18 August 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: DT Swiss XM 1550 Tricon wheelset

These great wheels came to my attention when I was anxiously waiting for my Easton Haven wheels to finally become available. I was interested in them already, but I was on a wide-rim-cross-section kick and the Tricon looked to be the same width as Mavic 819s so I didn’t get that excited. I later read something that made me think they might be wider and I still hadn’t seen the Havens yet so I ordered them up. When I pulled them out of the box, I was very impressed with the feel and look of the wheel, and they did look wider than an 819. Out came the digital calipers. They are about 1mm wider than the Mavic 819 rim and their ilk (like Crank Bros Cobalts, and others). I say “about”, because it was more like .8 or .9 mm wider, but the difference is perceptible to the eye (and on the trail).

I got on this wider rim kick after riding the Mavic Crossmax SX wheels, which are 2mm wider than 819’s. I was flabbergasted at how well they tracked and how fast I was able to plummet down very technical hills. The SX wheels are around 1755 grams which is light for a wheel of that size and durability, but I was hoping to find a wheel that was lighter for my long distance go-to bike: a Maverick Durance. At a published 1550 grams (mine weighed about 1580) and slightly wider than normal, the DT’s were an excellent choice for my Durance.

The name “Tricon” is taken from “triple connection”, and refers to the spoke pattern. In every set of three spokes, you have one radial spoke and two crossed spokes. Supposedly, radial spokes are good for lateral stiffness and crossed spokes are better for torque transmission, so DT has covered all the bases here. Part of the design called for straight-pull spokes and DT found a clever way to attach them to the rim using little boat-shaped inserts that only penetrate the top section of the rim. This also allowed DT to make their first truly Tubeless ready rim- yeah! They got a lot of flak over the last 4-5 years for not having a true “tubeless” wheel system (at least from me they did). We really only like tubeless wheels here at bikefix.

Out on the trail I have been very impressed by the Tricons. They are responsive and precise. They go where you point them and they rarely complain- I have heard the spokes make some noise under extreme breaking but they always feel fine when I grab them. They roll very smoothly and feel about as light as the scale says they are. The extra width of the rim is noticeable in the tire while cornering. It makes for very precise steering which is great but the drawback is that it takes a while for your reactions to catch on to what is happening. I found myself making more steering corrections than usual because every little input made more of a difference on the ground- then I would have to correct that. The stiff, precise wheel makes a plush fork that much more important.

The Tricons have two new technologies that are as important (maybe) as rim width. One is the 2-piece hub system which allows DT to use higher spoke tensions without deforming the hub shell. According to DT, when high tensions deform the hub shell, it can have a negative effect on the bearings that are pressed into it. The DT Tricon wheels isolate these stresses from the bearings so that they can perform optimally. Whatever the reason, they do roll smoothly. The second new tech is the concave rim shoulder. This is supposed to counteract forces that the tires and spokes put on the rim. Again, I don’t know if it works but these are very stiff wheels which have very little noticeable deflection. The XM1550s are as stiff as wheels that weigh much, much, more.

DT has these wheels squarely aimed at the Mavic Crossmax series (the ST in particular) and in my opinion they have completely destroyed the Mavics- these are wider, lighter, and they feel stiffer to me. Of course, Mavic has been sitting on their butts for the last few years and haven’t pushed their wheel tech forward much (especially on the mountain side), so some competition may be just around the corner.

Yes, The Tricon’s are more expensive but if you can afford Crosmax ST’s you can cough up the extra for the DT’s- especially when you consider DT hub durability over Mavic’s. Be aware that the Tricons are not compatible with 6-bolt rotors unless you use adaptors- which were supplied with my wheels, but I haven’t seen anywhere that they are officially included when purchased. They are priced somewhat impolitely at $1300.



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