Roval C 38 Disc Review

Roval C 38 Disc – Stiff but uncomfortable on the road and twitchy in cross breezes

Performance: The Roval C 38 disc is made only for disc brake bikes but marketed for use on both paved and dirt or gravel surfaces. I review wheels for my fellow road cycling enthusiasts and evaluate wheels on paved roads, albeit some that are in such disrepair they seem little better than what a packed dirt path might feel like.

For Roval’s sake, I hope the C 38 does better on dirt and gravel surfaces than what I experienced on paved roads.

Despite its modern 21C/21mm internal rim width, I couldn’t find a tire pressure at which it rode comfortably. On smooth paved roads at 60 psi where I normally ride 25C tubeless tires the width of these (26.6 mm outside width), my 150lb body found the C 38’s comfort no more than acceptable. On chip-seal roads at pressures from 55 psi up to 75 psi, it was harsh to the point where I was backing off my speed to reduce the vibration.

The C 38 also got pushed around by steady 10 mph crosswinds. While it was disappointing that a 38mm depth wheelset would be affected so easily in these modest breezes, I was even more surprised at how twitchy and hard to control the wheelset was going downhill at 35mph in these crosswinds.

Roval C 38 Disc

I did find the C 38 quite stiff and handled very well when on good paved surfaces. While there was no snap when I accelerated, they did respond on par with the deeper 45mm and 50mm wheels I’ve been testing in this comparison of value-carbon wheelsets, most of which are also not rubber burners.

While I shouldn’t expect much aero help at the depth of these Rovals, I actually felt I was working harder to maintain my speed while doing intervals in the 20 and 25mph range than other value-carbon wheelsets I’ve reviewed that are both deeper and heavier.

Roval likes to claim their performance-carbon CLX wheels are more aero than others of similar depth. I don’t know whether it is the C 38’s rim depth or profile, hubs (DT Swiss 350 is the only option) or weight (1608 grams measured), but it didn’t seem any faster or better at climbing than the deeper and heavier wheelsets from the other Integrated wheelset companies.

The Zipp Tangente Speed RT25 25C tubeless tires I’m using in all the value-carbon wheelset evaluations mounted easily on the C 38 rims. Once installed and inflated to the 80psi pressure I use as a benchmark, the tires measured 26.9mm wide, essentially the same width that I had previously measured for the external rim width. A 25C tire that measures slightly narrower then these rims might help its aero performance at >20mph speeds.

There’s no denying the C 38 comes at a good price from a company whose dealer network through parent Specialized offers great service and support. Despite all that goodness, its better-than-most stiffness and handling performance, these wheels weren’t fun to ride and held me back from going as hard as I normally like to.

At the end of the day, that’s what matters most to me.

Design: I measured the wheelset I tested at 1608 grams including the rim strips but not valves, slightly higher than Roval’s 1560 gram claimed weight. The difference is probably in the strips. The rims measured 38.0 mm deep, 21.3mm inside and 26.9 mm outside on the U-shaped rim.

DT Swiss has been known to make complete stock wheels under the Roval brand name for parent Specialized’s bikes and may be making the C 38 as well. The wheels come with round DT Comp Race spokes, 24 both front and back attached by brass nipples and use a DT 350 hubset.

Quality: Roval provides a lifetime material and workmanship warranty to the original owner. If you buy the wheels from the original owner, Roval will still stand by them for 2 years from the original purchase. This is unique. I’ve not seen a “second owner” warranty offered by other wheelset sellers.

The 30-day return policy (new only or new and used) and crash replacement policy (“repair or replace for a fraction of a new wheel’s cost”) are less specific and probably provide discretion to the dealer to help keep the customer happy if there is an issue with the wheels.

Price: The C 38 Disc is the only carbon wheelset in Roval’s road wheelset line that sells in the value-carbon price range between $1000-$1500 ($1200 to be exact). Roval’s CLX 32, 50 and 64 sell for $2400-$2500 and the 50mm deep CL version with a lesser hub still sells for $1750. You can buy the C 38 and other Roval road wheels using these links to my top-ranked store Competitive Cyclist.

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3 comments

  • Hi Steve,
    I have the pair of Roval C38 disc running GP5000 25c tube tyres on my Cervelo S5 (2019). I like riding the wheels in normal straight flat riding. I did have to feel around a bit to select the best tyre pressure for weight (88kg) normally around 80psi. What I have found a couple of times is front wheel wobble when coming down a couple of steep hills. Scary but not enough to crash. Could this be the form of crosswind performance that you have experienced?

    • Mike, Hard to know what’s going on in your situation but I did experience similar performance in crosswinds. Your tire pressure sounds right. Make sure the front axle is tight. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    A good suggestion. I did question the Cervelo T bar thru axle. It was meant to turn 90 deg into locked position but my axle was turning almost 360 deg before locking. Like a stripped axle bolt. I didn’t like the thought of the axle coming apart down a hill. So I ended up changing both front and rear axles to the Robert Axle Project thru axle replacements which are thru, solid, axles or drive pins to hold the axle together. I felt much better and safer down the next descent. Thanks.
    Mike

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