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Yes, an ALLOY Wheel Review

Roval Traverse Alloy Wheelset Review

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Mar 20, 2019

Specialized released the revamped Traverse wheel series in September 2018. When released, much of the media focused on the two carbon options, which includes a 1,100 USD carbon wheel—unheard of only a couple of years ago—and their flagship 1,900 USD wheel. What most skimmed over, or missed completely, was the updated alloy option. I’ve been hunting for a decent alloy wheelset that offers value for money for quite a while. Finding one with j-bend spokes is even more difficult and despite the prominence of straight-pull, it's still a struggle to find the correct length spokes.

Maybe alloy wheels are boring to some. But when there’s a new option with many of the bells and whistles the higher priced counterparts have, it’s worthy of attention. Especially when they’re priced at 650 USD. That’s about 40% off the next wheel in the range; the competitively priced Traverse Carbon.

Features

  • 30mm internal rim alloy width
  • Two-cross spoke pattern front and rear
  • 28h spoke count front and rear
  • DT Swiss Competition Race J-bend spokes and DT Swiss Brass Pro Lock nipples
  • Alloy front hub, 15mm x 110 thru-axle, 19 and 31mm OD end cap options included
  • CNC-machined alloy rear hub, DT 360 internals
  • Sealed cartridge bearings
  • Hub shells have a single spoke length for each wheelset
  • Hand-built
  • Includes tubeless valve stems and tape
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Claimed Weight: 1,870g (29-inch—Tested) / 1,830g (27.5)
  • MSRP: 650 USD / 800 CAD
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The re-worked hubs are the story at the centre of the new Traverse wheels.

Details

For years I’ve heard comments regarding the high cost of wheels and how 'X' rim with Hope hubs, blah blah blah can be built for far less. Problem is whenever I calculate the build costs for the alloy wheels mentioned the price doesn’t land too far from the 1,100 USD Traverse Carbon. For a bit more you can get some Canadian-laid We Are One Agents, too. Building them yourself saves money but for the average rider it’s more likely they’ll have a shop do that. When searching for pre-built alloy wheelset options, it’s quite common to see straight-pull spokes but in an ideal world, I’ll have j-bend spokes.

The Roval Traverse Alloy wheels generated quite a bit of excitement for me. Here’s a wheelset with 30mm internal width rims, j-bend spokes, all of which are the same length to make things even simpler, available in 29 or 27.5 and on top of it all they cost 650 USD! The wheels are built with 28 spokes front and rear, and they use DT Swiss Competition Race spokes laced to brass nipples. They don’t include the star-ratchet internals of their pricier carbon siblings but the regular 3-pawl internals of the DT Swiss 360 hub. This keeps pricing down. It may be a lower cost option but it still provides a 10-degree engagement, which I found plenty adequate. There has been the odd noise from the rear hub but nothing has slipped and there are no signs of wear to the internals. I should give it a clean though as it’s a bit goopy in there.

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Rear hub internals are of the common variety and offer 10 degrees of engagement. It's not fancy but it works. K.I.S.S.

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I've heard a couple of interesting sounds from the rear hub but upon inspection nothing looks off. Just a clean is needed.


All Roval Traverse rim beads are hookless, something that Specialized made popular in MTB some time ago. The hubs feature some interesting machining and were designed by Roval to minimize stress on the spokes. With the flange edge further out of the way, Roval claims the spokes have a less aggressive angle to weave through. Non-driveside spokes in the rear are mounted with the head in.

The same is done for both sides of the front hub. Specialized says this was done to increase bracing angle, which builds a more stable wheel. Lack of clearance issues on the driveside hub is why the same wasn’t done there. All those gears have to fit in somewhere. Traverse Alloy wheels also come equipped with tubeless tape and valve for easy tubeless setup.

Ride Quality

Coming off the formidable Santa Cruz Reserve wheels, it’s no surprise there was a noticeable difference in feel. Everything else was left the same; tires, pressures, and bike setup. The first couple of rides were in similar conditions but it soon turned soft and wet. There was clearly less zip when putting power down on the alloy wheel and they didn’t provide the same amount of push out of corners. These points are to be expected but worth noting.

Less zip than a carbon wheel has a positive side and these have been exceptional in terms of the level of comfort provided. There's a distinct lack of feedback through the bike compared to carbon and when things got wet and greasy, they held a line sensationally. An obvious downside to this forgiveness is they're not as precise as a carbon wheel. But when the trails are littered with features constantly jostling the wheels around, the ride quality of the Traverse Alloy has been incredible. It’s for this reason that I prefer alloy wheels because in my experience, no carbon rim offers the same compliance at this point.


While the forgiving ride requires less effort to track the bike, the rear could do with a touch more support. It’s by no means a deal breaker but I do like less flex when really slamming the rear wheel into a corner. Added support could be gained by increasing rear wheel spoke count to 32, or using a heavier gauge spoke. The DT Competition Race spokes are lightweight and feature an “extra thin middle section”. Choosing a regular DT Competition spoke or the 2mm DT Champion could be the ticket. I wouldn't change a thing with the front, though.

