Cantu Rova Gravel Wheelset: Getting Rolling – by MG
Avid readers know that we write a lot about wheels here at Riding Gravel. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is we simply love great wheels. When combined with the right tires, few if any other upgrades have the potential to improve the quality of your ride more than a great set of wheels.
With a build more suited to a mountain bike, our test Lauf True Grit’s stock wheels put a damper on the bike’s performance.
I was reminded of this recently, after receiving the awesome Lauf True Grit for testing (read my “Getting Rolling” post here). During my early rides, I could feel the greatness lurking within the bike. Unfortunately, the heavy, dead-feeling stock wheelset specced on the mid-level build kit kept me from experiencing the best the Lauf had to offer on the road.
On the bright side, the stock rims had a contemporary 25mm internal width, but the burly build pushed the wheelset weight to nearly 2,000 grams. While not obscene, I knew there was much room for improvement, both in weight and ride feel.
As I considered my options, I decided to give John Wilmeth at Cantu Wheels a shout and get his perspective. I’ve seen Cantu’s wheels under a number of riders I respect recently, so I wanted to learn more about his approach to wheel building.
I’ve built my own wheels for more than 20 years now, so I have some pretty solid opinions on what I want in a great wheelset. Over the course of our conversation, I could tell that John and I were on the same page.
Combined with the 716g front wheel, the wheelset weighs 1567g on MG’s digital scale. For the record, that’s 13g less than claimed. Impressive…
After discussing the options, we agreed that Cantu’s Rova gravel wheelset was the best choice for the goals I had in mind. The lightweight carbon rims and Sapim CX-Ray aero spokes would significantly reduce rotating weight (the best type of weight to cut), while the tough, smooth-rolling sealed bearing hubs would take all the punishment I could muster.
John builds each Rova wheelset by hand, so while there is a stock build, he has the ability to customize any aspect of the wheels to suit the owner’s specific needs. Cantu offers wheels with a choice of Shimano 11sp or SRAM xD drivers, as well as 6-bolt or CenterLock rotor mounting. The hubs are easy to configure for virtually any bike that uses quick release or thru-axle hubs. The front wheel can run either a 12mm or 15mm through axle with a simple end cap swap.
On looks alone, the Rova wheelset is a significant upgrade for our Lauf True Grit test bike. MG will report on the feel and ride quality upgrades in the next installment of his review.
My Rova wheelset uses 35mm tall, 31mm wide (24mm internal) hookless carbon rims laced to 6-bolt disc hubs with black spokes and Sapim ProLock brass nipples. Yes, you read that right, brass nipples. While many wheel builders choose the weight savings of alloy nipples, John (and I) prefer the long-term durability and serviceability brass nipples afford. Since I consider wheels to be a long-term investment, having the ability to service them easily a few years down the road is a high priority.
Cantu offers 12 different colors of wheel graphics to choose from, including multiple reflective options. (Photo: Cantu Wheels)
Cantu also gives customers the ability to customize the graphics on their wheels. Choose from one of a dozen different colors, some of which are reflective – a great option for gravel road cycling. I went with the reflective red option for my Rova wheels, and they look fantastic mounted up to the Lauf True Grit.
MSRP for the stock Rova wheelset is $1,595, which is right on par with other quality hand built wheels with carbon rims.
Initial Ride Impressions
With carbon rims that are designed to work with modern tubeless-compatible tires, the Rova wheels are easy to set up. Once the rims were taped to seal the spoke holes, the Rova wheelset had no problems with bead-up or air retention running tubeless.
Compared to the stock wheelset, the Rova wheels have a calm, predictable ride quality in dry, loose gravel conditions.
Rolling out on my first ride with the Rova wheelset, it was easy to feel the weight savings compared to the stock wheels. The bike accelerates with an urgency that simply wasn’t present before.
Furthermore, the wheels have a very composed, calm feel that’s particularly evident when traversing deep and/or loose gravel. I’ll talk more about this in the Checkpoint installment of the test, but I need more time on the wheels to determine exactly what’s going on. Suffice it to say, I’m stoked with the feel and performance upgrade the Rova wheelset has given our True Grit, and am looking forward to putting more miles in on the combination.
Look for my next installment of the Cantu Rova wheelset review to come in early August. In the meantime, you can learn more about Cantu Wheels’ extensive offering of road, gravel, ‘cross and MTB wheels at CantuWheels.com.
Please Note: Cantu Wheels sent the Rova wheelset to RidingGravel.com for test and review at no charge. We are not being paid or bribed for this review and we will give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.