DT Swiss XM 481 Review: A Wider Wheelset Built With True Love

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photo: Chris Daniels

In keeping with the “wider-is-better” or, depending on how you look at it, “wider-is-the-latest-thing” motif, DT Swiss introduced two new rims last year for their all-mountain seriesthe XM 551 and 481, featuring internal breadths of 40mm and 30mm, respectively. While the XM 481 comes in 27.5″ (reviewed) and 29″ wheel sizes, the broader 551 is only offered in 27.5. For further info on the XM 551, check out the DT Swiss website. As for now, we’ll stick with the rim up for review–the XM 481.

Bottom Line: DT Swiss XM 481 rims are a great match for those who are looking to strike a solid balance between weight and the performance advantages of a wider rim, run true plus size tires, or simply upgrade their wheelset with a quality, durable rim.

Specs

  • Material: aluminum
  • Hole count: 32 (also available in 28)
  • ERD: 563mm
  • Outer width: 35mm
  • Inner width: 30mm
  • Depth: 21mm
  • Weight: 490g per rim
  • MSRP: $139.90 (per rim)
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photo: Chris Daniels

Few component upgrades can transform the feel of a ride like a good wheelset. With so many options in rim material, profile, width, weight, and overall configuration, not to mention the oh-so-many hub, spoke, and nipple combinations, you can rest assured that a custom set of hoops you’ve researched, hand-selected, and pieced together will fit your needs and riding style to a T.

On the other hand, actually building a rideable wheel requires experience and some dedicated tools such that, unless you’re building on a regular basis or have an inside with a shop, the burden might be better beared by a professional wheel builder. So, as you may have guessed by now, that was the boat in which I found myself–jonesin’ for some new wheels, picking out the parts, and scoping out some local and online builders to lace them up right. Scroll down for more on my experience with True Love Wheels, or continue reading about the rest of the build, followed by my review.

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photo: Chris Daniels

DT Swiss 350 Hubs

Having had the pleasure of running DT Swiss 350 Centerlock hubs on previous wheels, I’ve grown to appreciate their reliability, compatibility, and serviceability. For this go-around I upgraded the rear from the 18 to a 36-tooth star ratchet, resulting in a more acute engagement angle (from 20º to 10º) for quicker transfer of forward momentum. DT Swiss’s patented Star Ratchet system handles high loads by simultaneously distributing force through all points of engagement versus a pawl design where loading occurs over fewer points. Both 240 and 350 DT hubs can be converted into many current axle systems by swapping the press fit end pieces without the need of tools. In terms of cost, unless you’re a gram counter the 350 hubs are the way to go. While the 240s are lighter, the measly 36 grams weight savings will cost you an extra $200 – $250, making the 350s the best bang for your buck in a DT Swiss MTB hub.

  • Front hub weight: 136g (15mm axle)
  • Rear hub weight: 244g (12x142mm axle with SRAM XD)
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photo: Chris Daniels

DT Swiss Competition Spokes & Pro Lock Nipples

The spokes I chose are DT’s middle-of-the-pack, stainless steel, double-butted (2.0/1.8/2.0mm neck/body/thread), J-bend Competition series laced in a three-cross pattern and paired with DT Swiss aluminum Pro Lock Squorx Pro Head® nipples. Pro Lock is a patented thread-coating compound obviating the need for oil or grease that, once hardened, prevents the spoke-nipple connection from loosening and is claimed to increase reliability and durability 20-fold when compared to standard nipples. The Squorx design prevents binding and allows nipple and spoke to align perfectly.

  • 64 spoke weight: 382g
  • 64 nipple weight: 13.5g

According to DT, you can run as large as 3.5″ tires on any of their rims measuring between 27.6 and 39.4mm wide internally. For convenience, I stuck with what I had lying around–a 2.3″ Maxxis Minion DHR II  in the rear and a 2.3″ Maxxis High Roller II up front–tubeless, of course. As the 2.3″ Minion/High Roller combo ran its course, I later upped the ante to a matching pair of Minion 2.5″–all of which mounted as good as can be expected of a new tire and sealed to the low profile, minimal bead hooked sidewall with a simple floor pump and zero naughty words.

  • Total claimed weight: 1,755g

The Ride

Right out the gate, the difference between the XM 481 and my previous wheelset was night and day, despite the XMs only being around 100 grams less with the same tires (no, not new tires of the same brand, but the exact same tires). The 481s accelerated quickly, maintained momentum like a freight train, yet didn’t feel nearly as heavy as the 1,755 grams of claimed weight.

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photo: Chris Daniels

Going from 24 to 30mm of internal width doesn’t seem like much, but in terms of performance, I noticed a significant change. A wider rim enlarges the area of contact the tire has with the trail, which aides in better traction, deflecting loose obstacles, and provides a larger margin of error when a perfect line is not always an option, especially at speed. Perhaps it was the excitement of a pair of shiny new hoops, but I was able to lean through corners, attack the tech, and climb more surely with less folding and flex than with my narrower set.

As I played with tire pressure over the course of my review time, I ultimately settled on about 20 and 22psi for the rear and front, respectively. Certainly, terrain will dictate how much or little pressure you run, but barring super-smooth, hard pack flow trail where pressures in the lower 20s would squirm, I found it to be a sweet spot for most of my riding.

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DT Swiss XM 481 rims were stout in the most formidable terrain

True Love Wheels

True Love Wheels is the wheel building extension of Cyclepath, a small, high-end bike shop in Portland, OR. After owner and operator, Michael Jellineck, works with a custom wheel client to determine the optimum combination of components for the intended use, riding style, body habitus, and budget, he builds the wheels himself using the highest quality equipment to ensure precision and accuracy.

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http://cyclepathpdx.com

Although True Love does prefer some brands over others and has narrowed their stock to brands they can stand behind, they’re not going to jump down your throat if you want Industry Nine over their largest selection of Chris King hubs in the world! If they don’t have it, they have access to it, and will order it. In addition, all True Love Wheels receive complimentary wheel truing and spoke replacement for the life of the wheel, as well as a lifetime crash replacement.

If you’re in Portland, stop by Cyclepath and get rolling on your own set of True Love Wheels or, if you’re anywhere but Portlandia, contact [email protected] to discuss your options and have them shipped.

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