There are a lot of things to consider when designing a new aero wheel set. Profile. Width. Material. And now, nature? That seems to be the angle Zipp has taken when they approached the design of their latest wheelset. Called the 454 NSW, the rim has a striking new shape that is hard to miss. Zipp claims the inspiration for the design came from looking to the ways animals have naturally evolved to be faster through the water, like the ridges on the fins of a humpback whale. With Biomimicry as the starting point, countless hours of design and testing led to Zipp’s new SawTooth equipped 454 NSW…



In typical Zipp fashion, the SawTooth profile started out as an idea that was quickly translated into testable prototypes. After 36 different rim profiles and 252 hours of wind tunnel testing, they claim to have achieved the desired result. That of course is a wheel that still provides the aerodynamic advantage of a traditional aero wheel, but offers better performance in terms of cross wind stability. Zipp claims that the rim profile along with their reshaped HexFin ABLC dimples work to reduce buffeting by providing higher frequency vortex shedding which in turn creates more vortices, but they are smaller and less powerful. Using a profile that is 58mm at the deepest section and 53mm at the shallowest, the result is a wheel that supposedly performs like a deep section wheel for aero speed, and a lower profile wheel in crosswinds.

wh_454_nsw_cc_v1_700sr_11s_detail_tirebed wh_454_nsw_cc_v1_700sr_11s_detail2_hyperfoil


The full carbon clincher is made in their Indiana factory and includes their silicon carbide Showstopper brake track treatment and their ImPress NSW printed graphics.

021sc_rear-cognition-hub-w-axial-clutch-technology-5 023sc_front-cognition-hub-4


Complete wheelsets will include the Portuguese made Cognition hubset with straight pull Sapim CX-Ray spokes and Secure Lock nipples, 18 front/24 rear.



Coming in at 1525g for the set, the rims feature a 17mm internal width that does not appear to be tubeless compatible. Priced at $4000, the wheels include Tangente titanium skewers, Zipp valve extenders by Silca, individual wheel bags, Tangente Platinum Pro Evo brake pads, Tangente tubes, and Zipp rim tape. Available this month.



  1. boom on

    $4k for marginally better aerodynamics, heavier weight than most competitors, and not tubeless? Definitely paying for the brand. Lost interest.

  2. rexated on

    I really like the idea, and good for Zipp for pushing boundaries. But why go to all that effort and not make the rims tubeless compatible? What you save in drag you might lose in the rolling resistance of tyres + tubes.

  3. Jeff on

    The weight is fine for wheels this deep, it probably does what they say in terms of sidewinds….and they are moving to tubeless ready eventually.
    The only part that’s seriously questionable is the cost. It’s fine with me if they make stuff like this and use it to push the tech down to products that are sanely priced. Half that would be more like it. But…. That’s what R&D is all about. If you want to gripe about stuff getting better on someone else’s dime, you’re just wired to gripe.

  4. ibcyclist on

    So many miserable comments . . . I can see these plus Madone and SRAM eTap as my new dream bike. And because I live in a warm weather situation; no I don’t need no stinking disc breaks.

    And they’re still cheaper than Lightweights. 4 grand . . . the hipsters spend more than that on their tattoos on a drunk Friday night!

  5. Tom Bender on

    I applaud Zipp for the “new” approach to the design and it’s nice to see a company thinking slightly further out of the box. There is a lot to be learned (still) from nature and this stab at biomimetics might be one of the first discussed/marketed in the bike industry that I’m aware of (I’m sure there is more but not from a brand with as much reach as Zipp). I’d never spend $4000 on a set of wheels but maybe this will lead to further advancements down the road (literally and figuratively) and eventually bring the price down…or at least one can hope. 🙂

  6. Alex on

    I love it,. Zipp are really thinking out of the box here, I never understood all the love for Enve, zipp rims with the dimples and the sawtooth brake track things are incredible, the manufacturing skill to achieve these details is amazing. Their hubs and wheel building are a bit of a joke though.

