Roval Traverse SL Wheelset

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Tested: Roval's No-Nonsense Traverse SL Wheelset

The previous version of this wheelset was loved by enduro riders and cross-country whippets alike. Does the newest generation with its fancy Step Flange hubs, J-bend spokes, and a similar hookless profile live up to the task?

Rating: Vital Review

After a few years of real-world testing, Roval went back to the drawing board with their entire series of mountain wheels beforelaunching things last summer in Whistler. The latest Roval series features a number of refinements and has the potential to put the Roval wheelset near the top of everybody’s aftermarket upgrade list. Let's dig in.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Excellent balance between stiffness and compliance
  • Much quieter on trail than previous version
  • 30mm inner width is perfect for most modern tires
  • Tubeless from the box
  • Same spoke length throughout
  • J-bend spokes all of the same length
  • Fast rolling
  • DT Swiss hub internals
  • Lifetime warranty
  • A bit pricey

Roval Traverse SL Highlights

  • Available in 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes
  • Hookless carbon fiber rim with 30mm inner width
  • Hand-built
  • 2Bliss Ready
  • Alloy hubs with Step Flanges
  • DT Swiss 240 hub internals
  • DT Swiss Competition Race J-bend spokes
  • Adaptors to accommodate all rear axle standards
  • SRAM XD and Shimano freehub compatible
  • 28 spokes front and rear
  • Limited lifetime warranty and **IT Happens policy
  • Recommended tire widths: 2.3" to 3.0”
  • Weight: 1,690g (27.5”) / 1,735g (29”)
  • MSRP: $1,600 USD

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the relatively understated graphics of the Roval Traverse SL wheelset was somewhat refreshing. We appreciate that some folks love bright colors and bold graphics, but the understated Traverse SL takes the opposite approach and looks good doing it. They have plenty of bling factor but do not clamor for attention.

On all but the cassette side of the rear hub, the spoke heads face inward, reducing stress-risers, fatigue, and premature spoke failure.

The latest Traverse SL appears similar to the version it replaced, but closer inspection reveals a number of thoughtful upgrades. Most notable are the machined Step Flanges that allow the J-bend spokes to take a more direct path to the rim by not having to bend around one another. What does that mean exactly? According to Roval, a stiffer wheel, fewer broken spokes, less maintenance, and straightforward repairs with easily sourced parts. On all but the cassette side of the rear hub, the spoke heads face inward, reducing stress-risers, fatigue, and premature spoke failure.

The Roval Traverse SL wheelset uses their hookless rim design mated to Roval hubs using DT Swiss Competition spokes. Roval’s partnership with DT Swiss for spokes and hub internals has allowed them to focus design and engineering efforts on rim and hub shell concepts, which generated great feedback from the first generation of Roval products and promises more of the same with the recent updates.

On The Trail

For the past few months, our Roval Traverse SL wheelset has found itself in a few different configurations. It has served time on a lightweight trail bike and on two full-on enduro bikes. The Traverse SL is advertised as a do-it-all wheel system, and while dedicated cross-country racers might lean towards the Control wheelsets, the Traverse series is light enough to perform well on a short-travel bike. For the most part, we were running Schwalbe Magic Mary tires in their mid-weight Super Gravity casing, which gave us a great tread profile. The Traverse SL rims are designed with 2.3 to 2.6-inch tires in mind. Our pressures ranged from 24 to 26psi in the front, and 26 to 28psi in the rear. We chose not to run a tire insert for the purpose of this test, but they fit easily too.

Having ridden a wide variety of rim widths, our experiences on internal widths of about 30mm has been ideal. It provides enough width that modern higher volume tires have a great profile and stability. Too much rim width and tires begin to spread a bit far, often flattening tire profile to the point where knobs aren’t situated ideally and the rim becomes more vulnerable to impacts. Even at relatively low tire pressures, our Magic Mary tires remained secure on the hookless rims and never rolled unexpectedly.

Between the rim itself and the remainder of the build, the Traverse SL provided plenty of cornering support. They do not flex under aggressive cornering, nor did they detune over time. The “stiffer is better” mantra does not apply to these wheels, instead “compliance” seems to have become the latest marketing term that we hear at every new component release. Roval seems to have nailed the balance here, and unless you’re well over 200-pounds they are plenty stiff without becoming exhausting. We found that they did not deflect more than the aluminum wheelsets we've ridden recently, and they seemed to reduce some of the vibrations and jarring feedback often transmitted to the rider through a more rigid setup.

The wheels were quiet, creak free, and have not required a single visit to a truing stand. Running without inserts also meant that the rims suffered a number of hard impacts which had zero influence on the rim cosmetically or functionally.

At less than 1,800-grams, these wheels are svelte for the abuse they can tolerate. What left us more impressed is how little drag there was. The wheel bearings roll extremely smoothly and notably faster than most wheelsets, which meant they actually felt lighter on the trail than the scale would suggest. They did not feel slow on a 110mm cross-country bike, which isn’t the case for a number of enduro capable wheels we have tried on short-travel rigs. The DT Swiss freehub operates smoothly and the quick engagement provided near instant power.

Things That Could Be Improved

No doubt Roval’s engineers are already looking for the next improvement for the Traverse SL, but we were hard-pressed to find fault with them during over three months of riding. Once we mounted them and made a few notes, we rode them daily and did not truly appreciate them until we swapped back to a less expensive and less refined mid-range wheelset.

At the original $1,900 USD price point they were quite a bit more expensive than the previous Traverse SL wheelset, and $800 more than the Traverse Carbon version. Roval has since reduced the price to $1,600 USD. The more affordable Traverse Carbon version lacks a few of the features that make the top-tier SL such a great product, but most working class folks will have a tough time justifying the added expense.

Long Term Durability

With DT Swiss hub internals, a generous warrantyextending to a second owner, and a **IT Happens policy, it is evident that the folks at Roval are confident in the durability of their products. We expected our Traverse SL wheelset to require little maintenance and thankfully we were not let down. We spent months riding in dismally wet conditions, which included a chilly stint where temperatures were in the thirties. 

The wheels were quiet, creak free, and have not required a single visit to a truing stand. Running without inserts also meant that the rims suffered a number of hard impacts which had zero influence on the rim cosmetically or functionally. When a spoke does eventually let go, it is nice to know that we will be able to use easily sourced J-bend spokes. 

What’s The Bottom Line?

Even after a recent price reduction, the Roval Traverse SL wheelset costs a pretty penny. Fortunately, the performance, ease of maintenance, and serviceability are top-notch. The wheels have tolerated enough abuse to confirm that they can handle enduro racing and the weight and rolling speed means they are even capable of cross-country duties. They were never harsh, nor did they deflect as some carbon wheelsets do. The wheels are also much quieter on the trail than the previous version. Combined with a great warranty, the Roval Traverse SL wheelset is a great way to increase the performance and bling factor of any bike.

Check out www.rovalcomponents.com more information. 

_________________________________________________________________________

About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood - Age: 35 // Years Riding: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings. 

Photos by Jessie McAuley and Joel Harwood

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9 comments newest first

I thought 1.6k is rather average for carbon wheels. I am still on my Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon Wheels, that I bought because of the good critic they received on this website. They cost 1700, which at the time was rather inexpensive for Carbon wheels. Rovals are hard to get.

| Reply

I'm happy for you that you have that kind of money to burn, but I can smash most rims & replace rims semi-frequently so it makes no sense to throw my money at rocks & roots in the form of a carbon rim.

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Need has little to do with mountain biking sir. But if you haven’t tried a good set of carbon rims you are missing out. Really good upgrade, however if you are happy with your set up that’s great. My friend is a 230 lb rim smasher and he finally upgraded to some knock off carbon rim brand(I’ll ask him what brand.) Anyway I believe it set him back 600 dollars and he hasn’t had to true them in months. Might be worth a look. If not, no worries because as you said you don’t need carbon rims. For me I have tried top of the line enve wheels that cost about 3k and didn’t think much of them( first gen m70s were way too stiff for me). I switched to some carbon Santa Cruz reserves this race season and I have been impressed. More importantly I haven’t had to replace a rim... yet.

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The questions is not carbon or aluminum. I was saying for carbon rims the Roval seem ok.
The question if carbon rims are worth the money is a different one and honestly, I think its not justified. However, I must say that my SC Carbon have been trouble free, needed no truing, feel more precise than alu and come with a life time warranty (otherwise I wouldn't have dared to shell that cash). I mean, for that price you get half a YT Capra (my last bike).

| Reply

Mountain bikers: "If it's not free, it's a bit pricey."

Also: "The wheel bearings roll extremely smoothly and notably faster than most wheelsets..."

How are you able to zero in on the bearings and feel this phenomena, and compare it objectively to other wheels? Do you have measuring equipment on the bike or just chalk it up to "feel"? How can you decouple it from other variables on the trail, such as traction, friction, wind, tires, etc.?

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You can definitely feel this in wheels. When I upgraded to some dt 350 hubs I was amazed at even how long they would spin in the stand and it was immediately noticeable on the trail. Some of that speed went away when I installed the 54t ratchet over the stock 18t. This too was a noticeable difference.

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I was running the last version roval carbons for a couple seasons and thought they were great. When they first came out they were one of the less expensive options. It’s nice to see they still look like a good option.

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Specifications
Product Roval Traverse SL Wheelset
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Rim Material Carbon
Rim Carbon fiber, hookless
Inner Rim Width 30mm
Hole Count 28 front and rear
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Alloy Roval shell, DT Swiss 240 internals
Rear Axle 12mm x 142mm, 12mm x 148mm (Boost)
Front Hub Alloy Roval shell, DT Swiss 240 internals
Front Axle 15mm x 100mm, 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Disc Mount Type 6 Bolt
Spokes DT Swiss Competition Race J-Bend
Nipples
Colors Carbon
Weight
  • 3 lb 11.6 oz (1,690 g)
  • 3 lb 13.2 oz (1,735 g)
Miscellaneous Hand-built wheels
Lifetime warranty
Recommended tire widths: 2.3" to 3.0”
2019 model year release
Price $1,600
More Info

rovalcomponents.com

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