When we first saw DT Swiss’ new ARC 1100 DICUT 80s, we weren’t exactly floored. At a glance, these didn’t look like special wheels. Don’t get us wrong – any time you see a company like DT Swiss introducing something new, you should take notice. But these just didn’t get us excited. That is until we read through the press kit, all 50 pages of it (10% of which is devoted to nipples, and no, we’re not kidding). Then we realized how much detail and design had been put into these wheels. And that meant, if we didn’t take notice of them, the athlete across from us in transition might. But press kits are never going to give you all the dirty details – only ride time will. So, for the past month, we have been riding on a set of 80s. And we have some details to share. Should we have been floored from the get go? Read on to find out.
The DT Swiss ARC 1100 DICUT 80
This past year, DT Swiss launched five new types of wheels as part of what they called their Road Revolution 18 – ARC, PRC, ERC, CR, and TRC. Also known as Aero, Performance, Endurance, Cross, and Track. Being the AeroGeeks, we of course focused on the ARC, which are also known as the wheels with their own hashtag – #FlatOutFast. The ARC line is available in three depths 80, 62, and 48 mm. They also offer rim brake as well as disc brake versions. We chose to test the 80mm rim brake as that’s in line with the majority of wheels that we test.
Starting from the outside in, all aero wheels live and die by their rim shapes. Either they are aero, or they are not. The aero shapes of the ARC wheels were designed in conjunction with SwissSide and based on the Hadrom Ultimate 800 wheel shapes. The rim shapes have been designed for a seamless transition between the brake track and side wall. Both disc brake and rim brake version have an optimized brake track angle to ensure the airflow can stay attached to the rim as long as possible. DT Swiss tells us that this results in an optimized stall behavior and notably improved aero stability for the rider.
The rims themselves measure in at 28mm at their widest point and 17 mm inner width at the brake track. The wheels are also tubeless ready.
Next on our outside-in tour are the nipples (we warned you they were coming). DT Swiss has chosen to go with hidden nipples vs exposed. While they acknowledge that this does come with a maintenance penalty, they cite one advantage that they feel is worth the pain – free speed. They found in testing the ARC 48 that hidden nipples had 4% less drag than exposed (roughly half a watt). The nipples themselves utilize the DT Pro Lock thread lock system. Pro Lock is a process where a patented, dual compound, adhesive liquid is injected into the nipple thread, allowing for extremely durable wheel builds. With Pro Lock, wheel durability improves up to 20 times compared to non-Pro Lock builds.
The spokes are DT Aerolite spokes. These spokes utilize a 2.3 x .9 mm bladed aero profile to create the most aerodynamic design that DT thought possible. DT tells us that the difference between standard round spokes (DT Champion) and bladed aero spokes (DT Aerolite) adds up to one-and-a-half watt or almost 12 % of drag reduction on the wheel.
The DICUT Aero hubs are designed around an optimized hub shell with a reduced diameter that translates to 2.5% less drag (.4W) vs a standard DICUT hub. Inside the hub are SINC Ceramic bearings. SINC ceramic ball bearings have been developed by DT Swiss as a system. They are based on balls made from silicon nitride (Si3N4), an extremely tough and wear- and corrosion-resistant ceramic material.
So, what does this all add up to? DT Swiss went to the GST wind tunnel in Immenstaad, Germany and set the wheels up on a stand-alone front wheel rig. They used a Zipp 808 NSW as their industry benchmark. In their testing, they noticed a one watt shift across the entire yaw
Range, which translates into a drag reduction of 10%. The sailing effect of both rims is identical. The steering moment magnitude is also slightly reduced with the ARC 1100 DICUT 80, compared to the Zipp wheel.
The DT Swiss ARC 1100 DICUT 80 retails for $3,146 (but we have been finding them for a more palatable $2,831.) Each wheel comes with tubeless ready tape, tubeless valve, valve guard, brake pads, and wheel bag.
We only were able to have the wheels on our Trek Speed Concept test bike for about 30 days, so our overall ride time was a little more limited than we usually hope for. That being said, this was still more than enough time to get a feel for these wheels. Every indication we had is that these are truly fast wheels. We rode them back-to-back with a set of Zipp 808 NSWs and didn’t notice any difference in speed. As always, that is a bit subjective due to wind conditions as well as the rider’s performance abilities for that day. But we usually can judge when a wheel is helping us (or hurting us), and the ARC 1100 80 definitely seemed to be the former.
South Florida has been uncharacteristically calm for the past few months, so our cross wind testing was not as detailed as we had hoped it would be. Typically, we get some pretty good winds on several rides that threaten to blow us over. While we did have some nice winds these past few weeks, there was nothing quite that strong. However, with what winds we did experience, we never experienced any real push. The most we felt was when a semi-truck or two blew past us, and even then, we felt these wheels were right up there in terms of stability with any of the benchmarks we have previously ridden.
Braking was the one characteristic we really would like to see DT Swiss spend a little more time on. A few years ago, we would tell you the braking of these wheels were up there with the best. But recently, we have seen some real innovation in carbon braking. For example, Reynolds and Zipp come to mind with their latest. And based on our test rides, we just didn’t see (or feel) the ARC 1100 80 being up to the new standards in brake performance. We weren’t looking at long-term braking and heat fade – just at your regular braking coming to a traffic light, or to avoid an obstacle in the road. And when compared to our riding partner on a set of Zipp 858s, you could see the difference in braking performance of the wheels. Now if these were climbing or crit wheels, we may see this as a deal breaker. But for time trial and triathlon wheels where braking is not a top consideration, we think this is more of a consideration to weigh against other purchasing criteria you may have.
So, should we have been floored? Maybe not exactly floored, but we definitely should have taken notice right from the beginning. DT Swiss has put a huge amount of thought into these wheels. Every piece of the wheel has been designed with a singular purpose – #FlatOutFast. From the rim shape, to the spokes, and finally to the hubs (and don’t forget the nipples), these are wheels meant to get you from T1 to T2 as fast as DT Swiss believes is possible. Yes, there are some tradeoffs, but that may not make a difference to you, or even to the athlete across from you in transition.