When asking Specialized why they selected to stick with 28 spokes in the rear, they noted that ease of use and servicing was a priority, in addition to feel. If they had increased the amount of spokes in the rear wheel it would have made it near impossible to use the same spoke length in the front and rear wheels. Spokes remain the same for a similar reason but they also found that during testing and through feedback from Specialized athletes, Jared Graves and Curtis Keene, the DT Competition Race provided the best feeling. It wasn’t clear if this was specific to the carbon wheel though, and I would assume that to be the case.

But using a heavier gauge spoke or increasing the amount would also increase durability of the the alloy wheel. After being subjected to a large unexpected hit, spoke tension in the rear wheel was completely blown out. It left the wheel flexing noticeably for the rest of the ride and was the kind of hit where I've broken a number of carbon rims. Surprisingly, the alloy rim took it like a champ and despite concerns of a flat-spot, all it shows is a scuff in the paint and an alloy shave. Since that impact a couple of sessions with a spoke key have been required—nothing unusual for an alloy wheel.

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Alloy wheels still have a place in MTB and I believe they always will.

Verdict

The Roval Traverse Alloy wheels have been an impressive performer, especially when considering the price. The ride is very comfortable with a good balance of support, providing confidence in even the wettest of conditions. In a perfect world, the rear wheel would be built with heavier gauge spokes or a higher spoke count for additional support. They got unlucky with a bad hit throwing them out of true during testing, something that carbon rims rarely need to deal with.

But if carbon is too harsh and you're after the comfort of alloy, these are an option that offers some value. For 650 USD they’re excellent and while they don’t look flashy, they still provide a great, easy ride while taking some abuse along the way.

More on the Specialized Roval Traverse Alloy wheels is available on their site.

Comments

LoamtoHome
0
Jerry Willows  - March 20, 2019, 8:09 p.m.

Are these the same wheels that come on the Stumpy EVO?  Those Traverse wheels weigh in at 2.3 kgs.

Reply

DBone95
0
Darryl Chereshkoff  - March 20, 2019, 10 p.m.

What kind of "interesting sounds" came from the hub? I had a set of 370s with the 3 pawl XD driver and they would randomly pop all of the time without slipping.

Reply

Timer
0
Timer  - March 21, 2019, 5:47 a.m.

These look decent but decidedly average. The pricing is way off, though.

@Jerry Willows I don't think they are the same. These here are a lot lighter, with good engagement and mid-range DT spokes, while OE Traverse on the EVO are heavy and a lot more primitive.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 James Vasilyev
Tjaard Breeuwer  - March 21, 2019, 6:17 a.m.

After busting a carbon rim last year, I have a strong preference for alloy rims, at least in the rear. Especially when carbon isn’t always lighter or stronger.

Do you think you could get your hands on some of the alloy Newmen wheels from Germany? One of the German bike magazines did a wheel test a year or so ago, and their alloy wheel set was stronger than almost all carbon ones, and lighter than several (this incdued lab testing).

Paul Aston had success with the set he reviewed on Pinkbike as well.

Reply

JBV
0
James Vasilyev  - March 21, 2019, 8:52 a.m.

i also found that Newman review interesting. they sound unique. i did a search and found a purchase review from a German guy on one of the German sites (bike24?) and he had a bad experience.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Timer
Tjaard Breeuwer  - March 21, 2019, 12:20 p.m.

Yes, I think the Paul Aston review is extra interesting when you see what he did to Enve wheels...

Then the German magazine test is great, since they actually do controlled lab test, including anvil drop tests, showing that those rims can stand more of them than most others, including carbon rims.

I bought both a rim and a complete wheel from one of the German online stores, shipped to me in the US.

No issues, but that doesn’t really mean anything, since other than busting that carbon rim on a rock once, and putting a flat spot in my ultralight alloy Bontrager rim smacking into a rock on my gravel bike, I am not that hard on wheels.

Here are the results from the magazine’s impact test.

The numbers on the chart for alloy rims are deformation in mm.

Bruch=broken, Beule = dents

https://www.bike-magazin.de/komponenten/laufraeder/test-laufraeder-carbon-und-aluminium-fuer-491-bis-1480-euro/a38005.html

Reply

Timer
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Timer  - March 21, 2019, 12:29 p.m.

Feedback from the German message boards seems to indicate that the rims are amazing but the hubs are very light weight and not quite as reliable as Hope or DT.

Good thing is that the rims are also sold separately.

Reply

JBV
0
James Vasilyev  - March 22, 2019, 10:32 p.m.

cool. too bad WAO rims weren't in the test. a German guy i met said anything Syntace makes is no compromise, no cost concerns best of everything. that seems to bear out whenever i read reviews or tests of their stuff.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2019, 6:50 a.m.

