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?



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