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DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review

There are more carbon trail wheels around than ever, so are the latest DT Swiss XMC’s still the benchmark lightweight option?

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Seriously tough yet light and easy to set up rims matched to the latest, lightest DT hubs create a fantastic feeling, performance pepping and highly durable wheelset. Price is super high though and instant engagement fans will want to upgrade the freehub.

For

  • - XC light but enduro tough
  • - Bright, light responsiveness but still calm in chaos
  • - Slick-spin ceramic hybrid hubs
  • - Rock-solid EXP Ratchet connection
  • - Less suspension kickback
  • - Easily serviced internals
  • - Excellent brand durability heritage
  • - Easy tire fit and low-pressure security
  • - Front and rear sold separately for mullet convenience

Against

  • - Premium quality cost
  • - Limited warranty cover
  • - Slow free hub pick up
  • - No Super Boost option

Bike Perfect Verdict

Seriously tough yet light and easy to set up rims matched to the latest, lightest DT hubs create a fantastic feeling, performance pepping and highly durable wheelset. Price is super high though and instant engagement fans will want to upgrade the freehub.

Pros

  • + - XC light but enduro tough
  • + - Bright, light responsiveness but still calm in chaos
  • + - Slick-spin ceramic hybrid hubs
  • + - Rock-solid EXP Ratchet connection
  • + - Less suspension kickback
  • + - Easily serviced internals
  • + - Excellent brand durability heritage
  • + - Easy tire fit and low-pressure security
  • + - Front and rear sold separately for mullet convenience

Cons

  • - - Premium quality cost
  • - - Limited warranty cover
  • - - Slow free hub pick up
  • - - No Super Boost option

DT Swiss wheels (and hubs and spokes) have long been the benchmark for premium quality durability and its XRC, XMC and EXC carbon wheels are the performance flagships among the best mountain bike wheels. The XMC1200s are the most versatile ‘All Mountain’ option, mounting a super tough yet light 30mm internal hookless rim on its latest super smooth, minimum mass 180 hubs with a new freehub driver set up. So where does that rank the XMC1200s against other wheels we’ve ridden from Hunt, Reserve, Roval, Crank Brothers, Zipp, Bontrager, Miche and more?

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review

The rims are light and stiff with a 30mm internal diameter (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Construction 

DT Swiss was one of the first companies to bring out a properly durable carbon rim (I can’t remember the exact date, but I know I ran them on a Nicolai with a Hammerschmidt crank so it was a while ago) and they’re sticking to proven tech on the latest XMC1200s. There’s no special flexy bed, asymmetric offset or separate spoke lumps here, just a relatively deep (30mm) D section rim with a reinforced base, scooped center and 3mm wide hookless rims. They come taped as standard with valves in the bag ready to fit and the Prolock Squorx nipples are proud of the rim so easy to access.

The double-butted, aero bladed DT spokes are straight pull with 28 front and rear but the front wheel uses its lightest Aerolites while the rear is laced up with thicker, slightly heavier Aero Comps. Despite losing count of the number of DT Swiss wheels we’ve tested we’ve never had an issue with build quality or tensioning before or after testing and these latest XMC1200s are no different.

The hubs at the center introduce a lot of changes over the last set of XMC’s we tested (which incidentally are still going strong after several years hammer) though. The legendary 240 hubs are replaced with the skinnier, lighter 180s. These use SINC silicon nitride and stainless steel hybrid bearings in a preloaded installation that can actually feel slightly stiff off the bike, but aligns perfectly once the wheels are squeezed slightly when you bolt them into your bike. The range of bikes you can bolt the XMCs into is relatively limited though with no older non Boost or Superboost options. The 27.5 and 29 front and rear wheels are sold separately though so you can build your own mullet set and you can specify oversized Torque Cap adaptors for RockShox forks.

The other big difference in the hubs is the evolution of Hugi’s (basically DT’s ancestors) original Star Ratchet freehub system into Ratchet EXP. This is a simpler setup using a fixed inner ratchet rather and a floating, sprung one which reduces weight size slightly but also makes the mechanism narrower. This lets DT move the bearings further outboard for a stiffer hub and what was already very easy to service ‘tool free’ pull apart assembly is now even easier to work on as there are fewer bits to spring out at you. DT Swiss haven’t changed the number of engagement points though so there’s still potentially a big 10-degree rotation of the wheel before your pedals connect. You can upgrade to a faster reacting 54-point Ratchet if you find that too gappy though. DT was one of the first brands to push Centerlock in a big way and that’s the default rotor mount here, although you do get six-bolt adaptors and lock rings included. 

