What would you build? That's a question that DT Swiss sought to answer with the new 1700 Spline wheelset range.
The previous version of the 1700 wheelset was a common sight on bikes coming in for test as well as individual bikes from people wanting a reliable aluminum wheelset.
Offered in the same flavours that cater from XC, through all mountain, to enduro racing, the XR, XM and EX prefixes, the new wheels actually borrow a lot of technology and know-how from the company's more expensive and exotic wheelsets.
These fairly unassuming wheels have been put through the wringer over the past nine months in an attempt to throw every and all manner of riding their way to see how they come out the other end and if they live up to DT Swiss' statement of "made for the roughest enduro tracks around the world."
EX 1700 Spline DetailsWheel Size:
27.5" / 29"Hub:
15 x 110mm front & 12 x 148 rearRim:
EX 511 aluminum, 30mmBrake Mount:
Centerlock / 6-boltSpokes & Nipples:
Competition spokes, Pro Lock Squorx aluminum nipples, PHR washersWeight:
942g F, 1024g R, 1966g pair (EX / 29" / 6-bolt / XD driver / taped / with valves)Price:
From $886 or €699More info: DTSwiss.com
Design & Construction
The EX 1700 Spline wheels use DT Swiss' 350 hubs at their center and the EX 511 rim at the edge, laced with Competition spokes, Pro Lock Squorx aluminum nipples and PHR washers.
The 350 hubs take a lot of features from the previous generation 240s, and that's certainly a good thing with those aforementioned hubs still being some of the best in the business. They even use the same end caps and ratchet parts as the old 240s helping with sourcing spares or replacement parts should you need them.
The hubs come with the 36-tooth star ratchet as standard with the ability to change the number of teeth with the purchase of an aftermarket ratchet kit with 54-teeth. There are also options for the freehub itself, with Shimano HG, Shimano Microspline and SRAM XD options available.
There's also the ability to run the hubs with the Torque Cap fitment to take advantage of the increased surface area on RockShox forks.
The EX version of the 1700 Spline range we tested came with a 6-bolt interface, although there is also the option of centerlock. But for the new wheels, DT Swiss felt that offering the 6-bolt option for the more extreme wheels EX versions would give rise to less problems with the likelihood of the brake rotors fitted being 200mm or bigger.
The aluminum rim is the EX 511 rim and has an internal width of 30mm, an external width of 35mm giving a bead thickness of 2.5mm and an overall height of 21mm. The rim itself has been a mainstay of the DT Swiss collection for a while now with many riders and racer choosing this rim for its balance of weight and durability.
The Competition spokes are butted from 2.0mm - 1.8mm - 2.0mm and are cold forged in some pretty hefty machines that make the ground shake. They're also a go-to spoke for a lot of wheel builders, regardless of the rim and hub manufacturer they use. Both front and rear wheels have a count of 28 spokes in a 3 cross pattern. There are 3 different spoke lengths on the wheels (302mm, 304mm and 305mm on the wheels we tested), but those lengths are easily found on the DT Swiss website along with part numbers for replacements.
Nipples are DT Swiss' aluminum Pro Lock Squorx. The part of the nipple that sticks out of the rim is a standard spoke tool size, but at the other end of the rim the interface is a little different. It does require a specific tool, but unless you're building wheels from scratch, you don't need it to keep the full built wheels running, even if you break a spoke.
In between the rim and spoke sits a little curved PHR washer. It's there to spread the load from the spoke tension over a wider area and to also allow the nipple to sit comfortably at the same angle as the spoke. If you do break a spoke and need to replace it, just remember the washer and to put it in the correct way with a dob of grease.
Printed discreetly on the rim are min and max tire width and pressures for both eventualities of tubeless or tubed. Also, on the rim is the QR code for DT Swiss' ID system. This support tool for riders and shops allows all the relevant user manuals, spare parts and possible conversion or upgrade components to be easily seen for the product you have.
In the box are the wheels, taped up ready, and the tubeless valve. Wheels with the centerlock hubs will also get an adapter for 6-bolt rotors.
Our front test wheel came in at 942g and the rear was 1024g with a SRAM XD freehub and 1032g with the MircoSpline freehub. In total that puts the pair at 1,967g with XD driver and 1,974g with MicroSpline driver, a few grams under the claimed weights of the wheels. That's including tubeless valves and rim tape, at 11g per wheel.
