by AJ Barlas
Wheels. The simple round devices that bring so much joy into many of our lives. It doesn't really matter how light, what size, material, or even whether they're perfectly round, so long as they allow us to rally down the trail with a grin on our faces most are none the wiser! Most. At some point just having hoops that work becomes the need for hoops that are in a certain weight range and can withstand a large degree of punishment. We all have, or will, arrive at one or more of these conclusions some day, but the most important element is what advantage they garner over the terrain and the riders around you (whether competing officially or in your group of mates) and the ability to successfully do so day after day.
DT Swiss is well aware of this and with good reason - they've been involved in the industry for several years, and have seen their own riders push for multiple World Cup Championships and more. There are a lot of unique technologies in the wheel world now, each with their own claimed advantages, so what exactly do DT Swiss's wheels bring to the table? Itook to the trails with their latest gravity wheelset to find out.
DT Swiss Tricon FX 1950 Highlights
- Tricon Wheel Technology
- Tubeless Ready
- Ratchet System Freewheel
- 6-Bolt International Rotor Mountain Standard
- Bladed DT Aero Comp Spokes
- Torx Spoke Nipples
- Open Crow Foot Lacing System
- Weight: 4.4-pounds (2.0kg)
- MSRP $1,455
DT Swiss isn't afraid to shake things up, and one quick look at the Tricon wheels proves it. The open crow foot lacing pattern and unique hub flange instantly set the Tricon series of wheels apart. Rather than a set of evenly spaced holes on either side of the hub, the Tricon flange contains five areas per side where three 'prongs' form, creating a 30 spoke wheel. The spokes are bladed, providing some aerodynamic advantage, and are threaded both at the tail (into the rim eyelet) and into the hub flange where you would normally find the spoke head.
Even the spoke nipple is a change from what is commonly seen on a wheel. Rather than the square brass or aluminum nipples, DT Swiss used a torx nipple. The rationale behind this choice is quite sound - the torx allows for more contact surface between the nipple and the tool, aiding in the prevention of rounded nipples.
Also new and interesting is the method required to place the spoke nipple into the rim. Because these are a sealed tubeless rim, dropping the nipples in through the rim bed is not an option. Instead, DT Swiss uses a rim insert that differs from others on the market. The DT Swiss nipple is supported on two sides within the rim wall, creating an airtight fixture for the spoke.
All other features contained in this wheelset can be found in most of DT Swiss's wheels, including their patented and reliable Ratchet Freewheel system, ProLock liquid on the spoke nipples for longevity in tension, and high-quality machining throughout. They are also convertible to SRAM's XD standard, for those wishing to run XX1 or similar, but with the weight being more suited to that of a DH wheelset (claimed 2,025 grams // 4.5lbs), I don't imagine many will opt for these on their trail bikes. Regardless, they're ready for the conversion if SRAM develops a DH specific XX1 style drivetrain, which we've seen hints of recently.
On The Trail
Dropping into the first trail I tested them on, the benefits of a new wheelset rung through immediately. The FX1950 was considerably stiffer than what I previously had on my DH bike. They felt solid ramming through rock gardens, over roots, and while laying them on edge through rough terrain, continuously displaying the benefits of a solid, strong wheel section after section, trail after trail. They helped hold some very interesting and fun lines on trails where previous wheels would have left me wandering or sliding down into a rut or brake chatter, another welcome benefit.
There's no doubt that many are aware of DT Swiss's previous rims, which were commonly found to be very soft. With that in mind, I decided early on to really mash on these wheels only to come up empty handed. Even after some solid days in the Whistler Bike Park - a riding location that has notoriously dented and flat spotted my rims in the past, some of which on day one riding them - the Tricon FX1950 wheels remained dent free and true. It would appear DT Swiss has drastically improved their rims in this regard, which is a welcome update.
As with many other tubeless setups, the use of an air compressor will very likely be required to get a seal before setting the tires to your desired pressure. Having sealed and pumped the wheels on my trail bike without a compressor before, I thought I would try my luck with these, only to fail, miserably. Floor pump = 0, air compressor = 1. In the end, I decided to run these with tubes. There were no problems with rolling tires off the bead or even flats, and my low pressures caused no concerns (often around 22psi front, 24psi rear).
It's easy to forget about the wheels because they get on with their job and do so well. The hubs roll smoothly, the free hub is quiet (if you're into that sort of thing) and reliable, and the rims are strong enough to take a beating.
Long Term Durability
The Tricon FX1950 wheels have presented no issues in the reliability department. That said, I remain wary of the double threaded spokes and the nipples built into the hub flanges, as once something does go wrong there you could be MIA for a little while. My concern here lies in the proprietary nature of the double threaded spoke, especially in a gravity wheelset, as a rider can easily bust a couple of spokes any given day and finding a quick replacement can be problematic, especially if its race day. I can sense the privateers squirming in their chairs… In spite of this concern, we haven't needed to worry ourselves as the spokes have remained solid throughout testing.
The brake rotors mounted easily with no strange threading problems, the hubs ran smooth as can be, and the rims remained dent free, even after some serious rock strikes. Perhaps with more time on them and a full summer in the Whistler Bike Park, issues will begin to arise, but in the eight weeks these have been ridden there have been none.
What's The Bottom Line?
The DT Swiss Tricon FX1950 wheels have impressed me. They hold a line, take a beating, and do so all in their stride. In fact, they do their job so well that you often forget about them, especially when combined with the almost silent rear hub. While it would be great to see a more common straight pull spoke utilized in the design of this wheel, if for nothing else but to keep the user riding more than waiting for parts, I never even needed to re-tension the wheels and the rationale for including this style is great.
If you're not afraid to jump onto newer standards and be prepared with a few spare parts of your own, the DT Swiss Tricon FX1950 wheels are worth a look. There are some interesting components in the package, but they all work together seamlessly for a wheel that is stiff, strong, and quite capable. I don't imagine we will see a lot of racers sporting these (though the Specialized team ran them in the Sea Otter Slalom), but park rats, downhillers, or freeriders that are prepared to include a couple of unorthodox pieces in the garage will thoroughly enjoy rag dolling these wheels down the local trails with big grins on their faces.
For more on the Tricon FX1950 wheelset, visit www.dtswiss.com.
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.