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review

Ratchet EXP simplifies the original Star Ratchet freehub system (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

While the old DT practice of naming its wheels by their weight hasn’t applied for a while, the 1200s are still the lightest wheels we’ve tested recently in its ‘level 4’ toughness category. A lot of that comes from the conspicuously light hubs, but the rim mass is still low enough to make them spin up with noticeable ease compared to most carbon and alloy wheels that’ll take a hammering. If you’re used to a more immediate freehub connection the big EXP gap can be irritating out of corners or any post freewheel power play but it does have its advantages. In suspension terms, you’ll potentially get less pedal pull back on a bike with a lot of anti-squat/chain growth. Because all 36 points engage simultaneously the drive load is spread over a much greater area than a pawl system, obviously we’ve much less depth of experience with Ratchet EXP than we have with Star Ratchet so we can’t say it’s a match for longevity yet but DT free hubs typically carry on connecting long after other hubs have started skipping and dying and we can’t see such a storied company surrendering that by shortcutting its testing and mechanical diligence.

Once the ratchet is engaged the XMC’s are definitely stiff enough to make the most of their low weight and you’ll definitely notice a boost in acceleration and climbing performance over heavier and/or softer feeling wheels. They’re tight and accurate in terms of tracking too, with a precise, feedback-rich trail connection that brightens feedback and adds a carving/traction juggling edge. They’re definitely a wheel you’ll need to pilot rather than having a deliberately compliant, conforming front-end feel (like Hunt, Zipp, Crank Bros) but that makes them feel more positive and rewarding to ride rather than making you a passenger. Despite their depth, they’re not so stiff they blow your hands or forearms up on extended descents though. Even though they’re easy to switch tires on/off tool-free we never had any issues with burping or sealant seep at teen pressures on 2.5/2.4in tires if you do want to soften them up slightly. Unsurprisingly that does make rimming out more likely but these XMCs continued the impressively impregnable reputation of our previous set with only cosmetic scuff marks despite being battered down nighttime boulder runs on Canyon’s relatively progressive suspension 160/150mm travel Spectral CFR aggro bike as well as a shorter travel Cotic that’s a regular test wheel host. While some complete wheels we see have tension issues early, running round the DTs with a spoke tension tester shows no signs of any slackness or stress points after a hard month of hammer either.

This superlative performance is matched by a super high price tag but the warranty is actually better than the relatively short two-year mechanical warranty listed on the website too. In short, all carbon DT wheels now have a lifetime material and workmanship warranty, and for crash damage or other instances where a wheel has been taken beyond its reasonable limit, DT offers a ‘fair share’ policy where DT and the customer basically go halves on the cost of a new rim. In the UK that comes to around £267 for a full rebuild depending on the exact model. That still makes attacking rocky trails more apprehensive than dropping in on a wheel with a lifetime ‘no questions’ warranty but means DT don’t have to overcharge to cover the warranties or overbuild to the point the wheels lose the weight advantage of carbon.

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review

The svelte hubs reduce weight and are easy to service (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

With proven tough carbon rims on seriously slick, light and easy to service hubs the XMC1200s are a super responsive setup for racing while still being durable enough for rallying or years of marathon mileage. While they’re stiffer than some zeitgeist wheels, their mix of calm control and bright, light ‘pop’ is a great balance for upgrading the authority and agility of bikes from XC to Enduro. The seriously high price can’t be ignored though and the 36 click pick-up will feel gappy to some.

Tech Specs: DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset

  • Price: $2,983 / £2,099.98 
  • Weight: 1541g (714g front + 827g rear with valves and Shimano MS freehub)
  • Sizes: 29er, 27.5
  • Width: 30mm internal, 36mm external
  • Freehubs: XD, HG, Shimano MicroSpline
  • Rotors: Centerlock
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He got an archaeology degree out of Exeter University, spent a few years digging about in medieval cattle markets, working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit he’s also coughed out a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too. We trust Guy's opinion and think you should, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel Ltd MTBs, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Di2 Disc road bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg