DT Swiss's EXC 1200 wheels are aimed squarely at enduro riding and racing, with DT Swiss calling on its enduro racers' experience and input so that they can make a wheel fit enough for them while still being class leading in weight for people wanting to take it on long rides.
The discreet wheels definitely hide a lot of their development quietly behind their understated exterior. But their claims to give peace of mind on the downhills and enough breath for a chat on the way up needed thorough testing.
Over the course of the summer, autumn and unusually dry winter we've been riding the hell out of them to see if their intentions on paper can be backed up on the real world down and uphills.
EXC 1200 Spline Details
Intended use: enduro Wheel size: 27.5" and 29" (tested) Axle & hub width: 15x110mm & 12x148mm Rotor mount: Center Lock Rim inner width: 30mm (29") & 35mm (27.5") Weight (actual): 1697 grams (29") Price: 2198 EUR or $2,735 USD More info:DT Swiss
DT Swiss's top tier 180 hubs are at the centre of the wheels.
It has their new Ratchet EXP system inside.
Details & Features
We took a more in-depth look at the wheels in our First Look. But here's a run-down of the details and features.
Starting at the centre of the system, the EXC 1200 wheels run on DT Swiss’s new 180 hubs with SINC ceramic bearings. Their updated Ratchet EXP freehub has options for SRAM’s XD or Shimano’s Microspline included, while you can purchase a standard Shimano freehub if needed.
28 Aerolite and Aero Comp bladed spokes link the hub to the rim in a 3-cross pattern. All the spokes, left and right, front and rear are 300mm long for the 29er version. So really only one type of spare spoke in your toolbox should be enough to keep you rolling if you encounter problems or damage.
Squorx nipples tie the spokes to the rim and DT Swiss build to the max possible spoke tension. It’s the individual engineering in the system pieces that add up to give them their desired level of flex and spring characteristics.
The carbon rims are pretty tastefully decorated.
Both front and rear use bladed spoke, all of the same length.
The rim is made from carbon fiber and features a hookless profile. There’s a 30mm inner width for the 29” wheels tested. The wheelset also comes in 27.5” with a 35mm inner width. DT don’t give out much information regarding the rim’s layup, fibers and resin, although they do say that they worked to find a resin that didn’t cause any galvanic corrosion between the composite rim and aluminium nipples.
Our tested 29” wheelset came in at 1697g for the pair taped up, with valves and XD freehub.
Installation & Setup
As the wheels come pre-taped and with the tubeless valves installed, all that’s left to do is mount the rotors, cassette and tires. Tool free end caps and freehub make freehub swaps and maintenance a doddle. And the fit is snug enough that even hefty cassettes don’t pop off the end caps and end up on the floor.
The hubs are center lock-only and use adaptors to bridge the gap to 6-bolt rotors. The familiar Shimano BB tool interface is used to tighten the center lock nut.
Tire installation is easy as it appears DT Swiss pay attention to the different bead diameters possible with different brands of tires and make sure their rim shapes allow easy installation while still providing a strong hold on the tires while riding hard.
Maxxis tires seated with a floor pump every time. Schwalbe tires would seat just as fine with a brand-new tire, but after a few rides and swaps sometimes the help of a compressor was needed.
DT Swiss’s claim for the EXC 1200 wheels is to be tough enough for everything the best in the sport can throw at them with the rim’s carbon structure being optimized for impact resistance. With that in mind I didn’t give the wheels an easy life. Their arrival was smack bang in the middle of the bike park season, giving me endless options to accrue copious amounts of descending time on the wheels.
Lots of people still have only the one bike and ride everything on it from all day pedals to days doing laps. And wheels aimed at enduro racing should be good for using in all terrains and eventualities that a 170mm travel bike can get into.
I of course tested them outside of the bike parks. While this region of Europe is often seen as just a mass of bike parks, there are ten-fold more riding spots dotted up every mountain that can serve up any manner of riding terrain and with the mountain weather, any condition too.
Dan Roberts // Technical Editor Age: 33 Location: Champéry, Switzerland Height: 188cm (6'2”) Weight: 75kg (165 lbs) Industry affiliations / sponsors: Garage Bike Project, former engineer at Scott Sports Instagram:@le_crusher Test Locations: Champéry, Morgins, Bex, Leysin, Aosta, La Thuile, Val-d'Isère, Tignes, Thonon-les-Bains, Finale Ligure & Wales.
The ultra-low weight of the wheelset is definitely noticeable. It may not be front and center in the riding experience for everyone, but the ability to get the wheels up to speed and also moving the whole bike around was perceivably better than with heavier all aluminum options mounted to the same bike.
On straight, fast and rough sections of trail the wheels are devoid of any wild deflecting sensations as they either hit impacts square on or glance off the side of them. There too is neither a feeling that the wheel is magically finding its own path like the dancing hands of a French DH racer visualising his upcoming run. There’s enough of a directness to them to make it you who is in control of their direction while balancing that with enough energy absorption to stop them pinging any which way but the way you want.
In high G-force turning situations and compared back to the other 28 spoke aluminum wheels previously ridden they have a much more predictable feeling. No loading up and sudden releases of force ever occurred. A more gradual and progressive build and return of force lead the wheels to somewhat blending away and just going about their job. In the vert berms of Champéry and Morgins they never once gave that sudden release feeling despite the best efforts to take inside lines on the biggest turns and slap the last remaining feet of the wall shaped berm. Nor too did they show that trait in steep loamy turns the can almost fold you up into a small package on your bars.
In off-camber situations, where the wheels are constantly being bent and twisted from weird bike and body angles, they exhibited neither a too harsh nor too soft ride, enabling you to claw onto every last bit of grip while you cut across cambers. The wheels constantly felt like a very good balance of comfort and control in all situations I put them into.
The 36-tooth ratchet in the 180 rear hub was bang on. I wasn’t left asking for more engagement on technical climbs or anywhere for that matter. There is a 54-tooth available if that’s your thing, but more points of engagement do up the possibilities for pedal kickback to be a more prevalent feeling in your riding.
I come back to that idea of a good product just going about its job quietly in the background. The EXC 1200 wheelset did exactly this, until they didn’t. Read on.
With the tool free end cap and freehub system cleaning and re-greasing the freehub system is a simple job, although cleaning the half of the ratchet system which is now fixed in the hub is a little trickier. But that’s nit picking. It’s advised to use the specific DT Swiss grease for the ratchet system but the small pot that is sold separately will probably last a lifetime for one person.
After six and a half months of testing the bearings are still running smoothly with riding in all conditions from bone dry and dusty to some of the most relentless Welsh mud that gets into places no other mud can. SINC bearings aren’t cheap to replace when they do wear out, but then neither is the wheelset.
There has been no need re-tension or true the wheels throughout the testing period. Sometimes with fresh wheels there will be a familiar ting noise generated when the wheel is properly loaded with a rider for the first time as all the components of the wheel find their final resting place. It usually then requires a round of re-tensioning and truing, but the fact this was never needed hints to DT Swiss’s skills in the wheel building. Although, with 28 spokes each spoke covers a greater segment of the rim when compared to 32 spokes, so when it comes to truing it can be a little harder to get the tensions balanced while having the wheel bang on straight.
By far the biggest issue we experienced was with the rim. After seven weeks of rigorous testing we were riding in Morgins, Switzerland, a bike park with its high speed, high G-force descents full of interesting rises and falls, some of which can be gapped with a good dose of speed and pull. Upon landing one of these natural gaps we encountered a sound as if someone had fired a gun. Looking down after rolling to a stop the tire was completely off and the rim showed serious signs of a failure. This particular gap in Morgins has claimed some other carbon fiber wheels from other big manufacturers.
Trying not to speculate if a different material would have suffered the same fate, the only thing that can be said is that the amount of energy needed to do this to the wheel and make that amount of noise was not matching the feeling from riding.
Upon further inspection the rim had completely failed all the way through and had essentially shunted the two sides of the failure back together with such force that they were inseparable. The rim was now quite a few millimeters smaller in diameter and as a result all spokes were completely de-tensioned.
