As long as I have been riding bikes I’ve always heard people say that the best upgrade you can make to your bike is the wheels.
Of course that will depend on the bike you’re riding and how suitable it is for what you do but I can’t think of many instances where that doesn’t hold true, especially as the demands we put on our bikes continues to grow. The development of mountain biking has progressed so much in the past 10 years, and the bikes and components we use have kept up and even allowed the progress in many instances.
DT Swiss are a well-known spoke, hub, rim and therefore wheel manufacturer based in Switzerland. With a manufacturing heritage of well over a century, you would be hard-pressed to find a workshop without a range of DT Swiss spoke boxes for custom builds and repairs. The Swiss perfectionists are known for their design, and with products like their range of spokes, the star ratchet system, the 240 hub and even their wheel strength testing system developed with the UCI, they are an industry leader in wheels and wheel components. And a mountain bike wheel like the XMC 1200 Spline 30 epitomises their ability to design and manufacture a wheel for modern mountain biking.
But what is modern mountain biking and what should a wheel for that have? Here at AMB we figure that means a wheel that can descend fast thanks to a strong rim which aids precise handling. They shouldn’t deflect easily, should be light enough to climb, have replaceable parts, be easily serviceable, easy to set up tubeless and adaptable for Shimano cassette bodies or SRAM XD drivers. And according to the tests Ben Morrison ran for us last issue, they really should have a 30mm inner width to offer the best stability for a higher volume trail or all-mountain tyre.
These DT Swiss wheels came out of the box taped and ready to go, with valves, spoke tools, a manual, a freehub body and two nifty wheel bags. I fitted a Maxxis Minnion DHF 2.5” WT on the front and a 2.30” Aggressor on the back, they inflated easily with some sealant and a track pump. It’s worth noting that a Maxxis 2.3” tyre only just has the edge knobs inline with the sidewall, and it’s the same with a 2.3” Minnion too. The WT (or wide trail) tyres are more suited to rims with a wider internal width, and we’ve heard from DT Swiss that some of their supported athletes on Continental tyres tend to ride 30mm internal, while those on Maxxis tend to ride 25mm internal.
Out of the box the wheels had a SRAM XD driver that I swapped for the included Shimano freehub body. The hubs are the Spline model – the lightest mountain bike hub DT Swiss make – which is essentially DT Swiss 240s internals with an upgraded 36t ratchet on a hub shell designed for straight-pull spokes. This wheel set is in 110x15mm and 148x12mm Boost spacing with 29”hoops, but non-Boost models and 27.5” models are also available. It’s worth noting the DT Swiss have centrelock disc fitting on these wheels, but adaptors come in the box. Just like a cassette, do them up to the recommended torque for worry-free use. For reference, the wheels claimed weight of 1547g would be about right. These were just under 1600g with tubeless tape.
THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
The XMC 1200 rim sits at 36mm wide, with a 30mm internal width. This really lets a tyre of 2.3” - 2.6” width fill out while still offering the right sidewall stiffness. The internal rim width is the same as the Syncros wheels I tested on a Scott Genius in a previous issue, the wheels are just a whole lot stiffer thanks to the rigidty of a deeper carbon rim. Using their own AeroLite straight-pull spokes and Squorx nipples plus the acclaimed hubs – there’s no part of the wheel that isn’t up to scratch. All DT Swiss wheels are built by hand, not machines, to exacting tolerances. And that’s exactly what you should expect with such a purchase.
ON THE TRAIL
DT Swiss did their own testing with a range of their athletes to find the best internal rim measurements for cross-country and trail wheels. And so in their carbon fibre range they have the XRC 1200 with a 25mm inner width, alongside the XMC 1200 here. World Champions like Nino Schurter and Jolanda Neff use the 25mm internal. Riders on the Focus XC Team have opted for the 30mm internal width, and it’s a wheel of choice on many high-end trail and all-mountain bikes. Given the specificity of mountain bikes now, that means the XMC 1200 wheels have a very broad performance range, running from XC through to all-mountain. And while I mostly used them on my own Norco Sight, that did extend from cross-country rides with mates through to big day rides in Blue Derby, shuttle runs in Maydena, Garapine and more.
It’s not really our place to do destructive testing here at AMB, but at Maydena I thought it might happen. Barely into one of the main flow lines I put a hole in the Aggressor that couldn’t seal, and the tube I had didn’t have a long enough valve for the rims, that are a little deeper than alloy rims. I ran for a little while, but ended up riding to the bottom; grounded, and avoiding rock gardens. But I was on the flat tyre and rim all the way down. Save for some loam and mud in the rim bed the wheel is still going fine.
Compared to the stock wheels (of the same internal width) on my bike, these wheels shed over 600g which just transformed how my trail bike rode. The hubs spin smoothly and the quick take up of the 36t ratchet made technical climbs better, and the drop in weight is noticeable on the flat, on climbs and moving your bike around on downhills too. In all, they made my bike way more responsive.
DT Swiss rate the wheels for upto a 120kg system weight. That’s you, your bike and gear. With a loaded pack my system weight would be close to 90kg, which gives some room to move. But I tend to think if I was nudging 95kg of body weight I might not see these wheels as my all-mountain wheel of choice, but they would be one of the best choices out there for cross-country and trail use for riders around the 100kg mark.
Given the fact that DT Swiss make sure all their parts are available as spares, this isn’t a carbon wheel set which can only see a year or two of use. DT Swiss design and build their parts to last at least two years for professional use – which means a wheel set like this would see many years of service by the rest of us. And with the ability for tool-free hub servicing or replacing bearings down the track, the DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels would be a ride-changing upgrade for your current bike.
Words and Photos: Mike Blewitt
- Handbuilt with quality parts
- A significant investment
- Improves the ride of your bike
- Fully serviceable