press release from Roval.

World Cup Performance For Everyone.

Introducing Roval 2021 Control Carbon

April 26th, 2021: Morgan Hill, Calif - From weekend hot laps to world cup XC qualifiers, the Control Carbon combines the low weight and strength found in our class-leading Control SL rim with the new DT Swiss 350 hubs. An unmatched level of durability, precision, and performance in this new Carbon Control set that is keen to open terrain, climbs, and berms, to a whole new era of riding.

Having your cake and eating it too is now a possibility with the combination of thoroughbred race-winning technology ingrained with a workhorse mentality. Packed with proven performance without the heavy price tag, the new Roval Control Carbon will take you to that next level of riding performance. The new Control Carbon brings top-tier performance to the masses.

Carried over from the World Cup proven Control SL Wheelset - Benefitting from the development process that led to our flagship Control SL, the Control Carbon features the same zero-bead-hook design and 29mm-inner width. By choosing a unique combination of composite materials and engineering a layup schedule with continuous fiber across the sidewall, we maximize strength, ride quality, and durability while keeping weight to a minimum.

Roval continues its partnership with the proven and trusted technology of DT Swiss, utilizing a full system approach to the wheel. Combining our award-winning rim with a new 350 hub featuring a 36 tooth Star Ratchet. The new Control Carbon wheelset brings a level of quality, precision, and performance previously found only on wheels costing twice as much.

Product Specifications:

  • Control SL 29”
  • 29mm Internal Width
  • 4mm FlatTop Bead Hook
  • Tubeless Compatible
  • New DT Swiss 350 Hub Straight-pull
  • 6-bolt Rotor - 36t Star Ratchet System
  • Thru Axle 100x15mm & 148x12mm
  • Weight: 1450g w/ Tubeless Rim Tape
  • MSRP: $1350.00 - Wheelset
  • Lifetime Warranty - No-Fault Crash Replacement
Cam McRae

Age - 55

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 160lbs/72.5kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 32"/81cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 475-490mm

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB


Speeder1  - April 26, 2021, 5:49 p.m.

Wheels look cool, but I would like to hear more about the octamousse 45 insert that weighs only 95gms. How does it stack up to other well known inserts like cushcore or the vittoria airliners?

Cam McRae  - April 27, 2021, 12:17 a.m.

I don't think I can accurately summarize my comments here (I'm getting close but need a little more back to back time) but I will say they are very promising. Much more so than I expected. Apparently I have some Vittorias on the way but they aren't here yet so I can't compare them. I certainly wouldn't steer you away from Octamousse and I'm quite confident you'll enjoy them.


Alex Durant  - April 27, 2021, 7:08 a.m.

Once you get more time on the Octa, and the vittoria, would love to hear your thoughts on them vs cush and tannus tubeless. Running cush now and may go tannus next time, wondering if octa and vittoria offer similar sidewall support or not.

+1 Alex Durant
Cam McRae  - April 27, 2021, 9:58 a.m.

I would say Tannus and Cushcore provide the best sidewall support of the ones I have tried. That said, I expected Octamousse to be no better than Rimpact but they are much better. It seems the high volume compensates somewhat for the lack of direct sidewall pressure you get from Cush/Tannus. Also just installed Fat Tire Defender on my Honzo. They are the heaviest of the bunch but the foam is very interesting. It’s so gooey that it almost feels wet and sticky. Sidewall support is such that after setting the bead I tried to let air out - but none came. New valves so that wasn’t the problem - they simply locked things in. As a result I’m going to run them with no sealant. Run flat will likely be good so if I do punture it won’t be a big issue.


Onawalk  - April 27, 2021, 10:25 a.m.

Full stop,

I’ve been considering inserts for the better part of a year, and can’t take it any longer!

I thought I had a plan (CC XC up front, Pro in the rear) cause these damn things are way too much money.  Even recently bought tires that were a little lighter casing to ease the weight issue.  

Dont tell me there’s another, lighter, hopefully cheaper option.

Full friggin stop, Hard no

+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Cam McRae  - April 29, 2021, 12:23 p.m.

I have the feeling this market will continue to evolve. The fact that Octamousse can make something so light and effective leads me to believe others will figure this out. I haven't been impressed with the shape of Octamousse though and it's tough to align it the way they suggest, which leads me to believe someone will make a better shape with this same material. I imagine there are thousands of different foam compounds that are somewhat suitable and it's likely the best one for our uses hasn't been stumbled upon yet. 



