Zipp assembled a number of journalists to introduce the 650c Firecrest 404 Carbon Clincher, Vuka Stealth bar, the new 30 and 60 wheels and Elsa and Riken Quarq cranks. There’s not much point to bringing us all together just to talk about this stuff. The hope had been that we’d ride three days, but the Tucson weather had other ideas.
There’s a belief that Tucson, Arizona, is a place to go when you’re tired of winter elsewhere. Just how this belief came to proliferate, I can’t tell. In my two visits to Tucson during the late fall and winter, I have to say this place is colder than most of California and it’s hard to make a case that you’re a winter-free locale if snow can fall there, something that did happen on Monday, killing that day’s ride. This isn’t a criticism of Zipp; it’s a curiosity about the source of what strikes me as a fundamental fallacy. There are stories enough about Discovery/RadioShack training camps with Belgian weather occurring in Tucson that you’d think someone would have amended the Wikipedia entry.
We did manage to get out for two rides thanks to excellent support from Jose Alcala, Justin Koch and Chad Contreras at SRAM NRS. We were provided with Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4s (those of us who were riding road bikes—guys checking out the Vuka Stealth were on Cervelos) equipped with SRAM Red which was great for me given I’d just finished riding a Tarmac.
For both rides I went out on the new 30 wheels. As I clipped in for my first ride, which came before our tech briefing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d already seen the rim shape and wondered how they would performer. Of course, that first ride was miraculous. What really made the difference were the special edition testosterone and dopamine-laced Clif Shot Bloks, but I didn’t suspect them at the time. As we were rolling out from the Starr Pass resort, I delivered a 1350-watt 20-second effort, jumped a flock of road runner and then skidded sideways to a stop without folding up the wheels.
Okay, so that didn’t happen.
What did happen was as we descended out of the resort I felt that familiar difference in acceleration that I experience with more aerodynamic wheels. I’ve just spent a bunch of time on the latest Dura-Ace hoops and while they rolled strong, true and reliable, they are to aerodynamic what Marlboro is to healthy living.
Numerous studies have shown remarkably consistent application of the Rate of Perceived Exertion by athletes. I bring that up because a couple of weeks ago, troubled by my inability to think of a more objective way to quantify the difference in experience I have with aerodynamic wheels vs. standard wheels, I began thinking about whether I could view it as a difference in RPE. Bingo. I’ll probably do a survey of my experiences in a separate post if I can put together something that seems sufficiently rigorous to report as responsible analysis. Let’s suffice to say that my experience at effort placed these distinctly ahead of box rims, but not nearly as fast as something like the 303s.
Despite the fact that these aren’t what I’d call light wheels (in my head, 1500 grams is the big dividing point), they were easy to wind up. My takeaway on that is a reinforcement of the wheels’ notable aerodynamics.
According to my Garmin, I’ve got about four hours on the wheels in two rides. I’m impressed by them, full stop. I’m well aware that not everyone wants to spend $850 on a pair of wheels. I’m also aware that there are RKP readers who can spend that much for a set of spares. If $850 is more than you want to spend, that’s fine. But in that $750 to just less than $1000 range, I think these are a fairly remarkable set of wheels.
I love the chance to ride new products; some end up amazing, but others … not quite as much. The funny thing is going to these events is often less about the products themselves than the people there. I had plenty of reasons to stay home: My wife is pregnant. I missed the chance to do a fun ride in Malibu with friends. I also missed a chance to take my son to the skatepark. The days were long, and while the quality of the room was stellar, Having a few boxes show up at home while I stay put would be easier. I go to these events in part because I’m honored that they ask, but also because it’s invariably an opportunity to talk with other people—smart people—passionate about bikes, people who are passionate enough about bikes that they gave up the chance to earn more in another industry by sticking to what most of the world thinks of as a kid’s toy. Just showing up means a chance to learn something.
There’s a lot in the bike industry that excites me, but it’s not everything by any means. In writing about new equipment I’m chasing the promise of something that makes the experience fresh, that renews what it feels like to get on a bike for the first time. These wheels are a great option for those who want a great set of wheels but don’t want to spend top-shelf cash. But why take my word for it? I’ve already heard from friends who were asking how soon they’ll be available so they can purchase a set.
Zipp is launching a bevy of new products and assembled a few of us journalist types in Tucson, Arizona, for some riding and in-depth presentations about these new products. The weather hasn’t been quite as cooperative as expected; so far I’ve managed only one ride, though we’re hoping today our ride won’t be canceled by falling snow.
You may have heard recently that Zipp has introduced two new wheels sets, the 30 and the 60. In broad strokes, these wheels are (compared to other Zipp wheel sets) more budget oriented and specifically made for day-in, day-out use. They both feature aluminum rims with a parallel brake track (not the canted brake track that is such a signature part of other Zipp wheels) for predictable braking under the harshest of circumstances.
