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Bike companies don’t really do “house” brands as much they used to. Or, at least not in the same way that they used to. A house brand is what we call the name that some manufacturers slap on the off-the-shelf components they spec in an effort to give those parts the cachet of a real brand. But consumers have wisened up over the years. There definitely was never anything special about Haro’s “Fusion” handlebars or Cannondale’s “Coda” brakes. Though, I guess some of those old Coda cranks were kinda cool.
We expect a little more out of the parts that come on our bikes, whether or not they have a presence in the aftermarket. That’s why Specialized acquired Roval in 2017. The French wheelsmiths make good stuff. And they still make good stuff. You only see Roval wheels when you get to the higher end of the Specialized range. Roval is not an off-the-shelf house brand. It’s maintained its boutique status, even after partnering with one of the world’s biggest bike brands.
That’s why it was a surprise to see the news today that Roval is releasing an aluminum wheelset. Aluminum! But, it makes sense. We’re realizing lately that alloy rims can offer a ride quality that’s difficult to achieve in carbon. Also, alloy rims are cheaper. We realized that the moment carbon rims first emerged.
But don’t call the new Roval Traverse wheels “cheap.” The rim itself has an asymmetric shape and a 30mm inner width. The hub uses Roval’s Step Flange design that routes all the j-bend spokes from outside the hub flanges for wider bracing angles. And, the hubs feature actual DT Swiss Star Ratchet internals. They come out of the box with 18 points of engagement, but can be swapped down the road for DT’s 54-tooth setup. And the spokes! Here’s probably the nerdiest thing about the wheels: Front and rear, left and right, all use the same length spoke. For the 27.5-inch version, the only spoke you’ll ever need to have on hand is 266 millimeters long. For the 29, it’s 283. That’s kinda cool.
Also kinda cool is that the wheelset goes for $650. That’s less than one carbon Reserve (also a house brand) rim!. And they’re 1830 grams for the 27.5 and 1870 grams for the 29-inch, which is just 70 grams heavier than the Traverse Carbon wheelset.