The all-new Zipp 404 Firecrest and 454 NSW wheels take everything they learned from making the 303/353-series lighter, wider, and more comfortable and have applied that their deeper road wheels.

Where the new 303 introduced in 2020 added a lot of width to it’s bulbously round shape, the 404 takes a slightly different approach. It still gets a lot wider, but it moves back toward a more pointed shape. Zipp says now that tires are wider, and things are hookless, those tubeless tires’ shape and interface with the rims created a different aero profile that benefitted from the rims’ leading/trailing edges having just a bit sharper point.

The 454 NSW is the top of the line, but it’s easier to see how it gets on top by looking at the Zipp 404 Firecrest first…

New Zipp 404 Firecrest Road Race Wheels

rider on the new zipp 404 firecrest tubeless road racing wheels

From the Way Back Machine, the Zipp 400 was their first structural carbon rim. It was a tubular, but it set the stage for wheels to come. That was 1990, and in 1998 came their semi-toroidal rim shape, the first alloy-and-carbon rim clincher, and (they say) one of the most durable carbon clinchers with a rim brake surface. All are the 400/404 series. Which is why, along with the 303 wheels, they’ve been a bit of a benchmark against others.

Now, the 404 Firecrest is a whole new beast. They’re 370g lighter (1,450g, down from 1,820g before), thanks mainly to the switch to a straight-side, tubeless-ready hookless bead wall. That change has a lot to do with the price, drop, too. They’re now just $1,900 for the pair, down from $2,500.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest tubeless ready disc brake road bike wheels

It’s still a 58mm deep rim, but now has a 23mm internal rim width (up from 19mm), and are disc-brake only.

You’ll notice there’s a lot of that borrowed from the new 303 Firecrest and more recently introduced 353 NSW wheels. Even the “Total System Efficiency” concept, whereby the aerodynamics are combined with vibration-absorbing layups and wider tires to enhance ride quality and make you faster overall. Zipp says the new 404s save 4 watts over the prior model, all else being equal.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest tubeless ready disc brake road bike wheels angle view

But there are a couple of key differences between these and the 303 series. First, the new 404s are optimized around a 25mm wide tire…the 303’s minimum recommended tire width is 28mm.

And that’s because these lean into the Road Race category. Zipp told us they expect the new 404 (and 454 NSW, below) to become the go-to all-around race wheels for most riders, where before that was the 303s spot and 404s were aimed at endurance riders.

The other big difference? Where the 303s are gravel-ready, the 404 Firecrest strongly prefers the paved road.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest tubeless ready disc brake road bike wheels closeup rim detail

404 Firecrest Specs & Details

  • 23mm internal width, optimized for 25mm tires
  • 58mm depth
  • 12mm thru axle end caps standard
  • Centerlock Rotor Mounts
  • ZR1 DB Hub (66 points of engagement)
  • 1450g (w/o tape or valve stem, XDR body – 660g front, 790g rear)
  • ABLC Sawtooth Dimple Patterns
  • MSRP $1,900 ($925 front, $975 rear)

All-new Zipp 454 NSW Tubeless Disc Brake Wheels

rider on the new zipp 454 NSW tubeless road racing wheels

The new 454 NSW are also much lighter than their predecessor. The complete wheelset (without tape or valve stems, with XDR body, weighs in at a claimed 1358g, down from 1815g. That’s a massive 457g savings, and most of it’s from the rims, so they should feel way faster.

But here’s where their TSE theory gets interesting. As with the 303s, they’re not sharing “classic wind tunnel data” anymore. They still use a wind tunnel so they can see how a wheel acts, but their “Total System Efficiency” goals are about more than just aerodynamics. Because they say, optimizing solely around aerodynamics can actually make you slower.

zipp 454 NSW and 404 Firecrest wattage savings comparison chart

This graph shows the watts required to ride along at 40km/h (~25mph). Technically, or aerodynamically, the new wheels are actually 0.9W (404) and ~4W (454) slower than the prior models. Which is almost negligible. But, as a system, Zipp says the new wheels roll a lot faster, saving 4.4W and 13.6W respectively.

2022 zipp 454 NSW tubeless disc brake road bike wheels

So, they’re still quite aero, but more importantly, they take less energy to go fast. Put another way, you can go faster with a given amount of power output. That’s thanks to the new carbon layup and rim shapes.

The rim’s laminate is optimized not just for weight, which is why these are so much lighter, but they’re also better able to damp vibration better. And that’s why they’re more efficient and roll faster in real world conditions.

rider on the new zipp 454 NSW tubeless road racing wheels

What about the tires? How much does tire selection matter on these numbers? Zipp says probably not much, but they’ve (so far) only tested with their own tires.

For both sets of wheels, tires were 25mm wide, set up tubeless, but the tire pressure was dramatically different. On the old wheels, they ran 77psi (front) and 82psi (rear). But with the wider, hookless rims on the new wheels, they could drop that to 65psi (front) and 69psi (rear).

