Zipp VumaQuad Crankset

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When I was initiated into proper roadiedom, I was taught that if you were serious about doing things the right way, the Euro way, then you did things a certain way. The quickest way to show others you knew what you were doing was to show up on a Campagnolo-equipped bike with a Cinelli bar, stem and seatpost. Your saddle was Italian and your tape was the same color as your decals or the accent color in the windows of your lugs.

That mindset, though it created some gorgeous bikes that served well for tens of thousands of miles, squashed some great ideas over the years. I’m reminded of a Pasadena company, Sweet Parts, that made cranks and stems from steel of surprising stiffness and low weight. Alas, in the mid-1990s it was hard to get a rider to break rank with those suites of parts used in the gruppo or other componentry. After all, if your bar, stem and seatpost were supposed to match, what did you pair an oddball stem to?

Times change, and so do bikes. And while sometimes too much emphasis is placed on weight, it is tough to argue that today’s bikes aren’t noticeably superior in almost every performance aspect: Lower weight makes them easier to accelerate and speeds climbing; increased frame stiffness improves power transmission and more sophisticated componentry has improved shifting, given us more gears and increased brake modulation.

The proliferation of aftermarket components—everything from bars to brakes—means that we’re more accustomed to seeing bikes with parts that may not match. Zipp helped lead the way into this fray some years back. In fact, carbon fiber has been the company’s bread and butter for close to 15 years. Fortunately, the 3k weave used in many carbon fiber parts makes them more similar than not, even if the decals don’t match.

Zipp’s latest crankset for road (as opposed to TT/Tri) use is the VumaQuad. It uses a four-arm spider (the crankarm is one of the four arms of the spider) and is available in two different chainring configurations, either 53/39t or 50/34t; interestingly, both configurations use a 110mm bolt-circle diameter, so you can change chainrings out depending on the conditions or your fitness. The crankset is available in four lengths: 170, 172.5, 175 or 180mm. The spindle is oversized and machined from aluminum to the new BB30 standard; it is integrated into the non-drive arm and secures to the drive-side arm with a self-extracting bolt. And because Zipp is predicated on making you faster, the bottom bracket is offered with ceramic bearings (as well as precision steel); the cups are available in either English or Italian threads. All this in a sub-600g package.

IMG_0062My review setup was 50/34 rings with 175mm arms and ceramic bearings. I tried the cranks first on a bike that previously had a set of carbon fiber cranks that had some detectable flex. I immediately noticed the increased stiffness as well as a weight reduction. The easier spin of the bearings was noticeable (if not hugely apparent) when I sat down and shifted to a small gear for a hill; I felt like I was turning out an extra 10 watts or so.

Next, I swapped the crank over to my preferred ride. This frame is stiffer at the bottom bracket and I was curious to see how much of an improvement I’d feel over the Super Record Ultra-Torque crankset (a review of the Super Record will be coming). The change I felt was comparable to my first ride on the Dura-Ace 7800 crankset—I was stunned by the seamless transmission of power. I had the sense that the bike itself was stiffer at the bottom bracket, even though I knew that wasn’t the case.

Ten years ago I had concerns about parts not matching on my bike. Five years ago I had concerns about the durability of carbon fiber cranks. Last year I started wondering if you could even tell whether your bike had ceramic bearings anywhere other than the wheels. The VumaQuad has super-hero-like powers to alleviate me of anxiety and improve my performance. Of course, all this performance will cost you; $1250 (with ceramic bearings) is a weekend getaway at a swanky resort, but there’s no question in my mind this crankset is superior to every crank I have tried from Campagnolo, Shimano, Specialized and FSA. Honestly though, for that kind of money, you shouldn’t be left wondering if it was worth it.

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21 comments

  1. RMM

    It seems remiss of you to fail to discuss the wonky 4 bolt chainring pattern, which will likely force you to purchase proprietary chaingrings from Zipp (and going by precedent, they will be expensive). Your failure to address this issue is curious considering that you comment on the crankset’s having a 110mm BCD for both the 50/34 and the 53/39 configurations.

    Furthermore, replacement chainrings do not appear on the Zipp website. Nor were they found on a simple google search. Obviously a dealer could call Zipp to order them, but what a hassle.

    I am not slamming all Zipp products (in my experience Zipp’s customer service is first rate), just this proprietary and seemingly undersupported crankset.

  2. JoshatZipp

    RMM, the rings are sold on the website as well as through your local dealer. Cost is $65 for small ring and $95 for big ring. For comparison, Campy Record rings have MSRP of $75 and $150 respectively and DA 7800 have MSRP of $65 and $125. And of course the 7900 large ring has an MSRP of an unvelievable $485…

    Our rings are made from Alcoa 7075 stock and are made right here in the USA.
    Rings can be found here:


    1. Author
      Padraig

      RMM: Thanks for speaking up. Your concerns aren’t unreasonable, but my view is a little different. I can’t say the chainring are “wonky” as I didn’t have any problems with them flexing. Yes, the four-bolt pattern is different, but their cost didn’t seem to matter much. If they aren’t the most expensive rings on the market and you elect to spend the $1250 on the cranks in the first place, I think their pricing is a nonissue. I would expect any retailer that sells the cranks to stock the chainrings. If they don’t, that’s a problem with the retailer, not Zipp.

