DT Swiss introduced the Spline range in 2013 and the Road Carbon 28mm Clincher, to break down the acronym, is available in three depths, with a 38mm all-rounder and 55mm aero option on offer alongside these hoops. Looking to the future, DT Swiss are among the brands to have thrown their hat in the ring as far as disc-specific wheels are concerned and the RC28 db and RC38 db cover that base. So there’s plenty of choice.
Back to this wheelset, though, and the rim’s shallow, 28mm depth pitches it squarely at riders seeking a lightweight wheel at its best wheel the road heads uphill. The rim is made entirely from unidirectional carbon fibre and that results in a satisfyingly claimed low weight of 1,385g. We weighed our set at exactly 1,400g once we’d installed the supplied rim tape.
The wheels have 20 bladed, double-butted DT Swiss Aerolite spokes laced in a radial pattern at the front, and 24 spokes in a two-cross pattern at the rear, using internal aluminium DT Swiss Pro Lock nipples. We had no need to fettle our hoops during the test period but the hidden nipples could arise as a minor inconvenience in future (DT Swiss do provide the wheels with the appropriate spoke key). DT Swiss use straightpull spokes an they say the fact there’s no bend in the spoke improves longevity.
The ‘Spline’ hub design, meanwhile, is said to place the spokes in the “optimized position” to improve the responsiveness of the wheel and the rear hub is 11-speed compatible and comes with a spacer for use with ten-speed groupsets.
So how did they ride? The wheels are lacking nothing in responsiveness and acceleration when getting up to speed, with the freehub providing steadfast engagement and the low overall weight immediately coming to the fore. This is a very rewarding set of wheels to ride, giving the sensation you’ve gained an additional sprocket when climbing. If the wheels are confidence-inspiring riding uphill, they are also impressive when pointing down the other side, offering a stable and precise platform going into tight corners. On the whole, there’s plenty of stiffness, though we did detect a bit of flex when really giving it beans – high torque, low cadence – when tackling up a short but steep ramp, but it was never a problem when turning a gear while sprinting.
Carbon fibre wheels can produce a harsh ride but the opposite was true here. The DT Swiss hoops are significantly smoother than the Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels (admittedly a very stiff wheelset) they replaced in our Canyon Ultimate CF SL test bike and did a fine job at flattening out imperfections in the tarmac – a quality appreciated on longer rides on Kent’s rarely smooth roads. The build quality is evident on rough roads, too, with the wheels running quietly even when bouncing over rutted lanes. A note on the rim width: at 21mm the RC28s occupy something of a middle ground between the narrow rims of year gone by and fat, modern carbon rims. Still, they’re perhaps lagging a little behind the carbon competition in that regard and an extra couple of millimetres would allow the tyre to adopt a slightly wider stance on the rim, perhaps improving aerodynamic performance, too.
Carbon clinchers have long had a question mark hovering over them as far as braking is concerned, both in terms of the dissipation of heat and wet weather performance. DT Swiss don’t offer any information on how they’ve combated the former and we can’t comment on it other than to say we didn’t encounter any problems, though that’s likely to be the case on the UK’s relatively short if steep descents. The real test for any carbon clincher comes in the mountains and how much confidence you place in your hoops is down to the rider.
Our wheels offered fine braking performance with plenty of bite and power in the dry when used with the supplied carbon-specific SwissStop Yellow brake pads. There was a drop-off in power in the wet and we’d rarely reach for a set of carbon clinchers when it’s guaranteed to rain, but these weren’t as hair-raisingly poor in the wet as some.
We reckon these are a good looking set of wheels. How much emphasis you place on aesthetics is entirely personal – as is taste – and needless to say performance is far more important, but the white on black decals on the RC28 rim gives the wheels pleasingly understated look.
Finally, the skewers. DT Swiss’ RWS design does away with the traditional cam-operated quick release and the lever has no ‘open’ or ‘closed’ position, nor is there any need (or, rather, option) to ‘flip’ it to tighten the connection. Instead the lever always sits at 90 degrees to the angle and it builds clamping force as you rotate it until everything it tight. You can then fine-tune its position by raising the spring-loaded lever and rotating it into place, without affecting the clamping mechanism. It took a little getting used to and is an interesting design, and one said to improve the stiffness and security of the connection between wheel and frame, but it’s not something we’ve missed when returning to traditional quick release skewers.
There are plenty of firms willing to take your money when it comes to carbon clinchers but these wheels from DT Swiss are a good option in the crowded £1,000-£1,500 space they occupy if you’re after a set of lightweight hoops which offer a fast and responsive ride for climbing. Yes, we’d like them to be a little wider and there was a little flex when pushed really hard but those gripes aside, we were otherwise impressed.