A Farewell To Tubes

A Farewell To Tubes

The past two years have been great years for Roval’s Alpinist and Rapide wheels. They spent so much time dominating podiums that they are on record having won more World Tour races than any other. That’s 155 races, if you’re counting. A whole lot of podium time. Our goal when developing each of these wheels was to create the fastest wheels in the world, for real-world conditions. And we demonstrably did just that, while still using inner tubes, no less.

Meet the new Alpinist CLX tubeless wheel. The fastest climber’s wheel in the world just got faster. We knew, ultimately, that developing a tubeless ready wheelset would unlock even more speed. There are inherent frictions involved with tube-type wheels, where the deformation of the tire and tube as the wheel rolls over a surface can lead to increases in rolling resistance and energy loss. With a tube inside a tire, there is more material deformation, which not only increases friction and rolling resistance but can also negatively impact ride quality and traction. This knowledge is not, as they say, rocket surgery.

Figuring out how to bring a wheel to market that reaps the benefits of tubeless while also meeting our stringent impact and durability tests – remember, we want real-world performance – well, that’s where the rocket surgery comes into play.

The new tubeless-ready Alpinist is the result of 21 months of exhaustive testing and development, testing so rigorous that it led us to completely redefine existing “industry best” test protocols and step away from the widely accepted, UCI mandated, “40 Joule” impact test. Ultimately we arrived at a new high bar for testing that almost doubled the existing standards, before we were ready to unleash these wheels upon the world.

We’ve got a story to tell about that testing and development arc, and how it sprang from a single incident involving Peter Sagan, an aggressive bunny hop, an errant curb, and a tire that didn’t stay on a damaged rim, but that’s a whole story unto itself. We’ll get to that. For now, It’s enough to say that a freak incident led us to take a deep dive into what can be considered reasonable expectations of performance, and how far should extend ourselves in the name of safety and being able to deliver the fastest, lightest, most dependable product possible. The new Alpinist is the first beneficiary of that deep dive. After destructively testing more than 1000 wheels of different layups and designs, we can say that, now, beyond any shadow of a doubt, performance tubeless road wheels are ready for prime time.

The Alpinist is still a climber’s dream; a 1250-gram wonder of a wheelset that snaps to attention when you stomp on the pedals and floats uphill faster than anything this side of a motor-assist. It still benefits from the minimalist perfection of a wholistic, systemic design approach that sees the hubs, spokes and rims all being designed together to optimize strength and eliminate excess. Dt Swiss spokes and hub internals and SINC ceramic bearings keep everything running with smooth precision. The rims are still 33mm deep, with a 21mm internal width that is optimized for contemporary tires. And there’s a very painstakingly designed hook bead on the rim (remember those 1000 or so prototype rims we trashed?) that securely holds any tire right where it needs to be held, regardless of tire pressure or whatever particular cobbled hell the wheel is being subjected to. We’ve even designed an extra 1.4mm of bead slack in the well of the rim to ensure an easier, smoother, install and roadside repair experience.

The fastest climbing wheels in the real world just got faster. And stronger. And tubeless compatible. And smoother. And better handling. Welcome to prime time, tubeless!

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