Speeder1  - April 26, 2021, 5:49 p.m.

Wheels look cool, but I would like to hear more about the octamousse 45 insert that weighs only 95gms. How does it stack up to other well known inserts like cushcore or the vittoria airliners?


Dan  - April 26, 2021, 6:54 p.m.

You ride pretty aggressively Cam, so I’m keen to see how these hold up under you.  

On a technical note, this text caught my eye on the Spesh website for these hoops: Tubeless Compatible, Not Compatible with Tire Inserts

+1 Dan
Cam McRae  - April 27, 2021, 12:20 a.m.

I'm clearly breaking some rules here, but doing so at my own risk. It might also say somewhere, not compatible with 170mm forks! My plan is not however to beat the hell out of these and I hope to keep things close to the 'trail' realm since that seems reasonable. #donttrythisathome


+2 Cam McRae Dan
IslandLife  - April 27, 2021, 9:15 a.m.

How are they not compatible with inserts?  Would they put to much pressure on a lightweight layup?  Or is it just to keep riders from riding them beyond their intended use?

After the last couple of years of testing various inserts, rims and tire constructions, for my riding style, and my terrain, I've found a good insert allows me to run not only a lighter tire, but also a lighter rim.  I end up with a set-up that is the same weight as someone using a beefy rim and tire with no inserts, yet I have all the benefits of an insert plus a more supple tire... loving it.

In fact, my current rims are recommended to not be run without inserts, they are a "light" version of their "Duty" rim and so for achieving a light but yet aggressive enduro set-up, the thought is to run a beefy tire and/or insert along with this rim.  Seems to be working really well and even their "stay true" guarantee has been holding up.

It seems like a wheel-set like these Roval's would be an interesting carbon candidate for something similar, but if their no fault warranty is voided by running an insert... I'd steer clear.


+2 IslandLife Dan
mrbrett  - April 28, 2021, 1:53 p.m.

If someone blew up a carbon wheel while riding an insert, while an insert was on the forbidden list, and they then removed that insert before a warranty assessment - how could the wheel manufacturer ever know?* Specialized isn't generally going to send a CSI crew to look for foam residue in your shards of happiness mixed in with shards of carbon.

* Asking for a friend.

+2 IslandLife Dan
Cam McRae  - April 28, 2021, 6:27 p.m.

My guess is that the problematic element here is the rim bed (I think that's what it's called). It's likely very thin for this application and some inserts would transmit impacts directly to that surface. 

But that's just a guess. It's also possible that with the proliferation of inserts there are too many unknowns for Specialized to remove that proviso. 

Maybe we need to blame the lawyers? Again.


+1 Cam McRae
Dan  - April 29, 2021, 10:45 a.m.

That's a great guess, Cam (and sorry for dropping in on the thread then going silent - been a busy few days). I suppose that is the likely weak spot. 

In a similar vein I asked crank bros about the use of inserts on their synthesis wheels a couple years ago and was told they weren't to be used. No reason why though. And to this day I haven't had a need for the inserts - I was curious as I was getting acquainted with the then-new wheels. I'd been on Bontragers previously and they were terribly brittle - I cracked a rear wheel on my first ride, and then the front on the second ride. Rubbish.

+1 Dan
Cam McRae  - April 29, 2021, 12:27 p.m.

I've used inserts on Synthesis wheels for months without incident so that's one you can disregard imho. I have however heard about World Cup racers breaking rims using inserts because forces are distributed differently, but they are a different breed and will break anything. Many World Cup DH racers get single runs out of rims so they aren't a useful sample for most of us mortals.

+1 Cam McRae
jvp108  - April 27, 2021, 6:01 a.m.

Very interested in this test.  Getting a set for my Stumpy Evo so looking to do this exact thing.

Cam McRae  - April 28, 2021, 6:31 p.m.

Stumpy EVO? Yep - we had the same idea. I'd like to hear your impressions once you get rolling on them. I did a burly ride last night and at the last minute decided to swap the rear wheel out. Actually I was going to swap both out but in my haste I stripped a rotor bolt and I only have one 220mm rotor. Now that I think about it, that's undoubtedly against the rules as well.


Frorider  - April 29, 2021, 7:05 a.m.

28 spokes F and R yes?  Are they Comp Race spokes?

Cam McRae  - April 29, 2021, 12:33 p.m.

Indeed! DT Swiss Competition Race spokes and alloy Pro Lock nipples.


Please log in to leave a comment.