The DT Swiss CRC 1400 SPLINE db 24 wheelset has got a massive task for this test. The wheels needs to cover multiple grounds besides its intended usage determined by DT Swiss.
For one, it should fulfill its prime mission, namely to provide an excellent performance in competitive in cyclocross and gravel races, while being performant in adventurous multi day bike packing endeavors. Certainly, not everybody is keen to race and hunt the best possible times. For them, a snappy, light weight, or maybe aesthetically pleasing appearance is of higher importance. The DT Swiss CRC 1400 SPLINE db 24 meant to satisfy the latter objective with its 1389 grams weight.
Given DT Swiss reputation and clear position in higher price segment, it ought to justify its asking price and provide advertised high performance. In addition, I wanted to stretch the scope of its indented use as well.
After having received the carbon wheels, I did a brief set up followed by mounting the 140mm discs with the rather handy center lock disc interface. When racing, I always go for 622 mm (29″/700C) diameter. On one hand because of the of the current UCI regulations, on the other hand, in terms of ride dynamics, the 29er has an upper hand compared to the admittedly versatile 650B size. At least in my book it does.
The 22 mm inner width matches the designated tires I used for this test quite nicely. All tires were set up as tubeless. They were of varying width, manufactured by Vittoria, Panaracer, Continental and Schwalbe. All of them locked in nicely, meaning no compressor was needed for the installation. Air loss must was non-existent which is a testament to DT’s well-sealed, hookless tubeless design. All in all, the tubeless set up was a pain free process. The 22 mm Inner width let the tire exploit its true volume nicely.
There was no time to spare. So as soon as the wheelset was set up and ready for the first race, we headed over to Holland and Belgium for the first races. The wheels were used in 2 different bikes for the test, a Specialized Sworks Crux and a Ridley X Night SL disc. What stood out from the get-go was the insane acceleration provided by the DT Swiss CRC 1400 SPLINE db 24. There are way lighter wheels out there than its 1389 grams and it can’t be attributed to the placebo phenomenon.
The freehubs DT’s 36-point engagement system just adds to this fast picking-up. I nice buzzing sound is a bonus, at least in my books anyway. The used 12 mm Thru axle system makes the wheels-swap straight forward execution. In a CX race keeping the momentum is not as relevant as in other disciplines. In long gravel races the inertia or the lack thereof plays a more important role. On the other hand, a light steering is a must.
For my built [58-59kg] and my mediocre power output, the rigidity of the wheels is more than enough. I was unable to challenge its stiffness to the fullest. My test mate with his 78kg and punchy riding style reported the high level of stiffness as well. That can be partially attributed to the hub design which has been modified with a larger flange and an adjusted angle. DT statement of added 15 percent enhanced stiffness is not an exaggeration.
Thankfully the mandated maximum width of 33mm wasn’t exceeded on this setup. But there is a subconscious difference of a 33mm and 33mm width. Somehow, in this case it manages to squeeze out more out of this limited width in a good way. The rough and relentless race conditions were a great opportunity to test the sturdiness of the built in, well proven DT Swiss 240s hubs that are mated with DT ProLock Squorx ProHead alu nipples and DT aero comp® straightpull Spokes in 2-cross (1:1) Spoke pattern. Fortunately there was no spoke/nipple loosening during the whole test instalment to report.
During the competition the wheels were jet-washed, and given the time constrains, minimally maintained. But that was on purpose too, as we wanted to see how far they can go with minimal care. The frequency of the races [2x per weekend, from December till February], ridden by different riders under highly varying conditions, like frozen bone-dry tracks all the way up to nasty mud and slush covered surfaces challenged the wheelset significantly. Cleaning was kept to minimum.
Thank to its subdued design and graphics [waterslide decals] the dirt wasn’t as evident. The DT Swiss CRC 1400 SPLINE db 24 wheelset is very ‘submissive’ in this department. Nothing outstanding as if its tagline went like: “My inner values lie somewhere else”. I wish, its grand performance was demonstrated more by way of a tad flashier design. The wheelset can be easily mistaken for a generic, cheapo wheels that are to be had all over place for the fraction of its price. However, taste is very personal matter.
For good measure, wheels were lent to a junior UCI rider as well who unfortunately ran out his spares. This way we gained even more feedback for different [A-racer] perspective. Albeit his own wheels were slightly lighter, he was deeply content with DT’s sturdiness, quick freehub engagement, and keeping the frozen A-line way easier.
We didn’t give the DT Swiss CRC 1400 any slack. Just right after the first installment of the test (CX racing) had been concluded, we mounted the wheelset into a SantaCruz Stigmata CX/Gravel racer and headed over to States to challenge the upcoming some early season gravel races. Here, the wheels had a way more taxing job to accomplish. Clearly, a gravel event is a very multifaceted one. But that’s exactly we want to learn firsthand: does it perform equally well despite hugely different surfaces? Thus far, the DT Swiss CRC 1400 lined up for 6 different events, equipped with the following tires:
Vittoria Terreno Mix G
Panaracer GK 38
Challenge Gravel Grinder
All of them mated nicely with CRC 1400. Only the Challenge Gravel Grinder caused some hassle when it was being set up as tubeless. The relentless nature of the event beckoned a premature end of the test period due to the negligible maintenance and self-supported manner of the events. Let alone the fact that one of the test members is not exactly tech savvy, meaning, the way he treats its equipment is anything but desired.
