Sea Otter 2011: DT Swiss dive into 29er market

High-end wheelsets plus new forks

DT Swiss have finally moved past their cautious wait-and-see approach to the 29er movement, now diving headfirst into the high-end portion of the segment they'd long avoided with a trio of new wheels, updated standalone rims and a very promising-looking fork all aimed at big-wheelers.

Leading the charge is the ultra-premium XRC 950T 29er, a 1,200g carbon fiber tubular wheelset aimed at diehard – and well-to-do – cross-country racers looking to shave heaps of weight from their steeds. According to DT Swiss's Paul Guebara, Giant factory team racers Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett are among the top pros already using them in competition.

The carbon rims are purpose-built for off-road riding with a 26mm width and 30mm height, and DT Swiss join them to new 180-series hubs – a further evolution of their 190 hubs with ceramic bearings and drilled out ratchets plus new carbon fiber bodies. Stock axle configuration is standard quick-release front and rear, though as usual, they'll be readily convertible to various through-axle and through-bolt fitments with optional kits. Hubs will come standard with Center Lock rotor interfaces but six-bolt adapters will be included. As well they should – retail price is a whopping US$4,500.

Tricon XM1550 29er (left) and M1800 29er (right)

Riders who don't preface their names with "Sir", "Doctor" or "Your Royal Highness" can set more realistic sights on the XM 1550 29er, built with a 26mm-wide tubeless-compatible alloy clincher rim. As with other Tricon wheels in the DT Swiss range, these include the trademark crow's-foot lacing that reportedly yields greater lateral stiffness over conventional patterns, slightly concave surfaces on the rim for additional strength, and nipple inserts that distribute stress over a larger area of rim and also leave the outer wall totally solid. 

Claimed weight is 1,800g per pair (Guebara says the company are still shooting for 1,750g) and DT Swiss will offer the new wheel in 9mm through-bolt or 15mm through-axle front fitments, 135x10mm through-bolt rears only, and also a dedicated version for Cannondale Lefty users. Suggested retail price is $1,500 with skewers, valve stems and six-bolt rotor adapters all included.

M1800 Tubeless 29er rim

Cheaper still is the $600 M 1800 Tubeless 29er, which gets a big upgrade from last year's M 1800 with the addition of the tubeless-compatible rim borrowed from the Tricon. Heavier star-ratchet-equipped Center Lock hubs and beefier double-butted spokes push the claimed weight up to 1,900g.

DIYers also get two new 29in alloy clincher rims, both with welded seams instead of last year's sleeved joints and the same $85 retail price. Claimed weight on the 24mm-wide XR 400 29er is 450g. Meanwhile, the XR 490 29er adds 2mm of width and 40g for riders looking for additional lateral stiffness and support for wider tires.

One thing to note: many of you will likely have noticed that the wheel and rim names don't necessarily correspond with the actual weights as is standard for DT Swiss. Though it's a bit confusing, DT Swiss have opted to use the same name as the 26in version but add "29er" at the end to designate the size – something to keep in mind in case you're expecting your new "XM 1550 29er" wheels to actually weigh 1,550g.

Not to be forgotten, either, is the currently hot topic of disc-compatible cyclo-cross wheels. Guebara would offer up few details but said the company are currently working on them. Given that all of the individual components already exist in the range, we expect to see production versions at Eurobike this August.

New high-end 29er fork

DT Swiss add the high-end XMM 100/120 29er fork to their lineup for 2012

Also new to the 29er family is the XMM 100/120 29er with, as the name suggests, 100mm or 120mm of convertible travel. DT Swiss will offer the new fork with tapered or straight steerers in the aluminum crown version or a lighter-weight carbon variant in tapered only that saves 100g, all with 32mm-diameter aluminum stanchions.

DT Swiss will use their ABS single-valve, dual-chamber air spring in one leg while buyers will have their choice of Single Shot or Twin Shot dampers in the other, both of which conveniently place all adjustments up on top of the crown and are compatible with optional remotes. DT Swiss will use their clever Torsion Box magnesium lowers across the board, with optional 9mm quick-release or 15mm through-axle dropouts.

Of particular interest is the multi-mode lockout function of Twin Shot. Using just three dial positions, riders can run the XMM 100/120 29er in full open (full travel), locked out and fully extended, locked out and partially compressed, and partially compressed but still active depending on the order of operations. It sounds complicated but in reality it seems quite intuitive.

The 120mm sample on display weighed around 1,650g with an alloy crown, tapered alloy steerer and quick-release dropouts. Guebara says retail price will be $700-800 for alloy crowned models depending on options.

Finally, DT Swiss also previewed an ultralight 150mm-travel 26in all-mountain fork currently undergoing testing. The new fork features a different version of the company's carbon fiber crown with a vertical rib running down each side for additional strength and stiffness over the current hollow piece. Claimed weight is just 1,550g and we'll likely see a more finalized version during the trade show season in August/September.

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