Roval Terra CLX: One Wheel to Rule All Roads – by Greg Gentle

Roval Terra CLX: One Wheel to Rule All Roads

Price: $2500

I recently rewatched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  For those of you unfamiliar, Gandolf, the white bearded wizard, introduces the history and legacy of the rings at the beginning of the first episode, The Fellowship of the Rings. At the closing Gandolf reminds us that, while many rings exist, only one ring rules them all.  Borrowing from the Tolkein classic, Roval believes this to be the perfect metaphor branding the Terra CLX “One Wheel to Rule All Roads”.

Eager to prove that Roval Components is more than a house brand for Specialized, the Terra CLX lineup hit the dirt back in late summer of 2019.  Roval offers the Terra CLX in several widths and sizes.  Riders seeking higher volume tires will seek the 700c, 25mm wide CLX.  Searching for more volume?  Try the 30mm wide CLX EVO available in 700c or 650b .  The bike I’ve chosen for this test can only accommodate tires up to 40c, so I opted for the 25mm Terra CLX designed for tires up to 42mm.  

Here are the critical details from Roval:

Terra CLX Features

  • Carbon rim that is lightweight and incredibly durable
  • Tubeless-ready for a smoother ride, better traction, and fewer flats
  • 25mm inner width works well with 28 – 42c tires
  • Includes: Roval padded wheel bag, Roval tubeless rim tape, and valves
  • Inner Width 25mm 
  • Rim Height 32mm 
  • Spoke Drilling 24mm 
  • Valve Type 
  • Presta Tubeless Yes 
  • Tire Type Clincher 
  • Brake Compatibility Disc (Centerlock) 
  • Front Axle 12 x 100mm 
  • Rear Axle 12 x 142mm 
  • Intended Use Road, All-Road, Gravel 
  • Weight 1296g (Wheelset)

For details on CLX EVO, please refer to Roval’s website.

The Rim

Roval returns to a hooked rim bead on this wheel set.  “Why?” you may ask when many wheel manufacturers have gone to a hookless rim bead expecting most riders to seek out tubeless tires. The Roval Terra CLX returns to a hooked rim to open more tire options accommodating high-pressure, 28mm road tires to lower volume tires up to 42mm . The 32mm rim depth and 25mm internal width provides stability and confidence for all day adventure. (Lennard Zinn goes into great detail regarding hooked versus hookless rims here if you care to learn more).  The Terra rim is designed for “tool-less” and “compressor-free” installation. More on that later.

The Hub

The Terra CLX hub is based on an aero flange body and DT Swiss internals with the EXP freehub.  The EXP utilizes a single-actuated star-ratchet.  This decreases drag and weight while increasing axle strength by moving the bearings outboard.  The axle is based on a 12mm design readily available on most modern frames.  The Roval AFD hub shell features an aero design to increase efficiency and center-lock rotors.  The rear hub is available in HG and SRAM XDR freehubs.

Set Up

The test wheels came equipped with an HG freehub, tubeless tape, and stems ready for a tubeless setup.  Tubeless setup can resemble a WWF wrestling match. Not here.

Roval has designed the Terra rim for “tool-free” and “compressor-free” installation.  This is achieved by utilizing a deep, yet narrow center channel and higher out walls to allow the tire bead to snap into place.  My tire of choice is the Terrene Elwood 700x40c Light.  I can say with confidence that I have not had an easier tubeless setup.  True to their claim, I was able to mount the tire by hand and seat the Terrene tire easily with a few quick strokes from my Silca floor pump. 

Once these wheels were setup, they have been consistently reliable. I have only had to air up the front wheel once after setup. Riding a wider rim has its benefits. The 25mm carbon rim expanded the 40mm Terrene Elwood to a whopping 44.9mm creating a cush ride. (And pushed the boundaries of my custom Salt Air All-Road). 

The Ride

I switched out a pair of HED Ardenne SL wheels for this test period.  The HED wheels are best of show in the alloy wheel category featuring a 25 mm internal width like Terra CLX.  With that in mind, I expected a similar ride. The HED wheels are nice, but the Terra CLX is in an entirely different class.  It is not a fair comparison. The first and most obvious difference was the weight, followed by acceleration due to the snappy engagement of the rear hub. The DT Swiss single-actuated star ratchet provides fast engagement increasing your pedal efficiency with the first pedal stroke. 

Acceleration of the Terra CLX is impressive due largely to the wheels rotational weight.  Once up to speed these wheels fly. The smooth DT Swiss internally driven hubs with their aero flanges work in tandem with the 32mm rim depth to slice through the air. The rim depth performs exceptionally in cross-winds, as well.   

The Terra’s climbing prowess is due to its weight, but also due to the torsional stiffness from the consistent, exacting 24-hole spoke construction.  When you are pounding the pedals out of the saddle you lose very little power.  The DT Swiss Aero-lite T-head spoke increases aerodynamics and stiffness resulting in a fast and responsive wheel.  The solid, consistent construction of these wheels enables riders to dive into corners with confidence.

The Final Word

If I were in the market, I would give this wheelset strong consideration.  Make no mistake, the Terra CLX is a significant investment at $2500.  Other wheels in this class include HED’s 1396g Emporia GC3 at $2200, Industry Nine’s UL250 at $2250/1350g, and Enve’s SES for $2550.  Note that the Enve wheels are only rated up to a 30mm tire. So, for that Roval investment you are getting the lightest carbon all-road wheelset on the market.  The Terra CLX is arguably a wheel that will out-perform high-end tubulars costing much more without the flexibility to run high pressure 28mm road tires or lower volume gravel tires up to 42mm. 

Coming in at about 1300 grams, you will not find a lighter carbon wheel set for this application.  Roval also backs the product with a “limited” lifetime warranty for manufacturers defects, and a two-year “no questions asked” crash replacement for the original owners. If you are the second owner, you still have options for replacement or repair at a significantly lower cost. 

Riders will appreciate the weight, responsive ride, and the ability to run road or gravel-specific tires.  Given the amazing range of applications and strong replacement program, even Gandolf the White might be seen ripping across The Shire on a pair of Terra CLX wheels.  For my money, the Terra CLX truly is “One Wheel to Rule All Roads.”

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Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.