Archive | Wheels

Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Wheels

RoadSnobWhy spend as much (or more) on wheels as you did on your bike frame?

S P E E D .

If you are tired of being the one person in your cycling group that’s always last, I advocate you take up a collection.  Get all those riders waiting for you at the top of the hill on their 700c wheels telling you that your 650c’s are slowing you down, to throw in a hundred bucks (or more), towards a set of 650c Zipp 404 Firecrest Wheels. You won’t regret it–though your fellow cyclists might.

Zipp has put impressive R&D into their Firecrest line of carbon clinchers that they are eager to share with you!  They’ve condensed a lot of data into this sixteen and a half minute video. Please take a look!

Their R&D team consists of a group of passionate wizards looking a lot like a team from Mythbusters on a quest to create the fastest carbon clincher wheel able to withstand tremendous heat and still maintain excellent braking power.

Don’t get me wrong, we love that their obsessive commitment is responsible for the ABLC™ patented dimple surface, which causes air to “stick” to the surface of the rim thereby reducing pressure drag, (a concept borrowed from golf balls).   Or that their relentless use of wind tunnel testing has been invaluable in developing the unique shape of their rim with careful attention to its back end (the part with the spokes in it), to both improve aerodynamics while also reducing cross wind sensitivity.  Did I mention that they’ve also borrowed an exclusive resin technology used in motorsports that tolerates excessive heat spikes while braking?  If you’ve ever ridden a 20 mile descent that was technically challenging, you know how important this is.

One could say, “why re-invent the wheel?” but that’s exactly what Zipp has done by re-purposing technology used by other industries and applying it to their 404 Firecrests. I love lateral thinkers! Even their hubs are manufactured with a technology usually reserved for avionics, formula 1 gearboxes and orthopedic joints, which provide a 6% stiffer wheel, making you faster with each pedal stroke.

Zipp has created a racing/time trial/just plain fast wheel that doesn’t feel like a kite on a windy day. If you find all this science a little overwhelming, remember this:  Aren’t you glad someone else is working so hard to MAKE YOU SO FAST?

Not only are the shape of the wheels revolutionary, but so are Zipp’s patented new brake pads –designed specifically for use with their carbon wheels to provide safe and efficient stopping power.

These wheels are peppy, that’s for sure.  They are so stiff and stable that there is a noticeable lack of tire drag.  They are so light it’s hard to resist the urge to climb out of the saddle especially while ascending.  The 404 Firecrests are responsive while cornering and oh-so-smooth on the downhill.  I keep hearing my husband remark that when he turns his head to see how far back I am, he’s stunned that I’m on his wheel.  On a recent ride in extremely windy conditions and on a significant descent, I felt like a fish.  The wind whipped me around like it always does but I was surprised at how I was still able to control the bike while gliding through gusts like they were currents in the water.

I tested these wheels with my favorite standard tire, the Serfas Urbana, which has an 28 mm width.  The tires slide on and off the rims with ease.   However, Zipp makes their own, specially designed Tagente Clincher Tire for optimal performance.  Because of the deep dish design of the rim, you will either need to purchase road tubes with a longer valve stem  (Zipp makes their own version), or purchase a set of extenders.

Zipp stands alone in their commitment to providing smaller riders with the same advances in technology that they offer taller riders—superior aerodynamics, stability and durability—in a wheel size designed to nurture our fierce inner athletes.  If you are a weekend warrior ready to impress the club, these are the wheels for you.

The Zipp Firecrest 404’s will once and for all put an end to the discussion that 650c wheels are somehow slower.  Their msrp at $2,725 (for the set), unequivocally puts them in the road snob category, but they are worth every penny.  I can’t tell you how many people ask me, “Are those Firecrest 404’s?”  It’s like I’m finally being taken seriously as a cyclist.  Did I mention Mark Cavendish rides the 700c size?



Fast Wheels! Rolf Prima 650c Aspin SL Wheelset


After riding 7 miles on Rolf Aspin SL wheels, my first thoughts were, ‘Wow, I get it!’

Until that moment, I never knew what cyclists actually meant when they said, “lighter wheels are faster.” Intellectually, I sort of understood how rotating mass is more significant than static mass, and that the best way to reduce the weight of your bicycle is by getting lighter wheels (they say losing a pound on the wheels is like losing two pounds on the frame.)  But, how significant is two pounds and what if I just lose two pounds of body fat?

It’s been over two years since I got my Rodriguez bicycle, and well over a year to retrain my body on how to ride it properly.  I’ve finally stopped the burn in my quadriceps by learning how to spin the crank.  This also comes from having a 74º seat tube angle which places the saddle slightly behind the crank instead of directly over it.

Many petite cyclists ride oversized bicycles which require extreme concentration just to manage the basic details of cycling: staying balanced, dealing with toe overlap, stretching out to grasp the handlebars, keeping up, knee and back pain, and not feeling absolutely beat-up by the time their ride is done.  Trust me, with all of that going on, it would be hard to notice the seemingly obvious difference a lighter set of wheels would make on a ride.

But, unlike many petite cyclists, I now have a bike that fits. I’m comfortable riding which makes me a more confident rider. I can now accomplish certain things I was not able to before, like taking my hands off the handlebars or descending quickly (and safely).  Now I can  even keep up with my family.

So how are lighter wheels different?  First of all, it feels like there’s about 40% less effort required to get the bike rolling from a total stop.  Once in motion, these wheels just want to keep on rolling.

Yes, the Aspin SL Wheels are fast. Decreased effort means you can drop down a gear (or two) to match the resistance you’ve been used to on heavier wheels.  The difference in gears will give you a noticeable improvement in speed.

I immediately noticed an increase in climbing speed from 6 to 8 mph.  It’s easier to get out of the saddle, since there’s less weight to pull uphill.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a set of fast wheels like the Aspin SL’s on a new bicycle unless you’ve only purchased a frame and fork set and are building your bike up from scratch.

Give yourself time to get used to the fit of your new bicycle (assuming you’re getting one with 650c wheels). before you spend $699.00 for a set of Aspin SL’s.  Instead, I would recommend investing in the best frame you can afford.   When you’re good and comfortable on your bike, and can afford to upgrade your wheel set, the Aspin SL wheels are worth every penny.

All Rolf wheels are handbuilt in Eugene, Oregon.  They offer upgrades to ceramic bearings (the wheels reviewed here have metal bearings).  For an extra $175., (for alloy wheels), you can purchase Rolf’s Hero damage protection plan which covers one incident on each wheel.  See details on their website at :  Bags are available to purchase for $70.00, otherwise I’d give this product the Road Snob Icon.

Aspin SL Specs:
Wheel size: 650c
Weight: 650c: 1330gm set [535gm/795gm]
Spoke count: butted 20F/24R
Rim: 22mm, alloy clincher
Hubset: TdF2.4
Freehub: forged aluminum – Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo
Category: Road Race, Climbing, Fitness, Training
Featured technology: Paired spokes, Differential Flange Diameter, Dish Reducing design™, Self Aligning Nipple™
Upgrades available: Prima Plus and Hero

Some Hanky Panky has forced Me to Ask again

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