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Zipp Firecrest wheels get better, stiffer hubs and lower prices for 2016, plus new wider tires & more

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2016 Zipp Firestrike 404 aero wheels get new hubs

For 2016, Zipp’s reference wheels get upgraded hubs, the tires get wider and their 30 Course alloy wheelset gets  a rim brake option, adding to the disc brake set introduced in April. Before we dive into the details, here’s a bit of history on the brand (if you’re already a fan, skip ahead two pics).

Zipp was founded by Leigh Sargent, who came from an F1 background. The story goes that a cyclist brought him a disc wheel and he said he could do better. He did, cutting the weight in half by making it out of carbon fiber. Then he pioneered the use of the wind tunnel in cycling, bringing that over from F1, and now they use it extensively at the ARC in Indianapolis. They’ve done things like bike frames (2001, 3001), tri spoke wheels and even carbon cranks. They don’t make those items any more, but they do continue to push carbon development on their wheels, and the latest is their Firecrest rims…

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-202-lightweight-carbon-clincher01

Their lead engineer, Michael Hall, came from GM’s IRL division and was very familiar with the ARC. He brought that knowledge over to develop the original Firecrest designs. The goals then were combining aerodynamic efficiency and stability with braking performance and durability.

The Firecrest design brought about the now common blunt rim profiles. These improved stability in crosswinds by helping keep the air flow closer to the rim rather than striking off the backside of a pointy edge and creating low pressure zones. Those pressure differentials are what can make the wheel feel like it’s being pushed sideways. The Firecrest design puts the center of pressure close to the steering axis, which limits the torque that winds can put on the system.

The dimple patterns used on Zipp’s wheels help further by reducing vibrations caused by the wind vortices shedding from the rim. This aids stability, but also reduces rider fatigue.

Add in Zipp’s proprietary resin mix to withstand braking temps over 600ºF, plus decent modulation and power thanks to their own brake pads, and you end up with an all around solid performer that’s tough enough for everyday riding. And one they’re proud to say is almost always the benchmark against which the competition compares their wheels, too.

So, how to make it better?

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs03

Rims are great, but they need to built into a wheel, so for 2016, the attention has been focused on improving their hubs. The new 77/177 hubset gets a precision bearing preload that’s set at the factory rather than being user adjustable and a bigger 17mm axle.

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs05 2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs06

The larger diameter axle provides a more robust connection in the frame and a stiffer platform for the bearings to roll on, which improves durability and performance.

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs02 2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs01

The freehub sticks with their 10º (36 point) engagement, but it’s now compatible with the XD Driver Body, too.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because most of this tech was introduced on the disc brake versions released earlier this year. Now it’s available in rim brake clincher and tubular versions of the Firecrest 202/303/404/808 wheels and the 404 Firecrest 650C set.

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-77-177-hubs04

Hubset weight is identical to the previous 88/188, with 5g shifting from front to rear. The new 77/177 hubs are 110g front and 250g rear (compared to 115g/245g for 88/188). They’re thru axle compatible, too, just by swapping end caps, but they’ll come with new quick release skewers that have a wider, more ergonomic lever. All wheels are laced with Sapim CX Sprint spokes except the 202 tubular, which gets CX Ray.

New hubs…maybe not the groundbreaking change you’d expected. So here’s some big news: They’re dropping prices across the entire Firecrest lineup, coming in a few hundred dollars less than the prior versions:

2016-zipp-firecrest-wheels-specs-and-pricing

The disc brake Firecrest wheels saw a similar price drop when they launched earlier this year using the new 77/177 hubs (except in disc brake versions, obviously). The higher end Firestrike rims carry over unchanged for now, but they hinted they may go on sale soon, suggesting changes are coming.

2016-Zipp-30-Course-tubular-and-clincher-rim-brake-wheels

The 30 Course alloy wheels gains a rim brake version. Like the disc brake version introduced earlier this year, it’s tubeless ready, and it also gets the new 77/177 hubs.

2016-zipp-30-course-rim-brake-wheels-specs-and-pricing

It’s a low profile aero design that’s wider, coming up in at 25mm wide (21mm internal for clincher), which mates up nicely to their new tire widths:

2016-Zipp-Firestrike-404-aero-carbon-clincher-28c-tires01

The Speed tires gain a 28mm width, and the Course tire also gets the 28 plus a massive 30mm option. Not only do you get the added compliance and comfort of the larger air volume, but their CRR (Coefficient of Rolling Resistance) showed the 28mm to have lower rolling resistance by 8 watts compared to the 25mm tire.

