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