Entry level might bring connotations of something that could fall apart just after you’ve got far enough away from the shop to do anything about it. But entry level to DT Swiss might mean something else.
Sure, they’re a bit higher in price than other truly entry level wheelsets from other brands. But the Swiss brand has squirreled as many technologies from their higher end wheels as possible into their new 1900 Spline range while still keeping the price down to close to that of the previous generation wheels. Added to that, these entry level wheels employ the exact same level of attention to detail and quality control in the building of them than all the other wheels that come out of their doors, no matter the price.
The Spline 1900 range is divided in the X, M and E denotations for cross country, all-mountain and enduro riding respectively, with the biggest addition to the new range being that they all roll on DT Swiss’ ratchet system. A change that now means the whole line of MTB wheels uses the famous system, no more pawl hubs to be seen here.
For the 1900 Spline range, the Ratchet LN system uses the same two main ratchet parts as the higher end 350, and older 240, hubs, but differs from the Ratchet and Ratchet EXP with the seal on the freehub body and not in the hub shell. This small detail enabled the hubs to achieve a lower price while employing the ratchet system instead of a pawl system.
DT Swiss’ ratchet system uses two spinning pieces, one driven by the hub shell and one by the freehub. The advantage over a pawl system is said to be the amount of surface contact when the ratchets engage, as the whole faces of the two ratchets mesh together.
This upped surface area distributes the loads over a larger area, lowering the peak loads while also reducing the amount of point loads. That all goes together to create a system that is remarkably easy to service and keep running smoothly for a long time.
That means the 370 hubs at the centre of the system are now up there with the 350, 240 and 180 hubs as hubs for life. Through wear and tear there will inevitably be a point when the rims and spokes may need replacing. It’s entirely plausible then that these new 370 hubs could be carried over from wheelset to wheelset or even bike to bike and run, with very little maintenance, smoothly for a long time to come.
The Ratchet LN system can also be fitted to the previous DT Swiss pawl hubs with the Ratchet LN upgrade kit. The upgrade kit includes the threaded ring, ratchets with 18-teeth, springs, spacer, shim ring, freehub body and special grease. Although a 3-pawl ring nut removal tool and ratchet ring nut removal tool are needed to do the conversion, which you might only find at a bike shop, unless you’re a complete tool nerd.
With the Ratchet LN system using the same ratchet parts as the 350 hubs, there are multiple options for points of engagement with 24, 36 and 54-tooth ratchet upgrade kits available to purchase. The X 1900 and M 1900 spline wheels are centre lock only, but ship with the 6-bolt adapter. The E 1900 wheels are available in either centre lock or 6 bolt brake rotor interfaces.
The rims of the 1900 Spline wheelsets use a sleeved rim, as opposed to the company’s higher end wheelset’s welded rims. A small aluminum insert that fits inside the cavity of the rims aligns the rims and along with the high strength glue, creates a stiff and strong joint at a lower manufacturing cost.
The X 1900 wheels use the X 432 rim with a 25mm inner width to align better with the slightly narrower tires used in cross country riding and have a lower overall weight.
The M 1900 wheels use the M 502 rim, the sleeved version of the XM 481 rim, with a 30mm inner width and the E1900 wheels use the E 532 rim, the little brother of the EX 511 rim, although made out of a different grade of aluminum alloy.
All three rims use eyelets, instead of the PHR washer system in the higher end wheels, and DT Swiss’ Champion straight pull spokes that are a constant 2.0mm diameter. All the wheels come ready taped and include the steel version of the DT Swiss’ tubeless valve to make getting them set up tubeless quick and easy.
There's the usual information included on the rim to detail the tire width and pressure ranges along with the dot code that when scanned, pulls up all the necessary data and parts that the wheel uses to make it easier for sourcing spares, fixing the wheels or seeing which upgrade parts will fit.
Despite being called an entry level wheelset, the whole 1900 Spline range receives no less attention to detail in the building and quality control of the wheels. All the wheels are completely hand built, with the only machine involved being one that de-stresses the wheel several times per side during the building process. This makes sure every component is in its final resting place during building, ensuring that when tensioned, the wheel will be more evenly tensioned and more importantly, will hold that constant and high tension for longer. We’ve all taken budget wheels out first ride, only to hear the pinging noises while you roll and bounce as everything settles, and with it changing the spoke tensions. With this constant de-stressing of the spokes and their connections to the rim and hub during building there’s none of that happening when you go and ride.
DT Swiss also stress the importance of using their Pro Lock nipples that include thread locking compound on the internal threads of the nipples. While this does add a little more effort to the wheel building process from the added effort in turning the nipples, it’s another reason why the wheels hold their tension and true for as long as they do. A small short-term loss in the building process for the long term gain of wheel durability.
Each wheel is also meticulously checked in the quality control process to record the wheel builder and every single spoke tension in the wheel, to guarantee that the spoke tension is set as close to the maximum as possible while keeping the change in spoke tension from one spoke to another as little as possible. The centricity and concentricity of the whole wheel is also recorded in this individual wheel fingerprint.
In the early days of DT Swiss venturing into wheel building, they experimented with machine-built wheels, but found that they simply couldn’t live up to the quality that can be achieved by building wheels completely by hand. If you’ve ever chatted to an experienced wheel builder, chances are that they will know exactly just how much of a turn they need to give for a certain situation, something that can only come with experience of wheel building. For DT Swiss, wheel building machines simply can’t rival this hands-on experience.
DT Swiss were keen to point out the nuances of spoke tension in wheel building, which is one of the details they take care with on the 1900 Spline wheels. With a properly built wheel, it’s well and equally preloaded and with the rider on the bike, the system weight will be distributed to almost all spokes in the upper half of the wheel, increasing the spoke tension in those while decreasing the tension in the area of the contact patch.
If the preload is too low overall, this can lead to the spoked around the contact patch being completely unloaded, meaning the rim has to do more of the heavy lifting and the spokes can loosen even further and the wheel becomes unstable.
Conversely though, if the tensions in the spokes are too high at peak loads, like when you land a drop or jump, the force in the spoke can become so high that the spoke would plastically deform, essentially stretch enough that it won’t go back to its original length. This over stretching of the spokes reduces the tensions and again, the wheel becomes unstable. So it’s really a fine balancing act of all the parts in the wheel equation to make a wheel as performant and durable as possible.
We’ve just received a set of the E 1900 Spline wheels to put through their paces. With experience on DT Swiss’ higher end 1700, 1501 and 1200 wheelsets, it should be easy to compare just how these entry level wheels stack up to their more expensive counterparts, as well as truly entry level offerings from other brands.