Don’t let the widths fool you – all of them are high performance road tires, not gravel or dirt road tires. That said, it is a new tread pattern that’s supposed to have better wet weather performance compared to the narrower versions, which were designed primarily for dry conditions.

The tires are all still tube-type, as are all the carbon rims. They readily admit that tubeless is the future of road, and they’re working on it. But they want to create something that has the ride quality of tubulars, and they say they’re not quite there…yet.

Zipp.com

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Joe c
Joe c
7 years ago

I’m sure Steve HED would be impressed.

Hank mardukas
Hank mardukas
7 years ago

Darn, was hoping for boost road.

1080
1080
7 years ago

Wider tires will be out of the rim profile so no more aero shape.

Jdog
Jdog
7 years ago

I am ready to buy 303’s when and only when they come in tubeless. I don’t run tubes on any of my bikes. The end.

PK
PK
7 years ago

‘Great now with the help of adapters I can put these Zipps on my old and newer thru axles bike’ – last words before realizing the hubs don’t have rotor compatibility followed shortly by a crash into a car

dontcoast
dontcoast
7 years ago

hey they finally ditched the scary tension ring

also bonty aeolus is all tubeless…

this update is a bit silly

endurobob
endurobob
7 years ago

preload set up at the factory and not user serviceable? sounds like a massive headache for service departments and home wrenches everywhere.

John
John
7 years ago

I’d like to see that Firestrike brake track carry down to the rest of their rim brake wheels.

Also, maybe it’s just me, but I’m guessing it would probably be OK if they dropped the brake track entirely from their disc brake wheels. 😉

greg
greg
7 years ago

17mm axles have been present since 2009. Kinda silly touting lower rolling resistance of the tires when their provided tubes are thick and heavy and slow.
@Hank mardukas – best comment yet!
@endurobob – not user adjustable. This, like pretty much any hub, is user serviceable in the sense that bearings can still be replaced.

WannaBeSTi
WannaBeSTi
7 years ago

I heard from our Zipp rep that the new hubs are Asian-made instead of American-made. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but I’d rather have American-made.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
7 years ago

WannaBeSTi

Their old hubs are infamously terrible. I love having American-made stuff but only if they actually make something decent. The idea of paying double or close to double for an inferior part made in the US is senseless. I’ll pay a premium for something of equal quality and weight but not for substantially lower quality and weight. Practically no one makes a fuss free hub in the US that’s of a reasonable weight(forget price). King’s come loose and the drag in them is terrible, I have White Ind. hubs and while I’ve had some luck with them, they source cheap bearings and you do have to retighten them more often than I’d like…love that they come in different colors though

Bill
Bill
7 years ago

@Veganpotter basically nails it here. Even some of the lower cost hubs are lasting longer than some of the fancy US made ones (Bitex, Novatec, etc) and much lighter to boot.

I have found White Industries to last forever personally, and the flanges seem to hold up to being laced to multiple rims much better than some of the cheaper made stuff does.

boom
boom
7 years ago

@Jdog: Why not get the Bontrager Aeolus instead? Lighter, supposedly more aero, US made, DT hubs, SUPER stiff, and tubeless compatible!

Itchy Bon
Itchy Bon
7 years ago

They look nice, but I’m too old fashioned to pay $1500 more to gain half a pound and worse braking than I would for a good ol’ pair of aluminum clinchers. Tubulars, are a different story, but I can’t call carbon clinchers race wheels. Again, just me.

michael
michael
7 years ago

I am glad to hear that Zipp is finally working on tubeless.

Velociraptor
Velociraptor
7 years ago

I’m more excited about the tires than the rims.

A.
A.
7 years ago

Wow, they finally found a way to compete with Enve… Drop the price and outsource the hubs to Asia..

I’ll take the DT Swiss hubs over these updates any day.

Confused
Confused
7 years ago

Am I missing something? HED Ardennes Plus SL are 40 grams heavier and $900 cheaper. In fact, you can buy a second set of HED training wheels for the cross or the winter for the cost of the Zipps. I don’t get clincher Zipps – they’re not really light, braking sucks in the wet and they’re really expensive.

Jdog
Jdog
7 years ago

@boom: none of my $ goes to the T-Reck evil empire.

daniel
7 years ago

yeah,price is lower than before,a lot

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