Is it time for you to indulge in some hand built wheels?
First World Problem: Working within a budget and requiring a new set of wheels – be they alloy or carbon. There are many options available from pre-built to custom built wheels, and certainly a large list of important factors one needs to consider to ensure the new wheel purchase will go the distance.
Key factors that will influence the price include: machine-made or hand-built wheels, what type of rider you are and what type of riding you intend to use them for, with how many spokes the wheels have, quality of the hubs, the spokes and more. Will you be running your new wheels tubeless? If so, make sure that the rim you are pairing has a good history with successful tubeless use otherwise you could find yourself a little deflated before you hit the trails for the first time.
As part of our rim width feature we had a set of DT Swiss 350 hubs laced to a set of DT Swiss XM 481 rims, using 32 DT Swiss spokes and DT Swiss Pro Lock nipples. This DT Swiss dream package was all hand-built by DT Swiss here in Australia. DT Swiss supplied these wheels with tubeless valves and their own tubeless rims tape. Our DT Swiss 350 hubs came with a rotor mounting system called Center Lock. In order to use this you need a specific Center Lock rotor (most brake brands make one these days) or an adaptor that DT Swiss make in order to use your normal 6 bolt rotor. We used the latter so as to not seek new rotors and keep the costs down on the wheel build.
The DT Swiss XM 481 rim is perhaps one of the more versatile offerings in their lineup with a 30mm internal width (35mm external) so you can run a large range of tyre sizes without the width of the rim making any real negative changes to the way the tyre works.
Out on the trails this wheel set offered great control and a nice balance between stiffness and flex; something that can also be traced back to the wheel builders knowing what the intended use would be for the wheels. This is perhaps another reason to spend a few more dollars and have your wheels band-built instead of a set produced by a machine.
During our time on the wheels we certainly didn’t hold back on our riding style, even taking them through their paces on the infamous Cannonball Downhill at Thredbo, walking away with no dents, loose spokes or flat tyres. However, one thing we did notice though, on every ride we took the rear rotor came loose allowing the rotor to move backwards and forwards about 10mm. We had no issues with the front rotor at all which is a much lager rotor and would be under more force. We can’t pinpoint if it is the power coming from our SRAM Code RSC brakes or the adaptor that is making the rear 185mm rotor come loose. Perhaps it’s a combination and if had obtained the proper Center Lock rotor the issue would be solved.
The DT Swiss 350 hubs used in this wheel set are DT’s mid-level hub and they proved themselves to be worth every cent. They come in all hub spacing and freehub styles (ours were Boost using an XD driver for our 160mm trail bike) and including 6 bolt and also Centre Lock, you can’t really go wrong. The DT Swiss 350s uses the same proven Star Ratchet system used in all top DT hubs and licensed by a number of other leading hub and wheel brands. While the engagement of the hub is not as fast as some higher end hubs in the DT range it is not something that really holds this Hub back when factoring in the price. You can upgrade the ratchet to a faster engaging system for just a small cost.
All in all, this lovingly hand-built wheel set delivers over and above and comes at a good price too – considering the brand and its heritage. With only one real issue that could, perhaps, have been easily fixed using different rotors or the 6 bolt mounting system in place of an adaptor. This Swiss delight is a winner in our eyes when it comes to a hand-crafted wheelset that is designed to stand the test of time.
|- Strong, modern rim and wheel set||- A pre-built wheel can come in cheaper|
|- Versatile rim for trail, all-mountain and downhill|
|RRP: Wheels as tested $1249|
Words: Ben Morrison Photos: Nick Waygood