by Ben Haworth
March 12, 2010
We spent a couple of days in the frozen wasteland of Costa Brava (no, really) attending DT Swiss’ 2010 Press Camp. The first stuff we’ll show you is their “Tricon” wheels.
“Tricon” was originally going to be called “Trinity” but DT changed their minds after realising that name was already being used by lots of other bike and non-bike companies out there. So they scratched their heads for a while and came up with “Tricon”; which is a reference to how the triple connection design where groups of three spokes meet the hub in one place.
Tricon actually dates back to a “concept wheel” that DT teased people with back in 2006. And DT’s first idea of a “radial mixed with crossed spokes” wheel goes back to about the year 2000. The radial-crossed design also goes by the catchy name of “crow foot lacing”. Tricon wheels have one radial and two crossed spokes in each (three spoke) grouping. Radial spokes offer side stiffness. Crossed spokes offer better torque transmission.
Tricon wheels still contain the “Star Ratchet” engagement system that dates back to 1995 when the hubs where produced under the Hugi name. A point of note is that any Star Ratchet rear hub can be converted to QR or 12mm thru-axle formats.
Tricon hubs are a two piece design (as depicted in the photo above). The idea of this design is separate the hub bearings from spoke tension forces. The bearings don’t have to be as tight a fit into the hub body and as such they have lower rolling resistance and a longer bearing life (which is also helped by the bearings being able to be seated more precisely). The two pieces are bonded together with what the DT engineer described as “flexible glue basically”. There are also three pegs slotting into holes (as you can hopefully make out in the picture above).
The spokes are straight double-threaded ones. The lack of spoke bend (or “elbow”) makes for higher stiffness. They are also pretty straightforward to replace in the “unlikely” event of one breaking. The nipples are Torx flavoured which offer a better grip for the (supplied) spoke tool and are less likely to round-off.
At the rim end, the spokes pass through a rim insert. These rim inserts go by the nickname of “little boats” (you can see why by looking at the photo below). They fit into the rim easily but are also snug and precisely located. The relative large contact area that the “little boats” have with the rim spread the load well and as such less material can be used for the rim.
And last but by no means least, this “little boat” rim insert design means the seamless outer rim bed means the wheel is fully tubeless compatible (there are no spoke holes in it basically). No more rim strips required for running tubeless tyres on DT wheels.
The rims have concave upper side walls. This is to counteract the expansion forces of tyre and spoke pull. The DT guys explained the design with the analogy of the bottom of champagne bottle; if the bottom of a champagne bottle was flat the pressure from the fizzy stuff inside would blow the bottom off the bottle. So the concave-ness is betterer. The smooth, un-edged/un-stepped surface to the outer rim bed makes it significantly easier for mounting and (successfully) inflating tubeless tyres. A quick real-world demonstration with a tubeless tyre and trackpump (NB: no sealant for the demo) illustrated that DT’s tubeless design may well be the least curseword-inducing tubeless system so far.
Most of the Tricon wheelsets that DT were showing off were roadie ones. The main wheelset of interest to us mountain bikers is the Tricon XM1550. DT are considering this a “Mavic Crossmax beater”. As the name suggests, it weighs 1550g for a pair. Testing shows that it is a gnat’s chuff (our terminology) away from being as stiff as the DT EX1750 wheelset.