All New DT Swiss 1200 MTB Carbon Wheelsets: Spare No Expense


All New DT Swiss 1200 MTB Carbon Wheelsets: Spare No Expense

Today, DT Swiss launches the sexiest carbon mountain bike wheels they (or maybe anyone) have ever produced. The updated XRC 1200, XMC 1200, EXC 1200, and HXC 1200 feature more than just brand new asymmetric, front/rear-specific rims constructed using a brand new process. They’re also laced to a freshly updated family of flagship hubs with unique spokes that emerged from literally centuries of development. Travis covers all the little details, and defends all the big price tags.

We don’t really see that many carbon DT Swiss MTB wheelsets here in the U.S.. Despite their huge market share in hubs, spokes, and complete alloy wheels, their carbon wheels are pretty rare. Especially their flagship 1200 series. Maybe that’s because, until today,* they retailed for about $2,700. Even their lower-priced 1501 carbon wheels start at $2,000. If carbon is what you want, there are less expensive options from Hunt, We Are One, and plenty of others. And if carbon is what a bike brand wants when speccing out their high-end lineup, they can go make their own. I thought DT’s next innovation in carbon mountain bike wheels might have gone after this competitive mid-market. But that’s not how DT Swiss innovates.

Hubs and Spokes

The diverse lineup of new 1200 series wheelsets feature only the shiniest bells and whistles in the DT’s vast bell and whistle collection. The 180 hubs run on ceramic bearings, and all but the e-MTB models are stitched with Revolite spokes. Those spokes are marvels in themselves, with a complex bladed shape that’s actually more about strength than it is about aerodynamics. Plus, they can keep them from twisting while tensoning down the Pro Lock nipples. And each wheel’s unique recipe was crafted line-by-line to suit a specific aspect of a given category.

For example, the cross-country XRC 1200s use DT’s iconic, light-weight, and low-drag EXP ratchet system. And it’s only available with the lighter Centerlock rotor mount. But then, in contrast, the enduro-focused EXC 1200s use DT’s new quicker but heavier DEG ratchet. And they’re only available with J-bend spokes, meaning taller hub flanges and wider bracing angles, but again, more weight. In between are the versatile all-mountain XMC wheels, which come in either EXP or DEG configurations, while the HXC wheels use DT’s e-MTB-specific EXP Oversized ratchets and Complite Hybrid spokes. Point is, DT Swiss squeezed every last possible drop of performance out of each version of the new 1200 wheels. And they did it in a way that wouldn’t be possible for a brand that manufactured only hubs, or only spokes, or only rims. Oh and speaking of rims, we haven’t gotten to the fun part.


I had to lead off with the hubs and spokes, because, cool as they may be, it’s the new rims that are going to steal the attention. Spencer already touched on some of the tech in his coverage of the 1100-series gravel wheels, along with some stellar behind-the-scenes reporting on the DT Swiss USA headquarters in Colorado. But in a nutshell, the 1200-series mountain rims are all manufactured using a special process recently developed by DT Swiss. It’s able to achieve extremely high compaction of the carbon inside the mold. That helps eliminate pits and voids between the carbon layers. They also use a layup process that creates fewer interruptions in the carbon strands. Basically, fewer points of failure. And that’s pretty much the extent of the “nutshell” I can offer. As with most proprietary carbon-manufacturing methods, DT Swiss couldn’t tell us much more. Just that it needs very little post-processing after it’s taken out of the mold. No extensive sanding, and no coating or beauty layer.

The rims all have a 30 mm inner width, like most of the previous-generation 1200 wheels. But each has gotten a few millimeters shallower to offer better vertical compliance. They now have an asymmetric profile for more even spoke tension, and all wheelsets feature front- and rear-specific rims. This is partly to make the rear rim more durable, but also to keep it laterally stiff while helping the front rim yield under sharp oblique impacts and, hopefully, help keep you from getting knocked off line. But like the hubs and spokes, these rims weren’t just cut and pasted across the whole 1200 lineup. There are several subtly different shapes and configurations at play within the rims themselves, adding more material and more durability as you go up the line. The front-/rear-specific part is achieved by leapfrogging between disciplines and adjusting spoke count. Like, the XMC’s front rim is the XRC’s rear, the EXC’s front rim is the XMC’s rear, and so on.

