At their factory in Biel, Switzerland, DT Swiss have just launched an array of 2013 mountain bike products, along with tyre partners Schwalbe. Headlining the action were the new Spline hubs and 650B tyres.
First comes application range, with the quality being shown by number of characters – one letter for the most basic, and three letters for the very best, such as Cross [Country] – XRC, XR, X; Mountain – XM, M; Enduro – EXC, EX, E; Freeride – FX/FR.
Next is Main Feature, which for MTB designates weight in grams, such as 950, 1150, 1450 and so on.
Then comes the Family, denoting hub design – Dicut, Tricon, Spline or Classic. Finally we’ve got Sub Features, such as T (tubular), C (clincher, unless there’s no tubular version available), TL (tubeless), H (hybrid) and 29 (29er). Simple.
DT Swiss pride themselves on being the only manufacturer worldwide to make every wheel component themselves. They now have production sites in the USA, Taiwan, Poland and France, with all design and testing done in Biel. Eight women hand-build the wheels in Poland because they’ve been proved to be more precise than men.
The big wheel announcement came in the form of new Spline hubs, with the name derived from Straight Pull Line. DT Swiss have made straight-pull hubs for more than 10 years, with Bontrager-badged hubs helping Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France wins. They’re now using their own name, though.
The M1700 Spline 650B rear wheel with Thru Axle
The mountain bike versions have already been used by pro riders at World Cup events this year. They’re the basis for three cross-country wheelsets in 26in or 29in, and one mountain wheelset in 26in or 650B.
The Spline M1700 is the only 650B tubular wheelset on the market, and a specific fork, wheels and rims will be on sale for 2013 in Europe at least. For now it’s only available in the weighty Mountain version, but lighter models will follow. The lightest cross-country 650B wheels are exclusive to the Scott-Swisspower team until after the Olympics, and at the moment the necessary tyres are only custom-made specials. That’s likely to change too, though.
At a claimed 1555g, the Spline XR1450 29 is one of the lightest aluminium 29er wheelsets on the market. As with most DT Swiss wheels, it will be available with a quick-release or thru-axle. The company believe that quick-releases are already dead on 29ers and will soon go the same route on 26in wheels, as even cross-country riders accept the 50g or so penalty for the extra security and stiffness a 15mm thru-axle offers.
Triple Connection Tricon wheels are now fully user serviceable, with all tools and spare parts available. The rim inserts for the straight double-threaded spokes keep the rim bed lighter and airtight for tubeless tyres. The Torx nipples give the spoke tool more grip, enabling the higher spoke tension necessary. Also, all mid- to high-end rims will have new, baked-on decals for 2013. These should prove tougher and be impossible to scratch or peel off.
Clarifying that DT Swiss never bought Pace, only their fork business, the first fork debuted was the Carbon Hollow Arch XRC 100. You can trace its DNA back to a Pace design. Sporting new wiper seals and damping oil and lube developed with Swiss company Panolin, which can be mixed to tune the fork, it was also displayed in 650B configuration. DT’s remote lockout lever now has rubber and plastic inserts, to be kinder to carbon bars. And at 6mm wide it can fit anywhere on your bar without compromising the other controls. It’s only 11g and the lightest on the market, if you’re a weight weenie.
Following on from the M212 Mountain rear shock comes the X313 Cross shock. At 198g for the three-mode unit it’s impressively light. But blowing it out of the water is the X313 Carbon Cross shock, with a carbon-fibre shell and internals bringing it in at 150g. Both shocks use the same remote lever as the Twin Shot fork. Pricing for the X313 will be competitive, at about €300. The carbon will retail for more, although no prices are available yet.
Schwalbe restake their claim in the 650B market
A 650b Schwalbe Hans Dampf
Danny Hart’s World Championship-winning tyre supplier have also recoded their product designations. For 2013, Active (A) Line tyres will all offer at least 50tpi and Kevlar guards. Performance (P) Line MTB tyres will all have dual rubber compounds. Evolution (E) Line rubber will continue to offer the highest grade materials and latest technology. Tyre walls will show square icon boxes for each feature, with the tyre line letter first and the diameter shown in bold characters elsewhere.
Almost all of the products in Schwalbe’s MTB range will be available in 29in. The brand’s own rolling resistance tests, conducted over different terrains and obstacles, showed the 29ers to roll 5-6 percent faster. They also topped the table for feelings of safety, ride experience and security for the 50 riders involved, compared to 26in wheels.
Schwalbe offered 650B tyres four years ago and removed them from the catalogue last year, after limited uptake. They’re now back and available in Racing Ralph, Rocket Ron, Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Rapid Rob patterns and several widths.
The Rocket Ron has undergone some changes, with tougher shoulder blocks to limit tyre squirm and a reconfigured centre block that’s claimed to reduce rolling resistance by about 15 percent. Each tread block has a siped surface to increase grip, and a new sidewall finish improves sealing to make it tubeless-ready.
The Hans Dampf enduro tyre has evolved, with a Super Gravity (SG) version now on offer that claims to be as strong as a downhill tyre but as light as a freeride. It has a Snake Skin sidewall to resist cuts. Already ridden in prototype form in the World Cup downhills this season, we were assured that its weight will be 995g. Compared to a 1200-1300g downhill tyre with six carcass layers, the SG tyre has fewer layers. The sidewall stiffness fits between that of downhill and enduro tyres but with a more flexible tread than downhill rubber would usually offer.
A new rubber compound also sits between those used for downhill and cross-country to offer the proposed performance. The reinforced Kevlar bead and Snake Skin protection should help resilience, and in tubeless configuration could save about 800g over a downhill tyre and tube setup. That just happens to be where it can make the most difference.