What is the DT Ratchet System

The patented freewheel system, which features high-precision star ratchets, guarantees top performance and reliability. The simultaneous engagement of the ratchet teeth makes the Ratchet System extremely reliable since the loads are distributed equally across a large contact surface.

We at ICAN love DT Swiss products. We love the way that their hubs run like clockwork. One of the first things everyone ever mentions about their new DT Swiss hubs is how fast their engagement is. It is literally like you have just thought about pedaling and your hub has engaged.

For those of us that can remember the old freewheel days, this is a thing of great joy. No longer do we have to push the pedal around a quarter of a turn to get our rear hub to connect. Anybody who tells you the old freewheel days was better is lying. Even better if you have DT Swiss hubs give them a shot and watch their face light up with joy.

Now if you lurk on various bike forums, you may have heard people talk about upgrades to the DT Swiss freehubs, upgrades that make their connection even faster. The good news is that these upgrades exist and even better we can supply you them, you can buy a star ratchet upgrade of 36t or 54t.  Please use our contact page to ask us about them, or you can read on and find out how they will make your life better.  


First of all, you might want to know the basics of freehubs. This will the reason why you want to upgrade that little bit more obvious. A freehub is simply the part of your rear wheel that your cassette fits on. In the below image it is the part that says “11-speed road.”

Your cassette has splines that lock into splines on your freehub body. You revolve the cassette by pedaling, you’re your cassette makes the freehub move and then it in turn needs to make your hub and wheel move. To do so it uses either pawls or a star ratchet system.  


Now we had the design sorted. People started to concentrate on engagement. You will find no mention about engagement in cheaper hubs and high-quality hub manufacturers will be shouting about how great it is. Much like we are just about to do.

The good news about the engagement points of a hub is that you can notice the difference yourself, there is no need for fancy marketing a 100m ride will tell you all you need to know. There are two types of freehub design.

First of all, you can get pawl driven freehubs, and star ratchet designed freehubs.

Pawl driven freehub

Pawl driven freehub

If you have a DT Swiss rear hub that uses a traditional pawl-type driver mechanism, the company now offers an official Ratchet LN upgrade kit that makes it easier to upgrade to the more durable star ratchet system. 


The upgrade kit includes a new drive ring, two star ratchets (solely in the slower-engaging 18-tooth variety, unfortunately), the necessary pair of conical springs, a bearing spacer for the axle, some special grease, and the freehub body itself. 

The Ratchet LN upgrade kit makes it possible to convert DT Swiss pawl hubs to the beloved freehub Ratchet System. With just a few simple steps, it is possible to incorporate the benefits of Ratchet Systems, such as the outstanding reliability and adaptability of the engagement angle, in existing DT Swiss pawl system hubs.

DT Swiss star ratchet system

DT Swiss use the star ratchet system as they found it to be longer lasting than a pawl system. They also felt as pawls have a smaller contact surface area than the star ratchet system they are creating areas of higher load and therefore slightly more susceptible to failure.

 DT Ratchet System

Rather than try and explain the star ratchet system you DT Swiss have created a nice pictogram that lets us see exactly how it works.


18T DT Ratchet System

Now we need to get down to the nitty-gritty of engagement. A standard DT Swiss hub comes with 18 teeth. These teeth meet 18 times in a circle. So if we divide 360° by 18, we get an engagement point of 20°. This means that you will need to move your pedals 20° for your drive to engage.

36T/54T DT Ratchet System

The DT Swiss star ratchet upgrades offer a jump to 36t or 54t. That means we have an engagement point of 10° or 6.6°. The 54t upgrade is like turning your bike into a fixed gear bike but still having the ability to coast. It is a great little upgrade for your bike.

Once you have gone 36t or 54t you will never go back and you will love the noise your hubs make. It is worth noting that DT Swiss do not want to make a smaller engagement angle as the quality of the drive would then be affected and be more likely to slip.

Check our DT Wheels Build With DT240S/350S Hub Collection:

AERO DT Swiss Road Wheels

AERO DT Swiss Disc Wheels


Imagine you are on your road bike and you are climbing a famous climb, you are suffering and just come round a hairpin. You press your pedal, and you have 20° of movement before your effort starts to move your wheel, or you have 6.6° of movement. You will be saving small bits of energy all the way up a climb.

You are now on your mountain bike, you are in some really technical terrain and almost stalled. The smaller engagement point will allow you to surge forward and hopefully avoid a potential crash. These are just 2 small areas where a small engagement angle will make cycling safer or a bit easier.

You will find more every day whether you are quartering, cornering, sprinting, or even just setting off a smaller engagement angle will help you out.

If you want to know more about  DT Ratchet System,watch the DT Swiss video below.

What should i choose ratchet 18T/36T/54T

DT Swiss hubs use star ratchets and are available in 3 different models with varying points of engagement.

  • 18T - Deepest teeth, slowest engagement, least amount of maintenance, suitable for powerful riders.
  • 36T - Happy medium, doubles the engagement points.
  • 54T - Super fast engagement, but shallow teeth require more careful re-greasing and the thru-axle should be checked every ride.
  • EXP 36 - With only a singlel spring, making the hubs faster and lighter, more complete engagement of the 36 ratchet teeth for more precise contact, and therefore a longer lifespan.
  • EXP 54 - Upgraded from EXP 36 to gain incredibly faster engagement.