The new benchmark? Reviewed: DT Swiss CRC 1400 Spline 24 wheelset

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  • Tested: DT Swiss CRC1400 Spline 24 wheelset
  • From: Madison
  • Tested for: 6 weeks
  • Price: £1674.99

It’s always a challenge when testing top-end kit. It is so rarely bad – in fact it is very rarely anything less than very good. Is that enough when spending the price of an entire bike on a component though? I would say not… the more we spend, the higher our expectations are. The DT Swiss CRC1400 Spline 24 wheels are not the most expensive out there, but they are far from cheap. With that, it was with the loftiest of standards in mind that I fitted the CRC1400s and hit the trail…

CRC1400 – we love the look of carbon against tan wall

Wheels made for #dirtydropbargoodness

Despite the growth of our little corner of the cycling world, it has taken a while for companies to begin to make wheelsets designed for our needs. Until now, many manufacturers have offered their XC wheelsets, or disc-road alternatives… sometimes rebadged as gravel models. Realistically, there’s little harm in this. The terrain many of us ride on gravel bikes is little different to light XC, and wheels are wheels aren’t they? Well, yes, but no. XC wheels can struggle to cope with the higher tyre pressures that ‘cross and gravel require, causing unloading spoke tension and a bit of a “floppy” feeling wheel. DT Swiss’s entire Cross Road range is designed to be able to cope with road air pressures 33mm tyres and up. Does this make a real world difference in ride feel? Well, you’ll have to read on and find out. Lets have a quick run down of the wheelset first, though.

Designed for ‘cross and gravel tyres

DT Swiss CRC 1400 Spline 24 Wheelset

Working from the outside in, the CRC1400 wheelset use lightweight carbon rims. With a 22mm internal width, they are designed specifically to cope with anything from a ‘cross tyre up to wider gravel rubber. In case you’d not guessed, the rims are carbon. That “24” in the name refers to their depth – 24mm, neither deep nor shallow. As you would expect, the wheels are tubeless ready.

The rims are laced to DT Swiss 240s hubs with super light DT aero comp straight-pull spokes. We’ve used the DT Swiss 240 hubs before and have always been impressed by their light weight, quick pick-up and understated good looks.

Ooph. Pre-dirtification.

The package looks good on paper, especially when you take into account the weight – DT Swiss claim 1389g – we weighed very slightly over 1400g, but that was with tape and valves fitted, so that sounds about right. That’s astonishingly light for a do-it-all clincher wheelset, almost certain to shave off substantial weight from any OEM hoops. There is a “system” weight limit of 130kg (i.e. rider, kit, bike, luggage etc) on the wheels, but few will come close to testing that.

Ticket to ride. Who doesn’t love the machining on those hubs?

Set up

The two sets of tyres I fitted to the CRC1400s were pleasantly easy to seat tubelessly. A pair of Panaracer Gravel Kings, and the Compass Steilacooms in the pictures were a bit of a thumb-buster to get on, but I was paid back with incredibly easy inflation. The Steilacooms tended to lose air, while the Gravel Kings didn’t, which suggests that it was the tyres that were more porous, rather than any issue with the rim.

The 240s hubs use a Centerlock disc rotor fitment. My Hope rotors were six-bolt, but the wheels come with a converter. You’ll need a Shimano external bottom bracket tool to fit the rotors, but assuming you’ve got the tool it is a quicker and easier job than doing up six rotor bolts.

My test bike uses 12mm thru-axles front and rear, which is what the CRC1400s came set up ready for. They do also come with QR-ready end caps, as well as a 15mm front in the box.

Centerlock adaptors are included

On the trail

Whenever I take a new wheelset out – especially one so expensive, and with carbon rims, my first ride tends to be a little tentative. I fear the horrible clunk of rock against rim, wary of damaging the precious black stuff. Fortunately it doesn’t take long for me to forget that – especially this time of year, as each ride has been typified by rapidly drying lines, more speed… more fun.

An almost 200g weight saving over my own already quite light wheelset was instantly noticeable. I felt like I was able to climb in a gear or two harder (no doubt helped by drier trails and more traction) and there was a positive skip forward when I applied power. The 36point ratchet means 10º of rotation before pick up. It is something that you quickly get used to, but initially the almost instantaneous feel to that power transfer brought a smile to my face. Swapping back to other wheels left the bike feeling more sluggish, less lively, less fun to ride.

From grassy ‘cross courses to XC terrain, the CRC1400s shrugged it all off

Possibly more important than pure weight, DT Swiss also seem to have found a great balance between stiffness and give. When stomping out of the saddle, there was no real hint of wheel flex, and likewise through tight, torque-y off-road corners it felt like the wheels held taught, tracking beautifully. This could have translated into a brutal ride over rough ground, yet somehow didn’t. 40mm tyres obviously help, but riding over dried ruts and cobbles, there was a degree of comfort that I wasn’t expecting. Interestingly, the feather light properties of the wheel did need me to adjust my riding slightly. The light bike felt a little easier to bump off line, and the rear wheel could skip out if I wasn’t consciously weighting it while pedalling out of the saddle on rough, loose terrain.

The wheels got plenty of abuse during our short test period.

It was inevitable. There was no way over the whole test period that I wouldn’t mess up a line choice or come up short on a bunny hop. Clunk. Wince. Keep riding… think I got away with it? Check the damage when I next stop. Nothing, not even a mark. Over the course of the test, I’ve ridden everything from tarmac to pure gravel trails, to slogging through the worst clay/mud combo, to rattling across and into rocky, rooty XC trails. There have been enough of those clunking moments that I was sure I’d spot at least a scuff or two when I gave the rims their final clean. Still nothing. De-tyred, I gave the wheels a run in the truing stand. Not a wobble. Banging.

The test period wasn’t long enough to comment on hub durability, but we have used various iterations of the DT Swiss 240 on other builds and have always been impressed with their build quality and bearing life.

Rear wheel pick up was rapid.

Yeah, but…

Now, we’ve established that the CRC1400s are really good. Really, really good in fact. Are they worth nearly £1700 though? Well, it is cheaper than some of the other top-end options out there from Enve for example, but still some way more than say Hunt or Sixth Element. It again is worth pointing out that DT Swiss has gone to the effort of designing and manufacturing a wheel specifically designed for gravel tyres, pressures and terrain. While the real world benefits of this are in the margins, they are real. If you have the money to spend, then it’s hard to believe that you’ll be disappointed in any way with the DT Swiss offering.

Worth the money? We think so

In summary

We loved the CRC1400 Spline 24s. They genuinely set the benchmark by which we’ll be comparing wheelsets in the future. Getting that performance is far from cheap, but if you are looking for a top-end pair of hoops to cover pretty much anything you’ll want to do on a ‘cross/gravel bike, DT Swiss have you covered.

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