A year without bead hooks: Roval Control 29 Carbon

Mismatched tyres & rotors: 
sure signs of use

Specialized wheel brand hits £1,000 carbon mark.

Brand:
Roval
Product:
Control Carbon 29
From:
Specialized
Price:
£1,000/$1,200
Tested:
by Marc B for Thirteen months
Word count:
645

Specialized wheel brand hits £1,000 carbon mark.

SONY DSCIt’s hard not to be drawn to to carbon wheels.  For any given use they’re lighter, stiffer, and/or stronger than alloy-rimmed models – to say nothing of sexier – but put simply the price puts composites out of most riders’ reach.  There are always the China-direct and consumer-direct routes, but those often require some compromise in terms of importation hassles, component quality, post-sale support, or some combination of the three.

The undeniable allure of carbon

The undeniable allure of carbon

With the Roval Control 29 Carbon wheelset, Specialized’s wheel brand has set out reduce the barriers to carbon wheel ownership. Despite high-quality hubs, high street availability, and proper warranty support, the Control 29 Carbon wheelset, at £1,000/$1,200, is priced just north of high-end aluminium wheelsets.  Only one model is offered: 29er wheels with end caps for QR and 15mm forks,  135mm QR or 142x12mm frames, and a rather nice set of quick release skewers in the box.  For the dream build, DT Swiss XD (XX1/X01) freehub kits are available aftermarket.

Smooth, stout walls

Smooth, stout walls

Building the Control 29 Carbons around fast-engaging DT Swiss 350 freehub internals using straight-pull DT Revolution spokes and nipples, Roval has gone with a proven and easily-serviced foundation.  It’s out at the tyre/rim interface that things get interesting.  In order to simplify manufacturing while improving impact resistance, Roval has done away with the bead hook, leaving only a pair of straight walls, spaced 21mm apart.  Surely a recipe for disaster?

Maybe not.  As tubeless and tubeless-ready tyres’ bead tolerances and strengths have improved, the bead hook has become an appendix-like vestigial structure.  No longer needed to keep snug and strong beads from climbing over the edge of the rim, present-day hooks just sit there, adding weight and making manufacturing (especially in carbon) more difficult.  That’s the theory, in any case.

In over a year worth of singlespeed and trail abuse, the hookless Rovals have done nothing of note.  No freehub failures.  No midnight tyre blowoffs.  No wibbles, wobbles, or hops.  None of the excitement that makes for an entertaining read (if a less-than-entertaining ownership experience).  Markedly stiffer and more precise but slightly lighter than the DT 350/Stan’s Crest wheelset they replaced, the Control 29 Carbons have held up to aggressive cross-country and trail riding that  led to three tyre-wrecking rim strikes- all without complaint.

The "before" photo

The “before” photo

Billed as an XC/trail wheelset, the 1,590g Control 29 Carbons aren’t the lightest 29er wheels on the market- nor are they meant to be.  What they are meant to be is the one wheel a rider can ride day after long day, without issue.  With their high quality hubs, tubeless-ready construction, and stout rims, it has to be said that Roval has succeeded.  Beyond reducing the price and (presumably) helping the wheels shrug off impacts, the absence of bead hooks hasn’t made a blind bit of difference.  Equally at home on the race course or backcountry epics, the Control 29 Carbons’ flawless performance and reasonable price should give anyone considering high-end alloy pause.

Categorised as:

Wheels