Compared to some of the other hard charging aluminum wheels out there, the EX1700s are actually pretty competitive with the weight. Many more, like Race Face's Aeffect Rs, Crank Brothers Synthesis E and the recently released Hunt Enduro Wide V2s are between 40 - 140g heavier for the pair. Newmen's Evolution SL A.30 do come in lighter, but seem to point more at the all-mountain to weight conscious enduro crowd. The EX 1700s are a bit higher up the price scale than those mentioned competitors though, but that price is somewhat justified, as you'll read about in how they performed.Setup
The wheels came taped up, so all that was left to do was fit the tubeless valves, rotors, cassette and tires.
With the EX versions of the 1700, and higher end carbon 1501, the wheels now having the option of a 6-bolt rotor interface it was a bit more satisfying to tighten up the bolts knowing that any rocking or potential issues from centerlock combined with big rotors would now be gone.
There's no need for tools to remove the end caps and therefore the freehub. For the majority of the test, we used the Microspline freehub from Shimano and everything bolted on easily with the XTR, XT and SLX cassettes being used. There's also a nice snug fit with the end caps meaning that even the heavier SLX cassettes attached to the freehub don't result in it falling off onto the floor.
Tires always seem to fit just perfectly with DT Swiss rims and that extends to Maxxis, Schwalbe, Vee Tire, Panaracer and Kenda tires. It's nice not to need a compressor to seat the tires as, usually, with a large volume floor pump the tires inflate just fine without even breaking a sweat. Occasionally, with some pretty well worn and swapped tires, the added blast from an Airshot inflator helps, but was only needed on a handful of occasions in the nine-month test period and on multiple sets of the 1700 wheels ranging from single play casing tires all the way through to thicker DH casings.
And that's it. There's no need to adjust a preload system or any further steps. Out of the bike the DT Swiss hubs might seem like they have a touch more friction in there, but once bolted into the fork or frame the axial load preloads the hub system and the wheels spin freely and without any resistance in the bike stand or out on the trail.Performance
Throughout the past nine months, that encompassed the whole summer and autumn seasons of 2020, through even the rideable portions of the winter season and now into spring, the EX 1700 wheels have been thrown down literally anything and everything. The added fact that some test bikes have come specced with these wheels meaning that I've had a lot of time on them. And don't think that having more than one set has spread the work, as I really like riding bikes. They've also been used as a test bed for tires and been in and out of multiple bikes, even the occasional DH bike that needed a boost rear wheel. But I tested the same set of wheels mainly on a manner of long travel enduro bikes like the RAAW Madonna and Nukeproof Mega and the big-intentioned but small travel Privateer 141 and RAAW Jibb.
Holding lines at speed when everything in your path is trying to ping the wheels off is met with control and the ability to remain focussed. Sure, it's not like they're magically flexing so much as to find their own line like flowing water, but they certainly take the initial harshness off those rock filled tight line choice situations and leave you with more than ample control to adjust and pilot your bike out the other end. There's a wonderful feeling of balance in every aspect of these wheels, be it stiffness or engagement points, that often highlights the consideration by DT Swiss that the wheels are part of a bigger system.
Gone too are the days of a 28-spoked wheel loading up so heavily in a high g-force situation to only then fire all the energy back at you, leaving you with a slightly unnerving feel. This was only ever really highlighted when laying it in with much gusto to big vertical bermed corners and buckets at speed. But the EX 1700s never gave that feeling of sudden snap energy release. They load up and release with a very linear feel and never leave you coming in hot to a big turn wondering if something weird is going to happen.
Throughout their long test period the wheels of course hit the ground from time to time when the tires bottomed out. First time it's always a bit nervous, checking the rims over for damage. But time and time again, be it on roots or rocks, the wheels remained undeterred from hitting the ground and it started to become more of a humorous situation hearing the tell-tale rim on ground contact noise knowing that you never even needed to stop and check the wheels anymore. You don't need to call the pressure police either, as the tires were never run below 22psi front and 25psi rear, often going a touch higher depending on tire casing and where being ridden.
Even at the lower end of the pressure spectrum that I use, there's always a brilliant connection between the tire and rim. While a bit of burping does occur in some really high g-force situations, or on some really extreme square edged hits, there's never really enough loss of air to warrant an issue. That's combined with the relative ease of tire installation too, another good balancing act that DT Swiss have achieved. They've held air extremely well throughout the test period too, with there being no big loss of pressure overnight or after a couple of days of not riding. The valves have also stayed pretty free of sealant and blockage for the entire test period too, something that can play havoc with pumping up a tire and accurate pressure readings.