We went back to DT Swiss with the failed wheel for them to take a closer look at and see if they could find more answers. We also picked up a replacement rear wheel to continue the testing. Since then we’ve had another three and a half months of testing and the wheels are still going strong, exhibiting the same level of performance that we were encountering before we had our rim issue.
Testing was carried out exclusively with DH casing tires, so no flimsy sidewall business to make the rim’s encounter the ground more often. It’s hard to definitively say if a tire insert would have helped, but something like Cushcore would for sure have helped dissipate some of the energy.
DT Swiss could only suggest that perhaps the failure had come about from a smaller, less visible failure being subjected to the force of the landing. Somewhat a case of right place right timing but a disappointing situation nonetheless.
After the second day of testing we had some noisy spokes. With the brake on and rocking the bike back and forth the flat bladed spokes would rub against each other where they cross. The resulting noise wasn’t the most confidence inspiring when you’re anchoring up hard down a track, as it was audible while riding. It would disappear after washing the bike only to reappear once the bike was dry and especially when covered in dust.
The original plastic valve nut strips the thread easily.
The plastic valve nut is super light, but not the most robust. The plastic threads are very easy to strip and so was swapped out for the aluminum nut found on other DT Swiss tubeless valves. The aluminum version with its accompanying o-ring seal has worked flawlessly without damaging the rim where it contacts it.
The center lock nuts of previous DT Swiss wheels would tighten directly against the disc rotor. After DT experienced some cases where the nut would loosen, they now include a ridged metallic spacer to go between the nut and disc to aid in the amount of locking of the system. However, with this spacer installed the nut stuck out far enough that it would hit the fork leg, meaning the wheel wouldn’t spin without chewing a chunk out of the fork leg. This was with a Hope 6 bolt floating rotor and Öhlins RXF36 m.2 fork. Perhaps with other combinations this wouldn’t be a problem, but we couldn’t try out every eventuality. For the entire test I ran without the additional spacer and have experienced no issues with the center lock nut coming loose.
DT Swiss's Response
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your recent experience with our new EXC 1200 and we are sorry for any inconvenience we have caused you.
Based on your report, we have carefully examined the damaged wheel and could not find any abnormality in the carbon layout. As you know, such abnormalities could indicate possible deviations within the manufacturing process, but in our examination, we did not find any such concerns.
During the R&D phase DT Swiss invests a lot of time in intense riding and lab tests in order to meet our demands and expectations. Always having the required field of application in mind, we developed a competitive wheel for its ASTM classification. But not every situation on the trail can be reproduced in the lab or simulated in the field, even though our investments in our process does greatly reduce such potential concerns.
We strive to make our products as reliable as possible. For us development is an ongoing process and in order to continuously improve our products, we take feedback seriously and incorporate it in our development process, which we will endeavor to do based on the information received in your report.
As riders we know what it means not being able to do what you love most. With our DT Swiss Service Centers, we handle issues like yours in the same way as we did with you. We would like to see our customers back on the bike as soon as possible, therefore we handle carbon claims in a very accommodating way. Simultaneously we are working on a long-term solution which is fair for all parties – for our customers, dealers, distributors, and finally also the environment. Detailed information will be communicated within this year.— Friso Lorscheider, DT Swiss MTB Marketing Manager
+ Great ride feeling - comfortable & controlled. + A good chunk lighter than the competition. + Brilliantly reliable & serviceable hubs.
- Rim had a catastrophic failure. - Noisy spokes under hard braking. - Not inexpensive. At all.
It’s a shame that the EXC 1200 rim suffered a failure while testing. The wheels are incredibly light, their ride feel is a brilliant balance of comfort and control, and they have some of the most reliable and serviceable hubs at their center.
The replacement rim has held up well, so assuming our failure was an outlier, the wheels could be a lightweight option for people who don’t frequent full on downhill tracks and have a smoother, lighter style on the bike. But with their intended purpose firmly aimed at enduro racing and aggressive riding, it becomes harder to recommend the EXC 1200 wheelset to hard-charging riders, especially given its premium price.— Dan Roberts