What better way to test out the as-yet-unreleased carbon rimmed DT Swiss CrossRoad wheels than the RedBull Velodux in Estavayer-Le-Lac? It's a cyclocross-style race that takes in everything from sand to cobbles and rocks and grass, making it a good place to get a feel for a high-end wheelset that's said to take care of all you drop-bar off-road duties.
These wheels will slot into the Cross Road category, as the high-end wheelset that DT Swiss will offer. It seems that they are essentially a carbon version of the existing CR 1600 and C 1800 series aluminium wheelsets. Currently DT Swiss do not differentiate between cyclocross and gravel riding – they see these wheelsets as versatile enough to do everything – and in all honesty, I don’t think I can really argue with that.
There aren’t many details at this point but I was able to glean a few bits of information. It seems the wheels are build up around a 240 series straight pull centre lock hub. The rims appear to have very similar dimensions to the aluminium wheelset – indeed the internal width is the same at 22mm. Bladed spokes are also used. Of course, these specifications may be subject to change before the wheels are released – but there are good things to come.
Mounted up with Schwalbe G-One tyres this was going to be a fast setup for the racing ahead. The Velodux race is essentially a cyclocross race, though the course goes through the medieval town of Estavayer-Le-Lac. This means there’s grass, mud, sand, rocks, cobbles and steps and everything in between. Entries are as teams of two with a Le Mans style start. In the open category the race lasts 45 minutes with my teammate and I deciding to swap riders every lap.
The course starts out on grass with some nice twisting corners. Get your speed right here and you’ll manage to pass a few people before getting to the water crossing/mud section that saw quite a few people sliding out.
Energy sapped by the mud, you’ll be greeted by a short steep twisting path up to a lung busting flight of steps you’ll need to dismount for (and should probably curse loudly at). Get to the top, no time to catch your breath, and remount, now riding on the cobbles.
Through the castle gateway with short stepped sections, more dismounts, remounts and onto a flying straight through a sandpit, where I’ll admit I ate a face full of sand – euro style brakes (i.e. the wrong way round) and crowded course do not a good combination make.
Pick up speed again after the sand section and carve your way round a wall ride. Small climb, weaving between barriers, cut across a small square and you’re almost out of town again.
Down about 100 steps and if you can still see straight after being shaken around there’s more grass, a small rock garden and you’re back at the beginning. Swap with your partner (or whatever strategy you’re on). Catch your breath and repeat!
Having ridden the aluminium wheelsets previously, it was interesting to notice the differences of the carbon rims we were on now. Obviously I spent a very limited amount of time on them, and with different tyres mounted for the race it’s hard to draw comparisons with the aluminium Cross Road wheelset. My initial impressions are very positive though.
It’s very nice to see external nipples (even if these are presumably aluminium). The rim isn’t excessively deep, but to my mind was still noticeably stiffer compared with the aluminium wheelset. It’s hard to say whether this comes at the expense of comfort; riding across rutted fields and down steps is never going to be the most comfortable. I do feel that these wheels just had a tad more accuracy, carving out their line very nicely. They also seem to spin up to speed slightly faster though this could also just be a slightly lighter tyre.
If you ever happen to find yourself in the area at the right time, I would definitely recommend taking part in this race. Yes, there are a quite a few very serious and fit people there – but my race was about having fun and finding the best lines and besting my own (and my team mate’s) times. And once you’re done, have a beer, have some food – and check out how fast the elite category blast through the course. And try not to crash quite as spectacularly as my team mate did.
DT Swiss are aiming for a spring launch for their carbon wheelset, which will be a high-end addition to their Cross Road range. We have had the exclusive first look and ride with these samples. Being essentially a carbon version of the aluminium wheelset, we are hoping to get them both in for more in depth, longer term testing and comparison early next year.