It’s clear that DT Swiss took a uniquely holistic approach to redesigning the 1200 wheels. They paid attention to efficiency, engagement, spoke strength, spoke tension, rim strength, and rim compliance. And they looked at each through the lens of their prospective user groups. But the most common throughline across every one of these wheels was light weight. The hubs are light. The spokes are light. This new rim manufacturing process makes a stronger, more reliable rim, but you can bet they took advantage of that to strategically remove material and make them … light.


And these wheels most definitely are light. I’ll put all the vital stats for each wheel at the bottom of this story, but since weight is kind of a big deal for DT Swiss, here’s the rundown:

  • XRC: 1,303 grams
  • XMC: From 1,495 grams
  • EXC: From 1,756 grams
  • HXC: From 1,908 grams

There’s of course no perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but looking at what else is out there, that’s pretty impressive. And not just because these numbers are lower than other numbers. Despite DT’s characteristically European obsession with weight, there’s evidence that they could have gone lighter, but didn’t. Take the XRC cross-country wheels. A few other options hover around 1,350 grams a set, but commonly have 28 or 25 mm inner widths. A 30 mm cross-country wheelset is probably more practical for the courses you’re seeing today. Then the EXC enduro wheelset has actually gotten heavier this go-around. By about 100 grams, according to DT Swiss. And they’re still 100 grams lighter than a top-end M730 from ENVE.

And the 1200 wheels all get the DT Swiss lifetime warranty against breakage caused by manufacturer defects. This is not the no-questions-asked warranty boasted by some brands, but DT Swiss does offer something close. Their Fair-Share program will replace a broken carbon rim that has not been “modified” or used with “incompatible parts,” no questions asked, for $249 including shipping and labor. But speaking of price, I’m avoiding the elephant in the room.


These wheelsets cost $2,911.80 (€2,499.80). That’s not quite as much as outliers like the all-carbon Syncros Silverton wheels, which are $4,500 a set, but as far as I could tell, these new 1200 wheels are some of the most expensive traditional carbon mountain bike wheels on the mainstream market. And that market has hit some speed bumps lately. Though it looks like ENVE might come through this just fine, they were recently sold to a private investment firm. Forge + Bond dropped their flagship offerings from $2,600 down to $2,200 just four months after they launched, while brands like Revel and Evil whose rims are manufactured in Forge + Bond’s factory also dropped their carbon-wheel prices. Much of this may be due to the very rough spot that the entire industry is in right now, but it’s also possible that ultra-high-end carbon wheels just don’t have as wide an audience as they used to. After all, there are some pretty decent options that cost half what these new 1200 wheels do. I’m not an industry analyst, but if there indeed is waning interest in wheels of this price point, DT Swiss isn’t that concerned.

When DT Swiss invited Spencer and me to their U.S. headquarters for an introduction to a new line of 1200 carbon wheels, I honestly was hoping they’d have gone in the opposite direction. That we’d see a lineup of value-forward, reliable carbon models which would find wider OEM spec on a wider range of price points. But then I thought more about it, and I remembered DT Swiss has already made their mark on value-forward bikes. A big mark. Their 350 hubs and 1700 wheelsets achieved something pretty impressive. They are relatively affordable components that come on relatively affordable bikes. But somehow, they’re simultaneously a symbol of quality. They’re not like the thin-skinned OEM tires or the resin-pad-only rotors that you’re just itching to upgrade as soon as they wear out. DT Swiss wheels are keepers, no matter the price point. And though the patent on their EXP ratchet system has been expired for a while, they still have a pretty big presence in big-bang-for-the-buck OEM spec. So, they’ve already nailed that. Trying to do it again, but in carbon, doesn’t really make sense.

What does make sense, at least for DT Swiss, is challenging what we believe is possible in carbon mountain bike wheels. And that type of development generally only happens at the tip of the spear and the top of the price range, and it may only yield incremental gains. But I think that’s how it’s always been, frustrating as it sometimes may be. Single-ring drivetrains have gotten more practical, one gear at a time. Rear triangles have gotten stiffer, six millimeters at a time. And carbon wheels are getting better, one secret proprietary manufacturing process at a time.

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