The new DT Swiss 1501 series are now carbon - and we reckon the EXC1501 is hard to beat.
Words: Will Shaw | Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith
DT Swiss’ EXC1501 Spline One wheels are a carbon wheel set that’s superseded their incredibly popular EX1501 alloy wheel set. EX1501s were a crowd favourite amongst the aggressive trail and enduro race crowd, so the EXC1501s have big boots to fill. At the heart of these wheels are DT Swiss’ relatively new 240 EXP Ratchet hubs, which are a refined version of DT’s ever popular star ratchet system. These hubs feature the same internal refinements as DT’s top of the line 180 hubs, minus the trick ceramic bearings.
The EXC1501’s carbon rims pair a 36mm external width with a 30mm internal width, which suited the 2.35” Schwalbe tyres I mounted perfectly, as well as 2.5” and 2.4” Maxxis tyres I tried throughout testing. The wheels use 28 DT Swiss Competition Race straight pull spokes front and rear in a classic 3 cross pattern. The decision to use these lightweight spokes was to add compliance, as the EXC1501 carbon rims are a fair bit stiffer than the alloy ones they’re replacing. The spokes are held in place by DT Swiss alloy ProLock Squorx Prohead nipples.
The rims are the strongest carbon rims DT Swiss make, and they were designed in conjunction with DT Swiss Enduro World Series (EWS) athletes. Anyone familiar with Aaron Gwin riding down Leogang on a bare EX471 rim should have confidence that when DT Swiss say a rim meets their high impact protection standards, they mean it.
The EXC1501 wheels weigh around 150 grams more than their trail/all-mountain XMC counterparts, with the difference coming in rim weight as the wheels use the same hubs, spokes, and spoke count.
What’s in the box:
Straight out of the box, the wheels run centrelock rotor mounts, however DT provide 6 bolt adaptors, as well as a couple of freehubs depending on what drivetrain you’re running (both Shimano Microspline and XD driver freehubs). If you’re running 11 speed Shimano, HG freehubs are available separately. The wheels also come with some trendy bags, as well as a spoke truing tool.
I didn’t need to tension the wheels throughout 6 weeks of testing, riding 3-4 times per week. Whilst this is by no means a long-term test, I tend to be giving my alloy wheels a nip up every few weeks, which is more a shameful indictment on my riding style than how good a set of wheels are. If you do need to tension the wheels, I’d strongly recommend using the provided tool, as I’ve stripped many an alloy DT Swiss nipple in the past with a close enough is good enough mentality.
The wheels come taped out of the box, so all you need to do is bang in the valve, slap on some rubber and you’re ready to hit the trails. The valve tightener is designed so you don’t overtighten it onto the rim, however the first couple of turns feel a bit like you’re cross-threading it. Despite this strange feeling, the cap also doubles as a valve core remover, which is pretty handy.
The wheels weigh 1730 grams out of the box, with valves. Whilst this isn’t the lightest out there by any means, it’s pretty light for a wheel set DT Swiss say is capable of handling the rigours of the EWS.
On the trail
Overall I had a great time on the EXC1501s. I began testing with two 2.35” Schwalbe tyres, and their shape on the rim looked good. I’ve struggled in the past with the stiffness of some carbon wheels, particularly in the front coming from a background of riding two cross alloy front wheels. The use of the Race spokes was a good decision from DT, as it added a level of compliance to the wheel set that struck a nice balance with the stiff rims.
I admit that I did put the rim’s strength to the test on a couple of distinct occasions throughout testing. The first occasion was on one of Cooma’s Mount Gladstone downhill trails. I came around a turn and a little lip on the side of the trail appeared to set you up high for the next turn. Little did I know about twice the speed I was going was required to make the transition, and my rear wheel landed directly on a big rock about 2 feet short of the lander. The sharp rock immediately flatted my tyre, but it was the rock on carbon sound that had me most concerned. After inspection, I was impressed to see that the rim had suffered no damage, and it was the kind of impact that would’ve put one hell of a ding in an alloy rim.
The second occasion was also a mistimed jump attempt (you might be noticing a theme here) on a jump I’ve hit a good 50 times. The jump is also straight out of a turn, and I was on the wrong line coming in and thought a ‘pull up not out’ mentality would see me through. It saw most of the bike through, but the rear wheel copped another tyre bottom out, and once again there was no sign of damage, and no loss of spoke tension.
Whilst these two incidents are a limited sample size, they left me impressed at the strength of the EXC1501s rims. If you’re going to break one of these rims, chances are it’s the kind of impact that would break any rim. Speaking of breaking rims, these wheels come with what DT Swiss calls their ‘fair share’ wheel replacement policy that stands for 10 years from purchase. In addition to the standard 2-year warranty period and lifetime warranty against defects, DT Swiss will replace the broken rim for up to ten years post-purchase for a flat fee of 249 Euros (around 400 dollarbucks).
Whilst this isn’t as good as the lifetime guarantees that are out there, it’s still pretty good peace of mind to know that even if it’s your own fault you’ll receive your wheel back built up with a new rim for around $400. Another positive is you only need the original sales receipt to claim the warranty.
The rear hub on the EXC1501 features 36 points of engagement (POI). DT Swiss claim that 36 POI offers the best balance of pickup when you get on the pedals versus the impact more points of engagement can have on your suspension, and drag on the drivetrain. The idea behind this is if your wheel has almost instantaneous engagement, there’s no room for the wheel to move on square edge hits, and therefore you’ll feel that feedback through pedal kickback. If you’ve ever ridden chainless or a high pivot bike, you’ll appreciate that your drivetrain can have a massive impact on rear suspension performance.
For me, the 36 POI hub was perfectly fine for the riding I did on these wheels in the NSW Snowies, as well as in Newcastle. If I was living in Sydney, however, I’d do the 54 POI upgrade for faster engagement when half cranking your way around Sydney’s janky trails. With the option to go to 54, which in my experience feels fairly instantaneous, you can select the engagement that suits your trails best. You can expect a 54-tooth upgrade kit to set you back around $180 if you choose to go down that route.
Staying in the hub region of the wheels, holy moly do these things roll. This is my first experience on the new 240 hubs, and whilst I’d need to do back to back testing to validate this feeling on the trail these hubs feel like they’re giving you free speed whenever you’re coasting. Maintaining the hubs is an absolute breeze, and all the information on servicing can be found on the DT Swiss website.
The DT Swiss EXC1501 wheels retail for $2348 in Australia. While there’s no doubt that’s plenty of cash, when you consider that these wheels come with the revamped 240 hubs and DT Swiss hardware throughout the pricing is probably a shade lower than what I’d expect. They certainly come in a fair bit cheaper than a comparable wheel set from ENVE or Reserve Wheels, however there is the differences in warranty to consider.
If you’re looking for a sturdy, easy to maintain wheel set that also offers fantastic performance, the EXC1501s are worthy of significant consideration!
Super strong wheels for trail and enduro riding
Carbon weight, without being too harsh
Incredible hub quality
Excellent price:quality ratio
Higher engagement upgrade costs extra
There are better warranties out there