Zipp Vuka Alumina Review
article & images by Nick Salazar
May 26, 2012
If there's one word that best describes the new clip-ons from Zipp, it's "deceiving." I say that because it's deceivingly simple. It looks deceivingly similar to many other bars you may have seen. Yet it has more complexity and subtlety thn perhaps any other aerobar on the market today. After spending some time with this bar, I am happy to say it's probably the best clip-on ever made. There's more here than meets the eye.
To begin with, Zipp has made what are probably the largest arm cups on the market. These things are huge. And huge means comfortable. They're simply sublime. They're made of a fiber-reinforced nylon, and have a very slight flex to them, which is a welcome benefit on rough roads, and keeps the weight down versus aluminum. The cups clamp onto a very minimal piece of hardware that can be put anywhere along the extensions - inside the extension clip, straddling it, ahead of it, or behind it.
So basically, you can put the pads anywhere you want. And you can rotate them about the extension axis. But there's a strange limitation to this rotation. When the arm cup clamps are situated within the extension clamp hardware, or straddling it, they can only rotate upwards. But if you put these clamps completely foreward or behind the extension clamps, as shown here, then they can also rotate downwards. And that's one of the coolest things about this bar. The downward rotation allows the cups to sit right on top of the base bar, and actually below the level of the extensions. You can see what that looks like here. Not only does this low stack make the bar useful in a greater variety of situations, but it makes the bar work really well with straight extensions. In fact, that's how I'm running my bar. Zipp also makes an under-the-bar version of the Vuka Clip, where the arm cups don't move (they sit right over the bar clamp), and the extension clamp sits just under the bar. But because of the arm cup tilt I just mentioned, I find the under-the-bar version to be a little redundant, and a little uglier to boot. Plus. an under-the-bar setup means you have to have rather high-stack extensions to put the shifters in a good location.
Two bolts per side for the arm cups, two bolts per side for the extensions, two bolts per side to clamp the assembly onto the base bar. That's twelve in all, far more than what you'd find on something like the Felt Devox, but in this case, the extra bolts are really worth it. Not only to they each provide what is actually very usable adjustments, but Zipp took the trouble to make sure that no bolt is ever obscured by any of the other hardware. That means that each piece can be adjusted independently without affecting the rest of the bar. That's a lesson that a lot of other manufacturers could stand to learn.
Of course, the drawback here is that because the armcup clamps are separate from the extension clamps, adjusting one will throw off your adjustment of the other. It's not a huge inconvenience, but it's there nonetheless. In my opinion, it's worth it. Sure, you might have to deal with a couple extra bolts in order to dial in your pad reach with precision, but that's still easier than swapping out to a new stem every time you want to change your reach by 5mm.
And speaking of bolts, Zipp opted to use Torx fasteners instead of traditional hex heads. The benefit is that Torx fasteners can be torqued with greater precision, but that means it's one more tool you have to have on hand. On the upside, every fastener on the entire bar is the same size, a T25. So you can get a slick little adapter that magnetically snaps onto the end of an M4 hex wrench, and would easily fit anywhere you store other tools, at home or on the bike. One of these adapters is included with Zipp's Service Course stems, which also use T25 fasteners. So it's not a huge nag, but it's still one more thing to worry about if you don't already have Torx stuff on hand.
The range of adjustment is enormous. Extension reach, roll, tilt, and stance width are trivially easy to change. As mentioned, pad adjustment is virtually unlimited. Special risers can raise the entire clip-on assembly, pads and all, over the base bar, changing stack without moving the base bar. The only potential pitfall here is that if you use a lot of tilt (high-hands position) AND want to use a lot of risers, you're going to change your reach equation, since the tilt axis is the bar clamp itself, not a secondary piece of hardware as found on the stock bars of the Speed Concept and S-Works Shiv. I actually think Zipp did this better, because doing it the other way adds a lot of weight, bolts, and hassle. And anyway, it's a rare case, and irrelevant for almost everyone. But it's something to consider.
System weight is a very respectable 300g, and actually beat Zipp's claimed weight by 10 grams. Adding a carbon base bar and extensions yields a setup right around 600g, but even budget aluminum versions only add another 100g or so. Bang for the buck is huge here.
As mentioned, the Vuka Alumina Clip comes in an over-the-bar version AND an under-the-bar version, but you have to choose one OR the other. There's only one piece of hardware per side that's different, and it would have been really cool of Zipp to include both options with each Vuka Clip sold. But I suppose doing it the way they have allows them to keep the prices a little lower. At $120, the clip is a great deal. And actually, I think the under-the-bar version will be the lesser used of the two versions. In most cases, a user can achieve the same fit via the over-the-bar version, by taking advantage of the pad tilt mechanism. Of course, that could also necessitate a radical change in stem lengths to keep the pads where you want them. And if you want your pads narrow AND low, you might have no choice but the under-the-bar system. Certainly it will be the right choice for some people, but personally I'd try to stick with the over-the-bar version, which is very versatile and rather beautiful in my opinion.
That's really the long and the short of it as far as the Clip is concerned. On the next page we'll take a look at the base bar, and Zipp's new extensions.