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ROVAL RAPIDE C 38 – STIFF, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND TWITCHY

The Roval Rapide C 38 disc is made only for disc brake bikes but marketed for use on both paved and gravel surfaces. I only rode these wheels on paved roads, albeit some that were similar to a well-maintained dirt one.

For Roval’s sake, I hope the C 38 does better on 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 25mm tubeless tires on rims the width of these (26.9mm outside width), my 150lb body found the C 38’s comfort no more than acceptable.

On chip-seal roads where I test rode the wheels with tire 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.

Roval C 38 Disc

Why not use 28mm or wider tires to improve comfort? If you prioritize comfort, you should.

But I was trying to test Roval’s claim that the C 38 “outperforms many deeper, aero-specific rims that cost twice as much.” Setting up the C 38 wheels with 28mm tires would make the tires wider than the rims, going against a basic guideline of wheelset aerodynamics.

Even with the 25mm tires on these Rovals that made the rims marginally wider than the inflated tires, I had to work harder to maintain my speed than with deeper value carbon wheelsets (and performance carbon ones “that cost twice as much”) while doing intervals in the 20 and 25mph range.

And while I shouldn’t expect a 38mm deep wheelset would be more aero than a 50mm deep one, this confirmed that Specialized’s C 38 version of a 38mm deep wheelset isn’t an exception.

The C 38 also got pushed around by steady 10 mph crosswinds. While it was disappointing that a relatively shallow value carbon wheelset would be so easily affected in these modest breezes, I was even more surprised at how twitchy and hard to control the wheelset was going downhill at 30mph in these crosswinds.

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 value carbon wheels I’ve been testing, most of which are also not rubber burners.

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 confident 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. 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 Competition Race spokes, 24 both front and back attached by brass nipples, and use a DT 370, 18 tooth 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 many “second owner” warranties offered by other wheelset sellers.

The 2-yr free repair or replacement crash replacement policy covers the original owner if the wheel is damaged while riding.

Price: The Roval Rapide C 38 lists for US$1100, £999, €1245, and is available at these links to recommended stores Competitive Cyclist and Sigma Sports.

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You can read my evaluation of other wheelsets in this category in the post The Best Value Carbon Wheelset.

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4 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

  • I had the same twitchy problem over 30 MPH…scared me a little….. check spoke tension as mine needed to be tightened from 800nm to 1100 …I was told when new they sometimes loosen up. Once tightened to factory specs , absolutely no twitch at high speeds downhill even w crosswind. They ride great w 28 tires ….very happy w the

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