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FAQ: The Roval Alpinist CL II vs. Roval Rapide CL II

We review and compare two of the most popular carbon road wheels: the Roval Alpinist CL II and Rapide CL II. TPC Ride Guide and racer, Andy Heuser, has put in the miles and gives us his thoughts.

Written by: Andy Heuser

Published on:

Posted in:FAQs

In the cluttered road wheel marketplace Roval, the Specialized component brand, has narrowed its focus to two main wheel families — Alpinist and Rapide — simplifying the selection process for road riders everywhere. 

Both carbon wheels come in two builds called CL and CLX. High-end CLX models feature Roval branded hubs with DT Swiss 180 internals, ceramic bearings, and DT Swiss Aerolite spokes.

Today, however, I’ll be focusing on the “CL II” models, the second-tier offering featuring DT Swiss 350 hubs and DT Swiss Competition spokes. Both Alpinist and Rapide CL II wheels are fantastic options in their own right, but which one makes the most sense for your riding? 

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Roval Alpinist vs. Rapide: SpecificationsRoval Alpinist vs. Rapide carbon rims

Wheel Models

Alpinist CL II

Rapide CL II

Price (MSRP)



Inner Rim Width 

F: 21mm / R: 21mm

F: 21mm / R: 21mm

Outer Rim Width

F: 27mm / R: 27mm

F: 35mm / R: 30.7mm

Rim Depth

F: 33mm / R: 33mm

F: 51mm / R: 60mm





F: 12x100 / R: 12x142

F: 12x100 / R: 12x142




Brake Type

Disc Centerlock

Disc Centerlock




While my primary intent here is to highlight the differences between these two wheel models, let’s begin with the similarities.

Roval CL II DT swiss 350 hubsBoth models tested featured identical DT Swiss 350 hubs. Mine are set up with an XDR freehubs for the SRAM AXS drivetrain on my Tarmac. The 350 utilizes DT’s legendary Star Ratchet freehub design, which is dead simple to service, extremely reliable, and as a bonus, has readily available service parts wherever your ride takes you. Both models are also built up with the same DT Swiss Competition series straight-pull spokes and have external spoke nipples for ease of truing.

Roval Alpinist vs. Rapide internal rim widthWhen it comes to the rims, both of these models have a sensible 21mm internal width and use a hooked rim meaning any road-tubeless tire will work for you, and you can run higher pressures if you’d like (up to 110 PSI tubeless, and 130 PSI with inner tubes installed). On the topic of tubeless, these wheels both come out of the box with tubeless tape and valves installed. Just mount up your favorite road tires, add some sealant, and go!


Roval Alpinist vs. Rapide: Ride Review

Specialized Tarmac Roval Alpinist CL IIAt face value, it’s pretty clear that the Alpinist models have notably shallower rims than the Rapides, meaning the rim profile is not as “tall” or deep.  It’s this shallower rim that helps them shed weight and provides their feathery ride quality on the climbs. While I was not surprised at this wheel’s performance on the uphills, the precise handling while descending, and instant power transfer when sprinting on the flats caught me off guard.

As a bigger rider myself at 6’4” and 205 lbs, I’ve generally stayed away from lighter wheels like these in the past, as they tend to feel somewhat vague, or even downright flexy when I put the power down or push them into a corner. That’s certainly not the case with the Alpinists. They held a line descending as though they were hooked up to the tracks of my favorite roller coaster, and when sprinting, there was zero hesitation.

These wheels made the bike accelerate so quickly, that I found myself gapping my teammates in the all-important town line sprints on our training rides. For riders who enjoy the climbs as much as the descents, it would be hard to recommend any other wheel. The shallower rim depth does sacrifice all-out aerodynamics, but the ride quality is simply unmatched.

Specialized Tarmac Roval Rapide CL IIThe Rapide, on the other hand, is a road and crit racer’s best friend. This deeper, aero-optimized rim has a few tricks up its sleeve to make it the best choice for every course short of a mountain-top finish. Besides the depth of the rim, the Rapides also feature a much wider profile, helping smooth the airflow around wider, modern road tires.

Specialized says that this wheel was designed to perform best with a 28mm tire, but a 30mm will also work quite well and adds some notable comfort. The front rim in particular is eye-catchingly wide.

Roval rapide rim external widthThe Roval Rapide features distinctly different front (left) and rear (right) external rim widths.

Even with a 28mm tire mounted, the rim profile protrudes significantly past the tire sidewall. This added width is to keep the front wheel stable in windy conditions, especially crosswinds. I’ve found this to be very effective in my time on the wheels so far, allowing me to comfortably take my hands off the bars to remove layers, grab a snack, or snap a quick photo even on windier days.

Though it’s well-mannered in the wind, there’s no doubt the Rapide is an aero wheel once you get it up to speed. This wheel holds speed like no one’s business, and it always seems to be pushing you to add a bit more power, urging you to tick that average speed up a bit higher. 

Roval Alpinist vs. Rapide: Final Thoughts

In my first road race of the season, I went with the Rapides and was incredibly happy I did! I spent the majority of the race in the day’s main breakaway, where every watt saved meant we could stay out ahead of the field a bit longer. I anticipate they will be the go-to choice for every rider on our team come race day this year, but I’d be lying if I said those Alpinists weren’t the most entertaining wheels I’ve ridden, maybe ever.

For riders looking for every watt on their fast group rides, or toeing the line at your local crit, you’ll love the Rapide's all-out speed, but for those who just want to enjoy every mile, the Roval Alpinist is guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time you roll out the front door. 

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