Finally, Zipp is fully committed to Road Tubeless. What started last year with the 303 Firecrest has made its way across their entire NSW and Firecrest lines, with the 202, 303, 404 and 808 depths all getting tubeless ready disc brake wheelset options.
In our estimation, it was a matter of testing the waters and production cycle realities that kept them from rolling this out sooner, but they’re touting all the reasons why tubeless is right for road that we’ve known for so long…namely:
- lower tire pressure means a bigger contact patch, which improves cornering grip. So, you’re faster in the corners.
- enhanced comfort, because lower pressure has more give.
- improved rolling resistance, which means you’re faster on the straightaways, too.
- less chance of pinch flat
Here’s the explanation for all that: They say with tubeless, the tendency is to run larger tires, which improves (decreases) rolling resistance because there’s less deformation (hysteresis), which works because there’s less energy lost to heat.
With tubeless you also lose the friction between tire and tube, so it can react faster, and there’s less material that has to deform, so less energy lost. AKA, more efficient.
They also claim that it’s easy to set up…which they admit some folks might find hard to believe. It depends on how familiar you are with mounting tires, but since they make both the wheel and the tire, they can create a system that works well together. But not everyone’s going to run Zipp tires, particularly when you move outside of pure road. Which means it comes down to having a really good internal channel design that helps any tire seat quickly and securely. So, there’s a deep center channel so it’s easier to get the tires on, and a proper bead seat with bump to keep the tire in place once inflated…and help it lock in and seal quickly. They say you’re likely able to set it up with a floor pump, but again, this will depend on the tires used.
There’s also a new disc-brake specific rim shape that’s flatter on the sidewalls, coming in much wider at the top (4mm wider than tube-type 202 and 303, and 3mm wider for 404/808), which is what optimizes them for wider 25-28mm tires (the original Firecrest from 2010 was designed for 23-25mm wide tires).
FYI, the typical road wheel tube-type official ETRTO standard for wheels is 621.95mm. Within that recommendation is a 621.5mm for Road Tubeless. That teensy reduction in bead seat heigh is to help ease installation.
2018 ZIPP NSW TUBELESS DISC BRAKE WHEELS
NSW (stands for Nest Speed Weaponry) wheels are their top of the line offerings, which have thus far only been rim brake, tube type wheels. Now, they get the disc brake tubeless option for 202, 303, 404, and 808. Rim depths are 32mm, 45mm, 58mm, and 82mm, respectively (same as the rim brake models).
They have a 21mm internal width for 202 & 303 (28mm tire optimized), and 19mm for 404 & 808 (25mm optimized tire). They say they prototyped several widths and shapes to offer the best application specific tire sizes and this was the result.
They’re built with 24/24 spoke counts on Center Lock Cognition hubs. Cognition Disc Hubset was released earlier this year. It reduces drag by incorporating their axial clutch, which completely disengages during coasting to reduce drag. They use J-bend spokes for convenient repairs and replacements. They use a tool-free end cap system, making it easy to switch between QR and thru axles, and they come with all common end caps in the box. 36 POE, available with XDR, HG (11-speed SRAM/Shimano) and Campagnolo freehub bodies.
ImPress Graphics mean no bulky decals to hide the dimples, the logos are printed on the rims. The NSW rims get their sawtooth dimple pattern, similar in concept to the wild 454 NSW rims, but less dramatic. They say the design improves air flow and vortex shedding at all yaw angles, reducing drag in real world riding conditions.
2018 Firecrest Tubeless Disc Brake Wheels
The next level down is the Firecrest series, which already had the 303 as a tubeless ready, disc brake wheel. Now, they’ll have the full line of 202, 303, 404 and 808 available in this format. Widths and most specs are the same as the NSW line with a few exceptions. The rims get a different mold and molding process, though, keeping the NSW lighter and more aero optimized.
The Firecrest rims use the ABLC dimple pattern, which they’ve used for years, and the logos are decals.
These use 6-bolt rotor interfaces on the 77/177 hubset with straight pull spokes.
Available October 2017, $2,500 up to 404, $2,800 for 808. Rims come pre-taped, with valve stems in the package. All of the wheels shown here replace any prior disc brake wheels offered, but standard tube-type rim brake wheels carry over unchanged for now.
303 FIRECREST 650B TUBELESS
The gravel scene hasn’t escaped them, but with the traditional wheels designed around road-appropriate tire volumes, they wanted something ready for bigger gravel tires. (That said, these actually have the same rim profile and width as the 700c models).
While there are plenty of 27.5” mountain bike rims that could work for 650B road “plus”, but they thought they could do better by building an optimized wheel specific to the category.
The new Zipp 303 Firecrest 650B is a purpose built aero clincher. Why do aerodynamics matter? Well, when you’re racing 200 miles in events like Dirty Kanza, every gain helps reduce the suffering and increase the speed.
It has the same 21mm internal width, which fits from 25mm up to 62mm tires, but optimized around 45-54mm wide tires. The rims measures 28.9mm at its max outer width. and is 45mm deep. Retail is $2,500 / €2,600 / £2,300.
Actual weights for the Firecrest 303 650B is 728g (F) and 805g (R). Rest of the new wheels’ weights are below.
They say you’ll also find this on more regular road bikes as manufacturers start offering smaller road bikes, and Canyon is said to be spec’ing them for 2018.
NSW 202 is 699g (F) and 793g (R).
NSW 303 is 736g (F) and 839g (R).
NSW 404 is 767g (F) and 867g (R).
NSW 202 is 869g (F) and 960g (R).
Firecrest 202 is 728g (F) and 893g (R).
Firecrest 404 is 824g (F) and 945g (R).
Firecrest 808 is 904g (F) and 1,025 (R).