DT Swiss may not be the biggest household name when it comes to aero wheels - at least in the US - yet they’ve been ridden to victory at some of the biggest races in the world by the likes of Daniela Ryf and Patrick Lange (the latter under Swiss Side branding – which we’ll touch on later). Rather, DT is most widely known for their iconic hubs with unique star ratchet drive system, which was revolutionary upon its introduction. Those hubs have become known for great reliability, and have spread considerably in OEM and private-label use (i.e. you might have DT hubs on your bike and you just don’t know it).
I have personally used DT hubs for mountain biking, along with a handful of their various rims and spokes for all manner of wheels I’ve built – road, tri, gravel, MTB, and fat bike. What I hadn’t used was a complete set of DT-built aero wheels, for no other reason than I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity.
That changed when I got the chance to get up close and personal with a pair of ARC 1100 DICUT 62 carbon clincher wheels, the middle depth choice that falls between its 48 and 80mm brethren. All depths are available in both rim and disc brake versions, with this review honing in on the rim brake 62mm option (for no other reason than my triathlon bike has rim brakes… and the 80mm depth was out of stock).
First, let’s talk basic specs. All three rim depths use a 17mm internal width, with outer width varying by model – the 48mm rim @ 25mm outer, the 62mm rim @ 27mm outer, and the 80mm rim @ 28mm outer. All use DT Aerolite straight pull spokes and Pro Lock aluminum internal nipples. The rims use standard hooked beads, and DT does not mention any restrictions on which tires you can use.
My 62mm rim brake version features 16 front spokes and 21 rear spokes – with the rear wheel laced 2:1 (i.e. there are two drive-side spokes for every one non-drive spoke). I’ve come to like this style of lacing because it greatly evens out spoke tension compared to traditional lacing patterns.
Part of what makes the ARC 1100 DICUT series a step above other DT wheels is the machining of extra hub material to an extreme degree. DT claims a reduction in drag that saves 0.4 watts compared to their standard hub design.
This also brings up an inconvenient truth that disc brakes have an aerodynamic cost, and I applaud DT Swiss for being forthright about it. They quote a base drag increase of about two watts for the disc brake version, due to the increase in hub material and additional spokes (24/24 lacing vs 16/21 for rim brakes).
Wheels are subject to both translational drag (caused by your wheels moving forward through space) and rotational drag (caused by the spinning of the wheel / spokes churning up the air). DT’s data says that this pans out to a 75:25% split for translational-to-rotational. As expected, deeper rims result in lower rotational drag, because the spokes are shorter (causing less churning of the air).
DT Swiss also designs for their spoke nipples to be hidden inside of the rim, claiming a 4% reduction in drag, for the 25% of drag made up by rotation. I suspect that this will remain an area of debate between lab data and bike mechanics, with external nipples resulting in easier service (and some competing wheel companies claiming that there isn’t a significant aero cost). I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s more important.
The RWS quick release system is another trick up the sleeve of DT Swiss, with a new removable-lever design that saves a claimed 0.9 watts. They offer several versions of RWS, to accommodate the rapidly-multiplying umber of different axle ‘standards’. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to try RWS for myself – media sample wheels get passed around to different publications, and the last user of our wheels failed to put the skewers back in the box (shame on them!).
What does all of this aero tech add up to? First, we’ll look at the three wheels in the ARC 1100 DICUT line (above). The lightest line represents the 48mm rim depth, the middle line represents the 62mm rim depth, and the darkest line represents the 80mm rim depth. Tests were performed at the GST wind tunnel in Immenstaad, Germany, using the 23mm Continental GP 4000 S at 45kph.
The second graph compares the 80mm DT rim (red) to the Zipp 808 NSW (blue) and Swiss Side Hadron 800+ (green). Same wind tunnel, same speed, same tires.
On the topic of Swiss Side, we were keen to understand the relationship between them and DT Swiss. While we don’t yet have full details, our understanding as of today is that Swiss Side is a company independent of DT Swiss, and handles their aerodynamic testing and development. Swiss Side also sells their own wheels, with manufacturing done by DT Swiss.
Tubeless Setup & Riding
Tech is nice, but it’s time to dive into the nuts and bolts of these wheels. As evidenced by the photo above, I’m old-school/new-school, mounting these wheels on my titanium Habanero triathlon bike (and more than doubling its value in the process).
Before mounting the wheels, however, I needed to install a set of tires. I had a fresh pair of 25mm Schwalbe Pro Ones ready to go, and set them up tubeless. Our readers often want to know how tightly tubeless tires fit on to different wheels, and the video below shows my installation procedure for these particular rims.
The tires were tight, but I was able to get them on with the assistance of some tools. Note that I had to start the second bead installation opposite the valve stem, to get every last bit of tire bead down into the center channel. I injected sealant with the KOM Cycling injector, which can be seen in a separate video.
I mounted up the wheels, and noticed that the front tire was quite close to the inside of the front brake. Upon initial inflation, the 25mm Schwalbe Pro Ones measured 26.4mm, and after about two weeks they came in at 26.9mm. My fork is a cheap steel replacement from QBP’s Dimension brand, and was advertised as clearing 28mm tires. It will clear 28mm tires – without a brake on.
Unfortunately, the brake mounting hole was drilled too low, leaving me with 2mm of clearance at best, using a tire that’s just under 27mm. I’ve had the same issue with a fork from their Whisky brand, which advertised 35mm clearance, but barely squeezed 32mm with a brake on. QBP did not respond to our request for comment.
Braking is one of my key concerns with carbon clinchers, and this is an area where DT Swiss delivered. Using the supplied Swiss Stop black pads, I put the ARC 1100 DICUT 62 among the best rims I’ve used, in such company as the Roval CLX 60 (with aftermarket pads), and the Zipp 404 (last reviewed in 2013). The only noise that resulted from applying the brakes was the delicious light whirring of good carbon braking – with zero squeal or howl. Note that I start all my brake tests with the pads flat (not toed) – just to try to get them to make noise.
Do they brake as well as aluminum rims? No. But the power is good, and enough that you don’t feel nervous because you’re on carbon rims. Of course, braking quality also depends on the brake itself, and my Dura Ace 9000 calipers are at the top of the heap.
Out on the road, the ARC 1100 DICUT 62 felt like they belong among other top-tier carbon wheels. I (obviously) don’t have a wind tunnel to challenge any aerodynamic claims, but the wheels felt like a legitimate increase in speed over my aluminum training wheels, with no ill effects in terms of crosswind stability or steering input. Stiffness felt adequate for my 195-pound frame, and there was simply no drama to report. Sometimes no news is good news.
These wheels don’t come cheap, at €2,388 per pair ($2,620 USD). This puts them well out of what I can afford, but if they fit your budget – I put them right up with other wheels in this echelon. Especially if you’re on rim brakes, DT Swiss deserves to be on your list of considerations.
DT Swiss ARC 1100 DICUT 62 Specs:
Weight: 730 g Front, 890 g Rear (1,620g measured set weight w/ rim tape & valves)
Max Rider Weight: 100kg
Rim Spec: 622 x 17, hooked beads
Rim Depth: 62.5mm
Rim Width (outer): 27mm
Rim Width (inner): 17mm
Spokes: DT Aerolite, 16 front, 21 rear
MSRP: $2,620 USD