The 30mm inner width of the rims seems to be a nice settling ground for the 2.35" - 2.5" tires that the wheels were tested with. Tire profile is good and allows the tires to work as intended with good feeling and control at all the lean angles from bolt upright to last resort anchor deploying.
I mentioned engagement points earlier and this topic might be somewhere where some brands might not A. consider their wheels as part of a system, B. understand the effects of impacts and how that is translated into what the rider feels or C. think that more is always better. While a million engagement points might sound good rolling around in the carpark, DT Swiss chose to spec the 1700 wheels with 36 teeth in an effort to address the balance of hub pick up, for when you get on the gas, and the influence of impacts to the rider when rolling.
As the new 350 hubs are pretty much the same as the older generation 240s, it means you can play around with the number of teeth in the ratchet system depending on your preference of bike type and even suspension characteristics. And while playing around with a 54T ratchet in the rear hub, I settled back at the standard 36T ratchet for exactly the balance that DT Swiss sought to have. There's more than enough pick up in the hubs to reduce the delay between stabbing on the pedals to having something happen, while reducing the potential for impacts to come through to the rider's feet if in that grey zone of above zero speed and the point where the impact would never cause the freehub to catch up to the spinning hub. And while it is personal preference, I think the 36T doesn't spin with an obnoxious sound. You can hear it clicking but not to the point that it dominates the riding experience.Issues & Durability
For those nine months of testing, there have been a grand total of zero issues. Zilch. There are scuffs on the rims and a couple of very mellow dents in there, but nothing has impeded the wheels wanting to just keep on working. Almost as if they're quietly asking "is that all you've got?". None of those dents have needed straightening out to keep the tubeless seal intact.
I kind of see rims as disposable items. Getting two years out of a set before you start to think about replacing them is a good lifespan for me, and anything more is then a bonus. The EX 1700s definitely then seem on track to easily be up to those expectations after giving nothing but signs of their willingness to keep on rolling for a while to come. That life expectancy is very much personal and factors around the amount of riding in the terrain we have in this part of the Alps. If you're a weekend warrior or one that rides in smoother and less demanding terrain then these wheels are likely going to a companion for a much longer time than my own expectations.
The wheels come out of the box with a nice high spoke tension, something that I'm trying to figure out how their wheel builders manage to achieve, and it's something that the wheels have held over time. There were no pinging noises on the first ride as everything settled, along with the ensuing need to re-tension. Despite having a really nice DT Swiss spoke key in the basement I haven't needed to touch the wheels for their entire time testing. In all cases they've remained dead true since day one and I can't see that changing.
Bearings too are still spinning smoothly and show no signs or feeling of wear or damage after a lot of riding in conditions that ranged from cloggy mud that made your bike weigh twice as much to fine dust that covers the bike and makes so many of the moving parts creak.Servicing
Those toolless end caps mean that servicing the ratchet system is a simple and quick process. It requires some specific DT Swiss grease, but a small pot is likely to last the average rider a lifetime as the hubs will inevitably get swapped from bike to bike, barring any new standard that might set the pitchfork mob off. About the only thing to consider is the spring orientation when re-assembling, with the smaller diameter end of it touching the ratchets and the larger diameter end facing the bearings.
Those toolless end caps made freehub swaps fast and easy. The only thing to take care of is to use the corresponding end cap to the freehub. But each end cap is laser printed with the freehub it mates to.
Bearing services are also a pretty easy task, although a little more involved that just greasing the freehub. Front bearings knock out easily with the ability to move the central tube spacer out of the way and access the races with a drift. The same is true of the freehub bearings. The rear hub bearings need a little different technique that removes the hub axle along with the bearings, but it's certainly not rocket surgery. Something that I'd actually forgotten about until recently, when another set of wheels showed up with this, was the issue of aligning the tube spacer in the front hub with the incoming axle. That's never been a problem whatsoever on the EX 1700s and the axle has gone straight in every time.
And with the DT Swiss ID system, getting information on the right service parts is easier than ever. I can't speak for the availability right now however, but at least they're not going to be consuming bearings and ratchet parts at a rate of knots.
Fit and forget performance+
Controlled & comfortable ride feeling
More expensive than the competition-
Only available in boost hub spacing
PHOTOS: Kifcat / Shaperideshoot