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.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel review

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

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup tubeless carbon rim details

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).

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup tubeless hookless bead details

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.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup tubeless carbon rim details

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.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup hub details and internals 2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup hub details and internals

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.

2022 zipp 404 firecrest aero road bike wheel closeup tubeless carbon rim actual widths measured with calipers

The new 404 rims measure 23.04mm internal (23mm claimed, spot on), and 27.66mm wide at the widest point externally.

actual weights of 2022 zipp 404 firecrest wheels

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.

Schwalbe pro one tubeless road tires actual weight

I mounted Schwalbe Pro One tubeless road tires, which weighed in at 275g and 280g respectively.

Zipp 404 Firecrest ride review

riding action for 2022 zipp 404 firecrest wheels review

The wheels held a perfect line on 22+ mph corners, even with a little debris here and there.

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

riding action for 2022 zipp 404 firecrest wheels review

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.

riding action for 2022 zipp 404 firecrest wheels review

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.

riding action for 2022 zipp 404 firecrest wheels review

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.

Zipp.com

9 comments

  1. K-Pop is dangerous to your health on

    They feel like a “much shallower wheel” because Zipp pushes the limits of sidewall thickness since like forever. If somebody was so inclined you can crack the mid section of a Zipp rim with your thumb with not too much effort. Ask me how I know.

    Reply
      • K-Pop is dangerous to your health on

        Wasn’t mine, a warranty set at the shop. Before we disassembled and threw it away, I did it to demonstrate how thin Zipp sidewalls are to another employee.

        Reply
    • northk on

      K-Pop, I was wondering about that. The light weight has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is really thin rim walls. They even look thin in the pictures. Also, the outer rim width is just a little too narrow for 28mm tires, which I prefer.

      Reply
      • RT on

        I’ve just had a set of 2021 303 FC’s crack on me after about 3K km riding on flat roads, hoping I can warranty them, but definitely never taking these on gravel now.

        Reply
  2. Onrhodes on

    65psi is not “really, really low” for a 28mm tubeless tire even if you are a bigger guy. I’m a massive 144lbs and run around 60psi on schwalbe pro one. I will let them drift down to around 56psi over a week or so before I worry about pumping them back up again.

    Reply
  3. Steven on

    If you were to flat on these tubeless tires, my first inclination would be to throw a tube in there to get home. However, if these tires run at a lower PSI of 65, wouldn’t you then be likely to pinch flat with an inner tube stuffed in there? (My understanding is this hookless design cannot sustain higher PSI without risking the tire blowing off the rim?)

    Reply

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