The all-new Zipp 404 Firecrest are a bit of a surprise in that they feel, in all the right ways, like a much shallower wheel where it counts. Yet, they have the deep aero shape that some racers want. Which means, as much as I hate to say it, they kinda hit that sweet spot between speed, weight, and comfort.
Let me preface this review with a caveat: I much prefer shallower rims and lighter weights. I’m not racing, and most 35-40mm deep wheels these days are plenty slippery against the wind while weighing considerably less than deeper “aero” rims. And, personally, I prefer the aesthetic of a ~30-35mm deep rim, too.
While the new 404 Firecrest wheels can’t do anything to look less deep, they kinda erase all of my other complaints about deep, aero wheels. With a weight that rivals what “climbing wheelsets” used to weigh just a few years ago, and modernly wide, tubeless rim beds, they’re surprisingly good as all-around wheels now…
Zipp 404 Firecrest actual weights & widths
The big change on this latest model of 404 wheels is the move to a wider, straight-side (meaning “hookless”) rim bed that’s optimized for 700x25mm tubeless tires. Unless you’re a bigger rider, by which Zipp means anyone over ~190lbs (~86kg), at which point they think you’ll be faster with a 28mm tire…either on the rear only, or both front and rear as the scale tips higher. (Check their tire pressure/size chart in the launch coverage).
A nice deep center channel makes mounting tires and tubeless setup a breeze. I still use the Bontrager Flash TLR floor pump on pretty much every install, and it nailed it on the first try.
The other big change is to a more tapered rim profile. Where the prior 404 (and current 303) maintains a more rounded profile, these come to a slightly more angular point…slightly.
These wheels use Zipp’s ZR1 DB (for “Disc Brake”) hubs, which get a standard 6-pawl arrangement with 33 ratchet teeth. The pawls are offset to engage three at a time, yielding 66 points of engagement for a 5.45º rotation…which is quick for a road hub.
The new 404 rims measure 23.04mm internal (23mm claimed, spot on), and 27.66mm wide at the widest point externally.
Actual weights are 689g front / 816g rear. That’s 1,505g total with rim tape and valve stems, and a SRAM XDR driver body. Claimed weight without tape and valves is 1,450g, which seems about right.
I mounted Schwalbe Pro One tubeless road tires, which weighed in at 275g and 280g respectively.
Zipp 404 Firecrest ride review
TL;DR – These wheels are amazing, and they’ve changed my mind about deeper profile wheels. Why? Because they’re so light, and when ridden as intended with wider tubeless tires and low pressure, they are:
- Supremely comfortable over the long haul
- Confident in the corners
- Fast everywhere
Kitted up, I’m right at Zipp’s highest recommended weight for 25mm tires, but since my current inventory of tubeless-ready, hookless-compatible tires (not all tubeless tires are officially “straight side/hookless” compatible…check their instructions!) are all 28mm wide, I went with the wider tire, Schwalbe Pro One to be exact.
Which meant I could run really, really low tire pressures. Zipp’s chart recommended 60psi front, 63psi rear. I went with 65psi all around, because, mentally, I’m just not there yet. But 65psi felt amazing.
The incredibly light weight is what makes these wheels feel fast out of the gate. They climb and sprint way better than a 58mm deep rim should. But it’s the lower tire pressure and speedy comfort that’s going to make them your new favorites.
It’s not that Zipp is the only one touting going tubeless, running wider tires, and lowering tire pressure. That’s where things are headed. But they’ve managed to create a family of wicked light, ultra-fast wheels that maximizes the benefits of all that and given them a lifetime warranty.
The only thing I haven’t experienced with them yet is strong crosswinds, so I’ll update here once I have more miles on them. We also have someone testing the new 454 NSW wheels, which are a hair lighter (and more than twice as expensive) and use Zipp’s sawtooth profile to handle crosswinds better.
Until then, I’d say these are definitely worth considering if you want a fast, aero wheelset that’s light enough for a day in the mountains, too.