  3. MCH

    I put a VumaQuad 180 50/34 on my bike at the beginning of the season. I’d been riding a DA 7800 180 53/39 and a Sram Red 175 50/34. As a guy who started riding in the era of Campy Super Record, Columbus SL, and Alfredo Binda toe straps, the idea of going to a compact crankset was a bit bruising to the old ego. Silly, I admit it. The Sram Red convinced me of the merits of the compact set-up. Only problem was – no 180 length. The VumaQuad is the only readily available carbon, compact crank with a 180 length. So I bit the bullet and bought the VumaQuad. Wow! Light, stiff, better than anything I’d ridden, dead sexy. Technology rocks! I too was concerned about chain ring availability. However, finding a set of 53/39 chainrings (just in case) took a day. Chainring availability: non-issue. My only gripe (other than cost – ouch) is no 36 inner ring. Zipp reps have posted for about a year or so that its coming, but nothing yet. In the big scheme of things, not that big of a deal, but it would be nice.

  4. RMM

    Josh:

    I guess that one of my concerns with the 4 bolt pattern is that there could be an issue with support for the crankset down the road. Sure you may be able to get chainrings now (btw there was no link in your post and I still unable to find them on the Zipp website), but what about 5 years from now? If the crankset doesn’t sell well, I am sure that Zipp will stop making it and then find it unprofitable to continue making chainrings.
    Using
    Also, you’d think that Zipp and other manufacturers would be moving towards greater interchangeability of parts as opposed to inventing new standards. Even when a market giant does it, it is a pain in the *** (think about all the trouble the new(er) Shimano 10 speed freehub spline causes everyone), but when a smaller manufacturer with so little of the market invents one…

    MCH:

    The problem with proprietary designs is that you are locked into buying whatever Zipp makes available. If some other manufacturer comes up with a better performing chainring (Rotor Rings or a 36 tooth for example), you are out of luck, as it will not be available for your crankset.

  5. Marco Placero

    Re carbon cranks, Campagnolo Record’s chainrings seem very stiff and durable, but don’t fall in a crit and have some guy ram his front wheel into your crankset, as happened to me when some boob chopped my wheel trying to move into a nonexistent space earlier this year.

    The force of the impact bent the chainring– ok no big– but it took me a couple of days to figure out that the crash also split the carbon tab where the spider attaches between the inner and outer rings. Would Durace have fared better? Don’t know, but I had to buy another crank because Campagnolo’s US reps refused to replace mine. I bet Tulio’s turning over in his grave.

    Yeah, better that the guy behind me hit my bike at that force instead of hitting me.

    Loving Campagnolo is like loving a beautiful woman– you have to put up with her tempestuous moments in order to enjoy her velvet purr.

  6. Chris

    I’d love a set of these… pity they don’t come in sizes for shorter riders (165 and 167.5).

    How come Shimano is the only manufacturer willing to make cranks in a full range of sizes?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Marco: Sorry to hear of your unfortunate experience. Um, in the vernacular, that blows.

      Chris: I remain unconvinced that diminutive riders absolutely need shorter cranks (shorter than 170mm). I’ve seen so many riders under 5’2″ ride 170s with no difficulty and my 5’6″ wife rides 175s without problems. That said, I bet you could find like-minded individuals on some of the message boards to lobby Zipp for an additional size. The challenge is the cost of the two molds necessary to produce even one new size. Zipp would have to believe there is enough market to recoup that cost in fairly short order.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      George: I’ve been using the Vuma Quad with Super Record lately. The folks at Zipp asked me to keep an eye on how it works because the chainring spacing isn’t optimized for this combination. That said, upshifting is no problem, though downshifting has been a little problematic. I haven’t yet isolated the issue and it could just be one of adjustment still. There’s been some noise when I downshift under low RPMs and I threw the chain once. Zipp’s concern: dropping the chain between the chainrings, hasn’t come to pass. Definitely usable, but I have to say, excellent alignment is critical.

  7. Larry T.

    Thanks Padraig for writing about shifting/chainring issues. When I have issues with bikes like this my first (snarky) comment is usually “what happened to the perfectly good crankset (cassette, chain, etc.) that came with (and was designed for) this component group before you installed this slightly lighter, way more expensive, super-duper replacement? The one that (since you brought it to me with these complaints) doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as the component it replaced. Can we put it back on?” In 20+ years of working on high-end road bicycles I find this is way too often the case. As some wise guy once said, “you don’t often get something for nothing” and when the major makers like Campagnolo or Shimano design stuff, it usually works pretty well as a system and when you mess up that synergy, decreased performance/reliability is usually the price you pay for the high-zoot factor and saving a few grams. If it’s important your bike be light for competitive racing, you as well as anyone also understand the dire consequences of equipment failure. Remember the mechanics who supposedly removed one (or more?) of the pawls from Tyler Hamilton’s freehub to save some weight in the Giro a few years ago? Dumb idea that backfired big-time when Hamilton ended up almost doing the flying W over the bars when the thing freewheeled in the wrong direction. There aren’t too many boutique parts makers who can out-design and out-think the major component group makers–these little guys rarely have all the resources needed when it comes to complex stuff like drivetrain/shifting components.


