VIDEO Review - Zipp Firecrest

 Dec 15, 2010 article & images by Nick Salazar

Zipp wowed us with the new Firecrest wheels.

The new Firecrest wheels have a lot to live up to. After all, Zipp's 404 and 808 models are probably the most widely-recognized deep dish carbon wheels in the world of triathlon. According to Zipp's own data, their wheels have been killing the Kona wheel count since 2006. And for the last four years, more athletes rode the Queen K on Zipp wheels than every other brand combined. And the most common wheelsets represented from Zipp's lineup are the venerable 404 and the 808. In fact, it was a pair of 404's that won the women's race under Mirinda Carfrae, and a brand new set of 808 Firecrest Tubulars that won for the men under Chris McCormack. So when Zipp announced a radically new shape in the 404 and 808 models, it had some pretty big shoes to fill.

Deeper, faster, and harder than the competition. Get your mind out of the gutter - we're talking about the new Zipp 404.

We snagged two pairs of the new Firecrest shape - the 404 and the 808, to put them through their paces. Our first impression is that these are some VERY well-built wheels. They're light, but not insanely so - the clinchers come in at 1557g for the 404 and 1759g for the 808 clincher, they are definitely competitive with their competition, and significantly lighter than the previous-generation alloy-rimmed clinchers from Zipp.

The historical problem with carbon clinchers is that they can be too delicate to withstand the heat and pressure involved in braking on a rim. Other models of carbon clinchers have been pulled from the market for that reason. And Zipp wasn't going to produce one until it had the technology to do so reliably. Finally, that technology is ready for prime time. Zipp has some special resins and production processes that are said to make its carbon clinchers hard enough and heat-resistant enough to do the job.

So how did we like the wheels? Check out the video review, above. We liked them a LOT. These wheels represent a nearly perfect balance between light weight, aerodynamics, and fantastic ride quality. Plus, the new aero tech comes in a convenient clincher package. There's a lot to love here, and we really can't praise them enough. The only real drawback is that they aren't the cheapest set of hoops on the planet.

  • Pure aero science and engineering wrapped up in carbon art
  • Amazing performance, especially when combined with Zipp Tangente tires
  • Tubular tech with clincher convenience
  • Wide brake track can present issues with some bikes/brakesets
  • Pricey

The next generation of triathlon wheels is here, and it's pretty much perfect.
Rating: 4.5

Tags » carbonclincher,  wheels,  zipp
  • The workmanship of the carbon fiber is superb.  Even the interior surface is finished with a perfect 3k weave.
  • The sidewall, which may appear to be fairly flat, actually has some subtle curves which Zipp says helps with the aerodynamics.
  • Zipp laces the new Firecrest rims to their own proprietary hubs, which are light, functional, and user-serviceable.
  • That Zipp logo is actually embossed into the shape of the rim - pretty slick.
  • Any way you slice it, this is a good-looking set of wheels.
  • The 404 rim shown here is 58mm deep, while the 808 (not pictured) is 82mm deep.
  • Zipp uses a 16h/20h lacing pattern for its standard wheelset.
  • The deep channel of the rim actually makes it easier to get tires on and off.
  • Here's the front hub, and the hex bolt that allows access to the internals.
  • Firecrest keeps the trademark Zipp dimple pattern.

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