New Tire Pressure & Width Recommendations

zipp tire width and air pressure recommendations chart

With these new wheels, they also revised their rider weight to air pressure chart and actually found that there’s a clearly identifiable point where a rider is better served by going up to a 28mm tire.

That’s not to say that a lighter-weight rider is definitely going to be faster with a 25mm tire -they admit there’s some inconsistent data so far for 28mm tires and power output- but this table represents the best data they have right now. And you can use their free AXS smartphone app to get this data on hand while you’re pumping up your tires.

454 NSW Specs & Details

2022 zipp 454 NSW tubeless disc brake road bike wheels closeup detail of dimples

The sawtooth profile undulates between 53mm and 58mm deep, which Zipp says improves crosswind performance. Other than that, the key differences between these and the 404 are the upgraded Cognition Hubs and a different dimple and groove pattern to further optimize aerodynamics.

The layup on these is much more involved to get that shaping, but the idea is the same…reduce vibrations and smooth out the ride. Thanks to the hubs and their direct-printing of all logos (rather than decals), these actually come in lighter than the 404 Firecrest wheels.

2022 zipp 454 NSW tubeless disc brake road bike wheels angle view

  • 23mm internal width, optimized for 25mm tires
  • 53mm/58mm depth
  • 12mm thru axle end caps standard
  • Centerlock Rotor Mounts
  • Cognition V2 Hubs w/ Axial Clutch V2 engagement system
  • 1358g (w/o tape or valve stem, XDR body – 631g front, 727g rear)
  • Sawtooth w/ Hyperfoil nodes and HexFin ABLC Dimple patterns
  • MSRP $4,000 ($1,800 front, $2,200 rear)

454 NSW Tubular

2022 zipp 454 NSW tubular disc brake road bike wheels

If these are poised to become Zipp’s go-to race wheel, then they need a tubular, right? The new 454 NSW Tubular is a disc brake wheelset that uses the updated rim shapes and Cognition V2 hubs.

But if it says anything about how far carbon fiber rims have come and the benefits of a hookless rim profile, these are slightly heavier than the tubeless version at 1,463g (683g F / 780g R). MSRP is the same $4,000 as the tubeless-ready wheels.

858 NSW Tubeless Disc Brake

2022 zipp 858 NSW tubeless disc brake road bike wheels

The deeper Zipp 858 NSW wheels carry over with the same 18mm internal width, tubeless-ready rims as before, but get a disc brake option with the new Cognition DB V2 hubs. Retail is $4,400 for the set ($2,000 front / $2,400 rear). Weight is a very respectable 1773g (838g F / 935g R).

All of the wheels come with a Lifetime Warranty. Available now. Stay tuned for actual weights and first ride review of the new 404 Firecrest wheels…

Zipp.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. I just can’t get over the low recommended tire pressures. Rolling along at 25-30 mph and hitting a squared off road imperfection at 67 psi (for 180lbs me) on a 25mm tire just seems like a recipe for rim damage. But maybe I just don’t get it.

    • How narrow is your rim?
      I use 58psi on 25mm front tire and 28mm rear tire on a rim as wide as this Zipp daily at 145lbs rider weight.
      I don’t hesitate roll into (reasonably shallow) pothole anymore. It’s just fine. No rim strike.

      I can’t say the same thing when I use rim with a much narrower internal width. For that, even +10psi pressure from recommended chart feel a little bit unsafe.

    • I don’t know if 25c at 100 psi will really protect the rim anyway – most of the time, I can partially float the hit so it’s not completely direct, even if I do get surprised. But if I hit it full tilt, I’m gonna flat. Admittedly, I don’t have much experience with tubeless on the road yet, I’m guessing their recommendations reduce rolling resistance, at the potential expense of that once a month hit you describe. In any case, hookless sidewalls are way tougher than hooked.

    • Bob – it’s purely a mental block. Have you ever ridden a fatbike? I run mine at 3.75 psi front, 4.25 psi rear. Never had an issue with rim damage.
      Wider rims & wider tires will have higher volumes, and higher volumes don’t require the same amount of pressure to ensure the rim doesn’t see any impact.
      It just takes a mental recalibration of tire pressures.

  2. Who is buying a wheelset for $4000 or $4400? Certainly not racers as one crash and you’re out a months paycheck. The only people buying these are middle age men for their coffee shop rides who have “deep section” mid-sections.

  3. Have they sorted out their ‘warranty’ issues yet? Quite a few reports of them refusing to repair or replace things under warranty. No way I’ll be buying a set, I’d much rather go to a local wheelbuilder

  4. Who knows. It may be that they think the allegedly infringed patent is invalid because of prior art, but even if there is prior art which is prima-facie novelty-destroying for claim 1, it can take a mid-six figure sum to litigate that, and possibly there are dependent claims which are novel and non-obvious which Princeton’s wheel(s) may still be infringing… It’s a long, complex, and above all costly exercise to ligitate this stuff.
    It may also be that they reached some kind of licensing agreement.
    With patents it’s far easier to get a patent than to invalidate a patent which should not have been granted in the first place. The recent supreme court decision Arthrex unfortunately doesn’t help…

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