    And 4k for these wheels .. they will sell a lot. Let’s face it a top shelf frame is 5-6k. And there are lots of those on the road

    • Kernel Flickitov on

      You’re right about Zipp’s hubs and builds. My Enve 4.5’s with Tune hubs were over a grand less and are over 200g less. Make any Zipp set I’ve owned in the last decade look like a joke. No denying Zipp has a sordid history with their hubs, especially in the last few years with recalls and injury hanging over their heads. You can dimple and sawtooth all you want, the signals are pretty dang clear to me to stay the f away.

  7. Robin on

    Given that the wheel profile regularly varies with angle, I wonder if crosswind stability varies with wheel speed? Assuming no crossing, does drag vary as would be expected from a wheel of constant cross-sectional profile, or is drag modulated by the rims periodic cross-section? It would be interesting to hear from Zipp on that point as well as how drag varies with relative wind angle. Some data plots would be cool.

  8. John on

    “17mm internal width that does not appear to be tubeless compatible” and this supposed to be thinking outside the box? Looks like the same old Zipp to me.

  9. Veganpotter on

    I really don’t get the fight against tubeless. They could make these tubeless and people could run their worthless tubes if they want to run tubes. They finally made a tubeless rim, why not make all new tech tubeless compatible?

  10. Collin S on

    As technology spreads, prices go down. Back in the day, you couldn’t touch a carbon fiber frame in a complete bike for under 4,000 bucks. Now, there’s a few name brand bikes selling carbon bikes for lower than 1500. I think there was a story on here about one brand aiming for a complete carbon bike for $999. Zipp on the other hand, despite having competition from just about everywhere keeps ramping the prices up. Giant offers carbon clinchers on their $3500 TCR built with Ultegra. Its hard to find a wheel company that doesn’t offer a carbon wheel, and with the proliferation of Chinese open mold rims, how does Zipp continue to up the price by 500 bucks each year. If this was a normal practice in the rest of society, it would be like when honda redesigns a civic, gets 2 miles per gallon better than the previous, then change the price for 20,000 to 35,000…because its slightly better than last years model. To use the car analogy again, Mustang vs Camaro are about the same performance and price. Ford brings out a redesign and makes it just slightly faster than the last model, charge nearly double. (looks aside) would you expect anyone to buy the mustang over the camaro? That is what Zipp is doing.

    Keep in mind, a mold is expensive, but once you make it, you can make thousands of rims for little cost. Yes, R&D is build into the price vs your chinese rims, but unless these rims were somehow cut 5 minutes off a 40K TT vs a Reynolds AERO 66 rim, how does anyone justify these prices?

    • Jack Moore on

      The analogy for ZIpp isn’t Ford or Honda, it’s Porche or Mercedes. When Porche offers carbon-ceramic rotors for an extra ~$10,000 to a dentist who will never race the car… that is the guy who would buy these wheels.

      More power to them if they can get it. I love to see real investment in R&D, it drives the market and trickle down tech for everyone.

  11. Ricky on

    This isn’t healthcare, nobody is forcing you to buy these wheels. Instead of complaining about a luxury item, how about focusing your negative energy on rising prescription medicine costs like the EpiPen?

    • Zibi on

      Take ii easy, man! Luxury item for luxury riders on luxury roads in their luxury time? These wheels are absurdly (luxuriously?) expensive. Luxury period.

      • Robin on

        Man it sucks that you’re obviously being forced to buy them, doubly so since there are absolutely no other CF, deep profile rims on the market that are less expensive.

  12. Brian on

    I have zipp 303s custom built with dt Swiss hubs and 28s spoke rear and they are fine but I also have enve 3.4s on another bike. I only bought the zipps because they were cheaper otherwise I would probably have stuck with with Enve. At this price I would pass and stick with enve and save nearly 1k even with High end hubs.

  13. Mike Mcdermid on

    Sounds like one of the engineers came across an article published many years ago in a magazine called THE ENGINEER where turbicules or splitting mass flow and using that principle is how whales get their flippers to work it was also tested on wind turbine blades

    Silicon carbide brake tracks were also done 5 years ago but the advent of discs made them a bit moot


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