All those of you who have wanted Zipp aerodynamics with aluminum reliability and a less painful bite to your wallet, you may now rejoice.
The 30 wheels take a low-profile rim approach. The “30″ refers to the rim depth of the wheels—30mm, which puts it on a par with the 202 and 101. The 60 is the more distinctly aero wheel and features a roughly 60mm rim (58mm, actually), which puts it on a par with the 404, in terms of depth. They use the same hubs featuring preload-free stainless steel bearings compatible with both 10- and 11-speed drivetrains from SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo. Both sets use an 18-spoke front wheel and a 20-spoke rear wheel. The spokes are Sapim CX-Ray stainless spokes with Sapim’s new locking nipples for the most maintenance-free build possible.
Both rims feature a hybrid toroidal rim shape and the aforementioned parallel brake track. The rim design nicely characterizes the overall design of the wheels themselves. The canted brake track found in Zipp’s Firecrest wheels is faster, period. But it’s harder to manufacture and requires much more stringent tolerances for vertical truing so that you don’t have braking issues if the wheel comes out of true. The 30 rim is an all-aluminum rim, while the 60 rim is very much like the old 404 clincher using an aluminum brake track with carbon fiber fairing. However, Zipp’s David Ripley cautioned the journalists present not to think of the 60 as an old 404 clincher redux. Zipp engineers beefed up the aluminum and carbon fiber to prevent the occasional rim failures they saw at the spoke holes. Ripley stressed repeatedly that they wanted these wheels to be absolutely bomb-proof wheels suitable for daily use. [CORRECTION: Zipp informed us that the 60 rim employs a structural carbon rim with an aluminum hoop (the brake track) co-molded. This is a significantly stronger and more durable design than had the carbon just been a fairing.]
Both wheels take a page or two from current Zipp designs. The 30 features a 21.5mm max rim width while the 60 features a max rim width of 22.5mm to give tires a wider footprint, better traction and lower rolling resistance, not to mention increased rider comfort.
The wheel weights we were presented weighed 1655 grams for the 30s and 1780g for the 60s, so they aren’t especially light wheels. What really sets these wheels apart from other wheels in this price category are their aerodynamics. The 30s are a bit slower than Zipp’s Firecrest 202s and 101s, but not hugely so. The 60s, while not as fast as either Zipp’s Firecrest 404s or Firecrest 303s, are notably faster than many competing wheels. Drag numbers for the 30 put it easily ahead of the Mavic Ksyrium E5 and even faster than the Easton EC90 Aero 56.
A set of wheels includes quick releases, tubes and rim strips (brake shoes aren’t necessary thanks to the machined aluminum brake track).
I’ve had a single ride on a set of the 30s and experienced a quick, trouble-free ride, which is what you’d expect—at least the trouble-free part—for the first miles logged on a set of wheels, but it occurs to me that at $850 for the 30s and $1500 for the 60s, these wheels really change what people can expect for aerodynamic performance from a set of wheels at a significantly lower price point. With the 30s especially, this should be the beginning of the end for the box rim.
Zipp has also added a 650c version of their popular Firecrest 404 Carbon Clincher. Compared to a 66mm-deep V-shaped 650c rim, Zipp’s testing indicates the new 650c 404 will shave 127 gram of drag off of the V-rim’s 194g, for only 67g of drag. It’s a pretty staggering reduction in drag. We’re told the wheels weigh in at 1465g total, have a spoke count of 16 front, 20 rear, use Zipp’s proven 88/188 hubs and are compatible with 10- or 11-speed drivetrains from SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo. Included with the wheels are quick releases, tubes, rim strips, valve extenders, wrenches and brake shoes. Suggested retail is $2725.
For those of you who do time trials or triathlon, Zipp has introduced a new integrated carbon fiber bar/stem combination called the Vuka Stealth. To give you some idea about the new bar and stem’s aerodynamics, the Vuka Stealth is said to have the same aerodynamics with its UCI-legal 3:1 aero profile as the 4:1 profile Vuka Aero with the SL145 stem. Cable routing in carbon aero base bars dispenses headaches like Coke machines do soda, but the Vuka Stealth has a surprisingly simple routing aided by specific layup, called Rapid Routing, and multiple exit holes allow the bars to be set up specifically for the different cable entry of bikes from companies like Trek and Specialized. It comes in three lengths with a two-position insert to allow a +/- 10mm fore/aft adjustment. And because it’s a Zipp product, it has nearly 2000 possible fit combinations. The hardware is made from aluminum and titanium and the clamp diameter is an industry-standard 22.2mm to accept extensions from nearly any manufacturer. Suggested retail is $1070.
Finally, Quarq has introduced two new cranks, the Riken and Elsa. Like previous Quarq cranks, these are accurate to +/- 1.5 percent. Riken brings Quarq power measurement to a new price point: $1595. Elsa weighs in at just 735g and adds two crank lengths: 165mm and 162.5mm; it goes for $1995. Both are available in BB30 options for an extra $50.