  8. Author
    Padraig

    Larry: Overall, I have to say that shifting performance is so improved relative to where it was 10 years ago, my only issue is the carbon fiber in use in the outer plate of the Super Record front derailleur. Put another way, I think the shifting issues I’ve seen are related to carbon fiber and not to mixing Zipp parts with Campy parts.

  9. Stuart

    Hi guys – I’m writing from Australia. Interesting comments! And very welcome as I want to know my money is going into the right bits and pieces as I re-build my Colnago clx frameset (which I really enjoy riding, hence not reaplacing the frameset!). I’m on the verge of purchasing the Vuma Quad in traditional 39/53 however I’ll be doing it via Competitive Cyclist owing to the much “cheaper” pricing. The going rate for the Vuma Quad in Australia is … $2120.00 with ceramic bottom bracket!!!! Yes, you guys in the US have it MUCH better than us with regards to both availability of product AND pricing. However, now the Aussie dollar is almost 1 for 1 with the US dollar, it’s time to take advantage!!

    I am running force 2010 with a red cassette. Can I expect any issues with fitting etc or running problems with the force front derailleur? If I want to pop on some compact rings, is it just a matter of pukking the larger ones off and bolting the compact rings on? Your respponses to my questions would be gratefully received. Many thanks! Oh and if anyone can make the trip, the weather in January here in South Australia for the Tour Down Under is ALWAYS brilliant and we have wonderful cycling on virtually car free roads up here in the hills (20 minutes from the capital, Adelaide).


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Hi Stuart, thanks for reading. SRAM claims that their Force front derailleur is designed to work equally well with either a 53/39 setup or a compact 50/34 setup. I’ve ridden the new Force some and found the performance remarkable, though I don’t recall if I was on 53/39 or 50/34 at the time. The Vuma Quad rings use the same BCD regardless of size, so you can just swap out.

      I know my wife would love for me to take you up on the invitation (so long as I take her with me).

  10. twade36

    I bit the bullet & purchased a set of these last fall. For the first 9 months all was well. A couple months ago I purchased a new bike & shifted the VumaQuad to it. On my second ride my small chainring snapped & scored the hell out of my frame. It took over a month for Zipp to finally agree to replace my frame, but they were not willing to replace my crank. They wanted to send me a Sram Red & some cash. My local shop has sold 4 of these in the last year & 2 of those have failed. There is a serious design flaw with these & I would advise all to stay the hell away from them. Their customer service & warranty department is a joke.

  11. scoby13md

    I have had several problems with my Vumaquad Crankset. I purchased the crankset and had it installed into a Merlin CR frame. The setup was 7800 dura ace with the new Shimano flatbar R770 shifters and R770 front derailleur. I found that the chain kept popping off the from 50 tooth ring. My guy at my LBS had it all tweaked and after checking it out, we found that there was a propensity to have the chain pop off the chainring (not while shifting) at the site of the 3 smaller teeth that are intended to facilitate shifting. It would only happen with my three smallest gears (12, 13, 14). We called Zipp. They originally said they would send me and new large chainring and because the chain had chewed up my right crankarm, they would send one of those, too. A few hours later, I got an e-mail putting the brakes on that promise and was told some from engineering would contact me. He was unaware of the new Shimano R770 10 speed shifters and the R770 front derailleur. He also told my guy at the LBS that they have not had any problems with the VumaQuad. I am willing to be understanding. BUt, one needs only to read the blogs. Lots of people are having problems with this crankset. The chain rings are too dam flexy. The cost of this item they need to stand up and face the music and handle the problem straight up and honorably.

  12. Jason Couch

    my vumaquads have lasted me 1 year and they are now dead
    constant creaking and a worn spindle have finished them
    an unfortunately fragile product, I look forward to returning
    to the relability of my old record cranks

  13. Chris Tough

    I’m using Vuma Quad 172.5 w/50/34 rings and Shimano DA 7900 der. fr. and rr., and DA 7900 chain on a Merlin custom Ti frame. Solved a creak in a chainring bolt by turning it slightly tighter and have had no further problems in over 15 mo. riding. Shifting is excellent, never dropped a chain, and i can run all 10 gears on cassette (12/26)from either ring w/ no trim at all. I’m something of a stick figure @ 6’2″ and 170#, but chainring flex is non-issue for me. I have not had to tweak anything to make this set up work great for me, and i have seen none of the problems others have reported here.

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