"For years I’ve heard comments regarding the high cost of wheels and how 'X' rim with Hope hubs, blah blah blah can be built for far less. Problem is whenever I calculate the build costs for the alloy wheels mentioned the price doesn’t land too far from the 1,100 USD Traverse Carbon."

Ya I'm that guy. Sorry! :)

- Hope Pro 4 Rear = $210USD

- Hope Pro 4 Front = $82USD

- Light Bicycle 30mm IW carbon rims = $200USD shipped

- Local wheel build [spokes + nipples] = $90USD each

- total for wheel set = $872USD [all current pricing off Jenson, LB website and my local wheel builder]

If you swap in Stan's rims [$100USD each] in above you get a $672USD wheel set.

I own a couple sets of these LB carbon wheels and they are amazing. In my riding group we've got several sets of similar wheels all used for years under a variety of riders with zero issues. I've had very similar aluminium and carbon wheels on similar bikes I've ridden on the same trails and the carbon wheels have been significantly tougher and more durable.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - March 21, 2019, 8:07 a.m.

I think you’re either getting a great deal or you’re light on the $$$ for building two wheels : labour + nipples + good spokes.

Most good local wrenches are charging $60+/wheel for labour and good spokes aren’t cheap anymore.

.

Can’t argue with you re. Value though. Impossible to post and not shout out to the Bontrager Line Comp at $300 USD for 54pt/6.7 engagement and upgraded to 108pt/3.3 engagement for an extra $20 USD. Including valves and rim strip.

200g weight penalty compared to the - claimed - total of the Spec - comparing 29 vs 29. The Bontragers are an i29 not i30.

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2019, 10:47 a.m.

I grabbed numbers off my last invoice for that service:

- wheel build $65CAD x 2

- spokes $1.40CAD x 64 Sapim Race

- nipples $0.27CAD x 64 Sapim Brass Nipples

These are CAD. I converted to USD in my previous post since the article was quoting USD. I am a good, but not great customer so I may be getting a 10-15% discount, but nothing unusual for a regular customer at a LBS. My invoice doesn't show a discount so I can't tell.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - March 21, 2019, 10:50 a.m.

Totally my bad Vik - I'm seeing complete wheels in USD and building custom wheels in CAD as if it's 1:1. 

Ugh. It's worse than juggling lbs and grams sometimes.

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2019, 10:53 a.m.

No worries it gets confusing. I edited my posts so that each cost has a currency after it so it's a little easier to understand.

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2019, 10:49 a.m.

That's a good price on the Bonty wheel set.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - March 21, 2019, 10:59 a.m.

They're a bit portly but otherwise, the hubs are great and the rims have held up well. And at the price!

I have to say, more than looking at the value of the wheelset aftermarket, it's (unfortunately) a hidden value in the Remedy and Fuel bikes that it comes OE on. 

Look at a Trek Fuel EX 7 29" at <$3500 CAD / <$2830 USD and there is simply no bike out there with a better wheel spec at that price point. Trek doesn't even highlight that fact (apparently Boost spacing, cable routing, Knock Block, and marketing their branded aluminum are all more important highlights than the best-in-class wheels).

Reply

Kenny
0
Kenny  - March 22, 2019, 11:15 a.m.

Loving the line comps with 108 upgrade. Best deal going imo. It's also common to find them as new takeoffs with 2.4 XR4 s on them (which serve well as rear tires here imo). I bought an as new set off ebay with the 108pt upgrade already done and xr4s set up tubeless for 400 shipped. Replaced the front xr4 with a 2.6 SE5 and stashed the xr4 to serve as a spare rear tire and rocked out. Couldn't be happier. Very much appreciate the heads up on these from Andrews previous article on them!

Reply

Andeh
0
Andeh  - March 21, 2019, 10:37 a.m.

Vik, your local wheel build price is really good.  I was just talking to my local shop about lacing up my existing DT 350 hubs to either WeAreOnes or Reserves, and they quoted me $80/rim labor plus about $2/spoke for DT Comp spokes / DT brass nipples.  When I add in $450-600 per rim, it's nearly as much as if I bought a complete wheelset from WAO.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Niels Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - March 21, 2019, 10:43 a.m.

Absent a fully amortized automated wheel building machine or cheap labour I'd expect a pre-built WAO wheel to cost a similar amount to having a WAO setup built in my local shop.

WAO is using quality components and paying fair wages to have the wheels laced in-house in Kamloops, BC.

.

As seen in the Carbon Chameleon launch video, Santa Cruz has a top-end wheel building machine so I'd expect that may make for a slightly lower cost vs. having Reserve wheels laced in a shop.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - March 21, 2019, 10:56 a.m.

You are hurting my brain with those costs per rim! We've got so many Light Bicycle rims on our local bikes with no issues and great prices it's hard for me think about paying double the cost for a rim.

Reply

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