According to Zipp, it was the need for better braking in cyclocross that inspired the creation of their first disc brake wheel. After introducing the disc brake 303 to the world in 2013, Zipp started working on a new creation that would appeal to the growing road disc segment. Slotting in underneath the 45mm 303 Firecrest rim, Zipp’s 32mm 202 Firecrest wheelset adds the ability to run disc brakes while keeping things as light as possible.
Just as you would expect from any carbon wheelset coming out of Indianapolis, the 202 Firecrest Disc Brake wheels offer an extremely high end level of fit and finish as well as an impressive weight – for a price.
Details plus actual weights next…
Bearing the Firecrest logo, the disc brake rims don’t look all that different from their rim brake counterparts. In fact, it looks as if the rims still include a brake track, but that’s only partially true. The rims are not rim brake compatible, but they are structurally identical to their rim brake siblings. The difference? The disc model does not include the finish sanding process that adds a textured finish which results in the rim’s ability to stop in the wet. Zipp points out that while many have heralded the arrival of disc brakes as a way to make rims lighter, the rim still needs to hold the tire and survive impacts. That means the rims have stayed the same weight, at least for now.
Known for their aerodynamic designs, the Firecrest rim shape was developed using CFD to minimize drag and wind-induced steering torque. Basically, it makes for a faster wheel that is easier to handle in strong winds. As an added bonus the wider design of the rim results in better lateral stiffness, a wider tire profile, and according to Zipp, better compliance for a more comfortable ride.
Each 202 Firecrest clincher rim measures a full 32mm deep and 25.4mm wide at the widest point on the rim. At the brake track the rim is 24.62mm wide externally, and 16.25mm wide internally. Bearing the characteristic aero dimples or Advanced Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) if you will, the 202 Firecrest rims use external Sapim nipples under a traditional rim strip. The rims are not tubeless compatible, but there is a tubular version of the 202 Disc Brake wheelset available.
Held together with 24 Sapim CX-Ray spokes front and rear, Zipp uses a 6-bolt variant of their 88/188 hubset to keep the wheels spinning. Yes, that means you won’t be running the Shimano Ice Tech Freeza rotors on these wheels, but considering Zipp’s parent company SRAM has a few hydraulic road disc brake systems of their own, that’s probably the point. Note that SRAM has always claimed to be able to properly manage heat from the discs without special rotors and standard 6 bolt hubs.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 88/188 hubs, Zipp introduced the new 188 rear hub in 2011 which was a big improvement in stiffness, as well as durability. By moving the bearings out as far as possible, the hubs added 6% stiffness to the wheel while increasing bearing life. If you really want to geek out on wheel design, Zipp goes into an incredible amount of detail including diving into the math that results in a better wheel here.
Inside each 188 hub you’ll find custom Swiss steel bearings that include grade 10 steel balls and ABEC 7 races. Fitted with an 11 speed compatible freehub body that engages with three wire EDM (electron discharge machining) steel pawls. That precision carries over to the hub shell which is made from a proprietary alloy called Z310.9 developed with Alcoa. Reportedly twice the strength of 6061 aluminum which is common in hub design, the stronger alloy allows for Zipp’s Spoke Hole Impact Forming Technology (SHIFT). Essentially the process individually forges each spoke hole rather than machining it which makes for a much stronger hub that will be less likely to crack in the future.
One of the easiest ways to visualize the performance of the 202 Firecrest Disc Brake wheels is on the scale. At 693g for the front and 819 for the rear, the 1512g wheelset is admirably light for a 32mm disc brake wheelset (and 18g under claimed weight). The wheels include a lightweight set of stainless steel quick release skewers that weigh in at 85g for the set, as well as the rim strips which add 21g each.
All of the accessories come packaged in a quality zippered pouch along with the user manual and a pair of valve extenders with their own wrenches. Wheelsets are available with either matte white or the matte black stealth graphics above. We’re digging the black.
As usual, all of that U.S. made precision and technology does come with a price. The Zipp 202 Firecrest Disc Brake wheels should be flawless at $2,825 per set. First impressions point to that being the case. Now to finish the install on our new SRAM Rival 22 Hydraulic group (details soon) and get some miles in.