DT Swiss RWS Skewers
Ever since the thunderbolt struck Tullio Campagnolo on that snowy day climbing the Croce d'Aune pass in 1924, people have been trying to create a better way to affix bicycle wheels to frames. The first quick release, patented by Campagnolo in 1930, was the biggest change. Most improvements ever since have been incremental at best.
Much in the way that people belittle the bicycle by forgetting that it is a marvel of technology, a simple shape that remains the most efficient vehicle ever created, people belittle the quick release. The eccentric cam, attached to a lever at one end of a rod, and pulling the rod with a bolt on the other end, is almost perfection. Almost. That little room, a crack in the door, a hint of light, has led to innumerable attempts to better the QR. Both garage tinkerers and component behemoths have tried to improve it. It seems like lots of sweat for a part that is easy to use, proven in competition, and very light.
Add DT Swiss to the list. The RWS Skewer System doesn't have a cam at all. In this way, the RWS is reminiscent of the long-departed Ringlé Twisters, which also eschewed an eccentric cam. The RWS turns the skewer into a kind of screw. Granted, it's a pretty high-tech screw. The rod that goes through the axle is titanium. The lever is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. There is a spring under the lever, an anodized aluminum cap over the lever, and splines under the lever. The lever is engaging the splines unless it is lifted off them. Turn the lever clockwise, the skewer tightens. Counterclockwise, it loosens. A frame tube gets on your way, put your thumb on the anodized aluminum cap, lift the lever, reset the position of the lever, and drop it into place. And the cap can be removed if the teeth need cleaning or the lever replacing.
We weighed our set. The digital scale says 38g for the front, 40g for the rear. Which is 1g off the claimed weights of 37g and 39g. These are easily the lightest we've weighed. Lighter than Salsa Titanium Flip-Offs, lighter than Zipp's.
If you are a card-carrying weight weenie, you needn't read further.
But there are no shortage of skewers that weigh around 50g. And we happily sacrifice a few grams for good function. The question is how to define function. For example, if you're not the kind of person who files your fork tips, the screw action of these levers will be welcome. Likewise, many rear dropouts are the only thin part of the bulky junction between the seat and chain stays. Here, it is often hard to fit a traditional quick release lever around the stays. And once fit, it is hard to get your fingers under the lever to flip it open.
If either of the above fits your personality or bike profile, you will be well-served by the DT Swiss RWS skewers.
We rode with the RWS skewers for several weeks, in racing and training. They definitely held tight. It seems that an advantage of this system is that users are naturally inclined to tighten the skewer nearly as tight as they can make it. The brochure and skewer state that you need at least 15 Newton-meters of force to hold a wheel in place. While we don't have a means to measure the force we're putting on the lever, we're pretty sure that we go well over the minimum every time. DT Swiss states that the RWS is capable of handling 50% clamping force than a traditional quick release. We have no means of testing this claim, but it probably matters mainly if you're wheels move around in the dropouts, something some heavier riders can do on occasion. That you're able to lift the lever and move it to a position that is either aerodynamic or tucked out of the way is nice, especially that bulky frame tubes make the proper use of some levers difficult.
This lifting and moving led to our only small criticism of the design. The lever material seems perhaps too flexible. By this, we mean that we expected to be able to lift the lever off the teeth to reposition it by holding the far end of the lever. Maybe we just need more practice with it, but our test levers seemed too flexible for this to work. We had to get at least one finger underneath the lever just outside of the cap in order to lift the lever without too much flexion. This flexing/finger positioning definitely slowed down our ability to open and close the RWS as quickly as we might've liked. If you want a fast wheel change to get back in a race without the caravan leaving you behind, this might not be the ideal skewer for you.
We happen to be the sort who files our dropouts. For one thing, we've only once ridden off with our front QR open, and we noticed it about a second after we started, so we safely stopped and closed it. For another, we like using QR's in the manner in which they were intended. Open, the wheel drops out. Put a wheel with an open skewer in a dropout; throw the lever closed, and it's go time. While we flat less and less frequently, a quick wheel change is a fine thing, and seconds can be the difference between catching back on and spending a day off the back.
DT Swiss deserves credit for re-thinking the quick release with their RWS Skewer System. It is absolutely lighter than all the functional quick releases on the market, and, depending on your frame and fork, can be a practical solution to the limitations of fork ends and dropouts.