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Round The Black: DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the only way you could get black aluminum rims with a black brake track (which actually stayed black) was with the ceramic versions of Mavic’s Open Pro or Reflex rims.

Other alternatives were available – perhaps most notably the darling of the old-school Spring Classics, the Ambrosio Nemesis – but they were only anodized and the coating wore off at the merest hint of water or dust.

In recent times, in an attempt to get that fashionable all-black carbon look, a new wave of all-black aluminum wheelsets has emerged – most of them using some form of a ceramic-based coating to achieve the black brake surface in a modern interpretation of the old Mavic approach.

Not only does this bring the good looks of carbon, but is complimented with the benefit of more predictable weather-resistant braking performance that comes with an aluminum rim.

DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

In this same vein, DT Swiss has recently launched their PR1400 OXiC wheelset; and, with that finally now becoming available in Australia we were sent a set by the local distributor — Apollo Bikes — to see what we thought.

DT Swiss, famous for being one of the few companies still offering a wide range of aftermarket aluminum rims for road bikes, have opted to launch their entry into this coated rim market as a wheelset only; and to go with a mid-range offering at that.

For reference, the lightest Mavic ‘Exalith’ wheelset – the French company’s take on this coated aluminum rim trend – is the R-SYS SLR, which comes in at 1295g and retails at AU$2500.

By comparison, the DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC reviewed here carries only a 140g weight penalty (based on published weights) but saves you a whopping AU$1100 in the process (at the time of writing).

DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

The PR1400s are supplied with DT’s excellent RWS skewers and a set of brake pads (essentially the dark blue Swissstop BXP pad). Being tubeless-compatible, the wheels are also supplied with a set of valves and with the tubeless rim tape pre-installed.

With a rim that is only 21mm deep, this puts these very much in the ‘climbing wheel’ category from a rim shape perspective.

This probably negates any of the aero benefits of the newer format deep section wheels using wide rims, although these wheels do still exhibit the same rounded rim profile and are built with DT’s own Aero Comp spokes, so they are probably significantly more aerodynamic than the Mavic R-SYS.

Whilst the rims are of a wider format, this is still only to the tune of 21.5mm. This is nothing like the 25-28mm of some of the latest carbon wheelsets on the market, but this is mainly because most carbon rims need a thicker sidewall for braking strength (note that it is the internal width on these wider rims that is the important measurement in terms of handling).

Being able to widen the internal dimension without having huge external rim width comes with the benefit of eliminating any risk of compatibility issues with most rim brakes regardless of how old or current they might be. Also worth noting is that the rear rim is asymmetric, making for improved spoke lacing and wheel strength where it is needed most.

DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

Tyre installation was tougher than many clincher rims, but far from impossible. Tubeless rims are notorious for being tougher to install tires on, so this ease of installation was a welcome surprise. Tubeless tires were not tried during the review period.

I have always been a fan of the RWS skewers since I first had DT Swiss wheels on an old mountain bike – it is a design that works well both functionally and aesthetically; and it won’t totally upset the weight weenies either.

The latest road iteration has a much more sleek handle than earlier versions of the RWS solution, but this is still plenty chunky enough to get the skewer nice and tight before moving it to the position you want to set it at.

DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review

Rolling on the PR1400s has a real air of ease about it – if I were to describe the feeling, it’s as if they run on ceramic bearings, such is the free-rolling sensation the wheels exhibit. It is rare that wheels feel this free out of the box, which is made the sensation a pleasant surprise.

The potential offset is that the bearings may need adjusting sooner than some wheelsets, but I kept an eye on this and saw no hint of play during the review period.

As you might expect of a coated brake surface, the braking on these rims is really very good. Having ridden carbon almost exclusively for some time now I’m used to the rims and pads having to take a bit of time to get to know each other before the braking really comes good, but these will haul you up better than most untreated aluminum rims straight out of the box.

Just be warned that the rim and everything around the brakes will end up with a coating of blue dust as the pads settle in! I know of some people who have suffered from squealing brakes in these early days, but this wasn’t an issue with me (for reference, I had the brake pads very slightly toed in and I set the pads up with a Tacx pad setting tool).

Round The Black: DT PR1400 OXiC Review

If you like a quiet freehub, these wheels will be right up your street. I can honestly say I don’t recall ever riding a set of wheels that freewheel so quietly. My personal preference is for a bit more noise in this respect so I found them to be a bit too quiet.

The freehub pick-up is fantastic, with the stock 36t ratchet engaging really quickly. I believe this can be upgraded to the 52t ratchet for a small cost and very little effort, but I really don’t see it as an essential switch.

But does that black coating stay black? For the review period, absolutely – although with no wet weather to really test them, I’m not sure that was enough of a challenge in its own right. I have spoken with owners who have been using these wheels for a while with no sign of the treatment wearing too; but again, no wet weather mileage to speak of.

As it stands I have no reason to doubt that the coating won’t last long-term, but for now I can only hope that remains true in the wet.

Round The Black: DT PR1400 OXiC Review

My wife isn’t the most confident of bike riders and hates the prospect of having to sort a puncture at the roadside. Rims like these which offer improvements in braking coupled with the added benefit of a tubeless setup make them a very appealing option to help her out in both respects; and without adding too much of a weight penalty.

For me as an experienced rider, they make for a great-looking, solid wheelset that rolls really nicely and offers superb braking in all conditions. I would readily consider them as a spare wheelset or run a set on my second bike – and I say that despite my strong preference for tubular wheels and tires.

As this is The Spoken and we’re aesthetes who love a beautiful bicycle, these are a set of rims that would compliment many a build that has, and will, grace these pages – be that on a lugged steely or on a carbon wonder bike, with classically styled tan wall tires or an all-black setup.

A solid, tidy looking, versatile, good value, great rolling and well-spec’d wheelset – what’s not to love?

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DT Swiss PR1400 OXiC Review