Zipp wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 1, 2010 under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

Zipp is part of SRAM, so I will discuss SRAM briefly in this section as well.  SRAM wheels are targeted more for the mass market.  That is to say, people who are cheap.   Zipp is the high-end performance-oriented wheel brand in the SRAM family.   Not to say that SRAM-branded wheels are bad, but you certainly come to that conclusion when you ask about crash-replacement, weight limits, etc.   They quickly direct you to the Zipp products.   The guys at the booth said that SRAM wheels have a weight limit of 225 pounds, then guided us over to the Zipp area.

Zipp wheels are just stunning. Sexy.  You want to lick them.  Zipp was the only booth with a cold shower in the corner.

However, rumor has it that the material that they make the Zipp decals out of is extremely expensive because as soon as the slap the Zipp logo on the wheels, the cost of the wheels skyrockets.  While there appears to be some truth to that, and Zipps are expensive, other performance carbon wheels are pricey as well, so they must source their decals from the same place.

Zipp has the patented dimples on the surface of their deep-dish carbon wheels that they claim greatly reduces the air friction as the wheel passes through the air.   They point to golf balls – an undimpled golf ball will travel a dramatically shorter distance than a dimpled one because it doesn’t move through the air as easily.

The Zipp 404 Max Clincher - the heavy rider version of the 404. Rated for up to 275 pounds. Â Â $2,300 for the set, 1711 grams for the pair.

The Zipp 808 Max Clincher - the heavy rider version of the 808. Rated for up to 275 pounds. $2,500 for the set, 1970 grams for the pair.

Zipp has Clydesdale-specific versions of their 404 and 808 wheelsets, although I heard that they are moving away from the “Clydesdale” moniker in favor of something less… insulting.   I guess Clydesdale conjures up pictures of big fat guys, and Zipp wants to divorce themselves of that association.  They are going to be calling their heavy-rider versions “Max,” so there will be Zipp 404 Max and Zipp 808 Max.  I feel better about myself already.

One thing about Zipp – they do back up their claims with data.  They have the only product guides with actual charts comparing their wheels to other manufacturers, and even among their own products.  They have sold enough decals that they can fund some serious time in the wind tunnel.  These guys will tell you how many seconds a given design feature will cut off your time trial (15 seconds off of a 40km TT for example).  There’s a great summary of some performance tests that Zipp did in wind tunnels.

On a side note… the dimples concept got me to thinking what a tremendous advantage it might have to have so-called “cottage cheese thighs.”  Think about it, cellulite has some serious dimpling that occurs naturally.  Imagine the advantage that a rider with serious cellulite could have.  Now, if a rider has cottage cheese thighs, they are probably not terribly fit, so they’re not going to be a speed demon, even on the flats.  But, imagine someone just rife with cellulite, using Zipp wheels, then descending!  They are probably heavy as well as dimpled, so with the aero thighs, aero wheels, and the benefits of gravity, they would descend like an asteroid!

In addition to dimples, Zipp also has another new option for the 404s and the 808s.  It’s called the “Firecrest” profile.    This profile is targeted at reducing drag specifically on the rear wheel.   I came away from Interbike that the Firecrest profile was only available in tubular versions, but was recently informed that they are, in fact available in the 404 and 808 clinchers.  That’s good news, as the aero data on the Firecrest wheels is exciting.  Plus, the shape is apparently even stronger than Zipp’s other rim profiles.

Aero is great, and it makes a tremendous difference in time trials, and for people that primarily ride in flatter terrain.  Where I live, people also want “climbing wheels,” which is all about the weight.  You can be as aero as you want, but up a long steep climb, that means nothing.   I happen to have several sets of wheels one for aero, and climbing.  So, while these Zipps (404s and 808s) are sweet, for a nasty climbing ride, you may want a different wheelset.

Many/most manufacturers have major portions of their manufacturing in Asia, then either drop ship from there, or bring the components back to the US for final assembly.  Not Zipp.  Zipp wheels are made in Speedway, Indiana.  Production and design are in the same facility, which I can tell you from personal experience means a much tighter loop between design/test/manufacture that virtually guarantees more rapid R&D, and quicker resolution to problems as they occur.  And of course, having the factory in the midwest, the availability of parts for the American market is another benefit.  I can tell you from reading the many e-mails I get, this is a problem for some manufacturers.

Crash replacement program

Zipp does have a no-fault crash-replacement program, but describe it only as a “deeply discounted repair.”  For a 404, Zipp says “approximately $400, including shipping.”  For an 808, Zipp says $440 including shipping.

Cassette compatibility

SRAM, Shimano, Campy.

For more information: – look for the “Max” wheels.

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.