Thankfully there was just one outstanding, extreme event where sleet, frozen rain and snow slush our tester had to face. That’s been a rather extraordinary conditions that caused headache whether the hubs will take the beating as well as the rims that were running on deflated Challenge Gravel Grinder tires the last 24 miles. Given the harsh conditions, our tester opted to carry on instead of repairing the damaged tire. Frozen hands and lost feel prevented a quick tire change anyway. Despite slowing down to an almost walking speed at places, it’s been a touch-and-go undertaking. The rough, half-frozen gravel road just elevated the chances of an ultimate damage of the rim.
To heighten the disaster – merely 5 miles to go – the front tire had a puncture. The calamity could not be greater! The rider crossed the finish line, half-dead but with the CRC 1400wheels intact. We don’t know how much the supple nature of the deflated Challenge tire contributed to the rim damage limitation, and what has been the part of the CRC 1400’s robustness which made sure that the damage had been kept to a bare minimum. We can’t asses the integrity of the rims, though nor can we inspect the internal structure.
Since thus unlucky occasion, the wheels were subjected to another 3 races, and they functioned perfectly. As alluded at the beginning, I wanted to stretch the wheels indented application by subjecting them to more radical testing grounds. Just as gravel races are popping up everywhere, “enduro style” racing is also gaining popularity. At these events only certain stages are timed. On those challenging downhill sections one is better off riding a usual cross-country bike. Sure, you can tackle this part of the course, but way slower, gingerly. The purpose of these events is to push the envelope.
To keep up with fellow racers riding on hardtails and full suspended bikes was a great challenge. Sure, it comes down to skills too, no question, truth be told, though, the speed we generated with a gravel bike like the SantaCruz Stigmata equipped with DT Swiss CRC 1400 wheels was stunning. Thanks to the low tire pressure hovering around 20psi in the ballpark, numerous bottoming out was to be expected. And they came in spades. The familiar sound of hitting the rim hard was omnipresent. Since the wheels kept their integrity, the massive abuse non-withstanding, we decided to go for broke, and roll the dice. The wheels didn’t fail!
Similar riding attributes can be attests to those we learned while racing CX. Here, the snappiness of wheelset isn’t an absolute necessity. Steep – albeit short – climbs were littered with gravel, sizable sharp chips and ruts that managed to disrupt a flowy ride. The steering was considerably more agile. We were happy to have a shallow rim height of 24mm. In my eyes, it is a next-to perfect blend of snappiness and a little bit of wind cheating. Admittedly, we had an event where a better aerodynamics would be preferable, meaning 30-40mm rim height, but I wouldn’t trade this lightness for a more aerodynamics as far as gravel racing goes.
Many races already in the books, and plenty to be attempted that are coming up more and more frequently. Chances are good, the wheelset will be tested on a Specialized Sworks Diverge too, just to see how it behaves on different rig. Also, the DT Swiss CRC 1400 is destined for an extended bike packing endeavor in in southern part of Europe. Here, much chunkier tire will be used to gain more actual and direct experience with fattier tires, but most of all how it performs under heavy load off the beaten track in remote areas sans external support.
And with that the first test-installment is concluded, and will be followed up soon with the next part. The race season is extensively long – many test miles are ahead of us. Nevertheless some provisional conclusion can be drawn all the same. Thus far, the DT Swiss CRC 1400 performed well even beyond its intended use. Not only did it have to face grueling conditions and tasks, but also took some major beating along the way. It’s a small wonder that any wheelset could withstand all this and keep its integrity.
I am not fond of the “one size fits all” moniker, but if you have to have just one wheelset, it should be something like the DT Swiss CRC 1400! What is even more appreciable, is its serviceability, spare parts availability, adjustability – mainly concerning the axle standards – and at the bottom line, it’s fantastic reliability. The second installment of the test will soon follow!
What the manufacturer says:
A pinnacle of the Cross Road category – the CRC 1400 SPLINE® db 24. A wheelset for everybody who likes to race away from the tarmac, no matter if it is a cyclocross race, a gravel stage-race or the prestigious after-work race with your colleagues through the forest. The high-end full carbon tubeless ready rim is laced to a straight pull 240s based hub, combines maximum reliability for the harsh off-road use with superb performance. Being extremely lightweight and reactive, fast accelerations and jumping over obstacles will be even more fun with the CRC 1400 SPLINE® db 24 mounted on your cyclocross bike.
Equipped with 24 mm high, tubeless ready carbon rims, DT aerolite® and DT aero comp® spokes, Centerlock mounts and 240s based SPLINE db hubs with Ratchet freehub system. For 12/15×100 mm thru axle, 9×100 mm QR at the front and 12×142 mm thru axle, 10×135 mm QR at the rear. End caps for quick release included.
The rim of the CRC 1400 SPLINE is made for the tough offroad useage. CX-tires of 32 mm and even wider gravel rubbers get an ideal support through the 22 mm wide hookless rim. At the same time the rim comes up with only 24 mm of rim depth and an astonishing 390 g on the scale. The hookless rim design allows for an optimized arrangement of the carbon layers and fibre orientation to increase the impact resistance. Last but not least the rim is tubeless ready menacing off-road usability through increased comfort, better rolling resistance and less pinch flat risk.
With straight pull spokes and the use of specific lacing, superlight hubs as well as high end rims featuring key DT Swiss technology, SPLINE® wheels make for a perfect training and racing partner.
This patented freewheel system uses precision ratchets, featuring extremely high load capacity and reliability. The no tool concept allows for an easy execution of routine maintenance.
The term Straightpull refers to spokes with no bend at the head. This design allows for an ideal strength to weight ratio when compared to conventional spokes. Due to their more precise alignment and direct trajectory, straight-pull spoke technology creates a stiffer, more responsive wheel.
DT Pro Lock® Technology
A patented liquid injected into the nipple thread allows for extremely durable wheel builds.
Maximum system weight: 120kg.
More information: http://tidd.ly/f31db441