Speed is one of humankind's greatest obsessions. Galileo made the first attempt to discover the speed of light, but was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, lasers didn't exist in 1638, so he had to compromise with a highly variable method of human reaction time using lamps and lamp covers. 38 years later, the world knew the approximate speed of light from the work of Olaus Roemer, who used a method of measuring the time between eclipses of a certain moon as the Earth orbited toward and away from Jupiter. His method was only able to work because, thanks to our obsession of speed, Earth's orbital speed had already been calculated. And thanks to these same discoveries we now measure speed more recreational, such as the speed our bikes go. But you know what's more fun than measuring speed? Feeling speed. And there's no better way to feel speed than on a pair of ZIPP wheels.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ZIPP manufactures cutting edge composite rims for use in bicycle and wheelchair competition. The ZIPP brand makes its way to the consumer in the form of a complete wheel system, factory built by ZIPP. Out of the box, it's easy to fall into the trap of looking at the 404 Firecrest wheels for far too long before riding them. Understandable, given the unique dimpled texture on the rim and the way light dances on the finished carbon surface when fondled about. It also takes a minute to get used to how light the wheels feel in your hands, despite the substantial feel of a 58mm deep rim that your fingers may or may not wrap all the way around. When mounted on a bike, a transformation happens.
You're not alone in wanting carbon wheels just because they make bikes look faster. Aesthetics are surely a driver in the desire for carbon wheels, whether it's a specific rim depth or just their color. Depending on the rim depth, carbon wheels fill negative space inside a bike differently. On carbon wheels, tires with black sidewalls blend into the wheel a lot smoother compared to the shiny machined brake track on most aluminum wheels. You can also pair tan colored sidewall tires with carbon wheels for striking contrast to really let the tires stand out on your bike. Carbon wheels look cool, but there are real performance benefits to them as well.
When you're finished posting photos of your new wheels to Instagram, let the ZIPP 404 Firecrest prove why you splurged for premium wheels. It doesn't matter if you made your purchase for competition purpose or for the simple pleasure of having great riding wheels, remember that we all share an obsession for speed. If speed doesn't matter to you, skip the next section. Likely, though, you're here because you want to go faster. For use in Wisconsin, the 404 Firecrest has a great rim depth.
Being stiffer and more aerodynamic than wheels with shallower rim profiles, these wheels love to be hammered up short steep hills and across flat roads. They're not too deep, either. Solo riders will appreciate their ability to spin up quickly from stop signs and street lights, in addition to feeling manageable in strong cross winds. The coolest thing about riding aero wheels is how much better they hold speed than shallow rims. It takes less effort/power to ride at the same speed, and you go faster at equal effort/power. You can read data analysis sheets on how much faster the wheels are, or you can mount a demo set to your bike and see for yourself. Call ahead to reserve time on our demo 404 Firecrest wheelset.
But even if speed isn't your first priority, there's another highly sought after trait of carbon wheels: ride quality. Just as your carbon frame and cockpit components are designed to filter vibrations, carbon rims play a part in absorbing road buzz. This gives the illusion like you're floating just above the road surface; a feeling of motion without any rolling resistance. Don't confuse this with bump absorption, as tire pressure plays a more important role with that than wheels do. Nonetheless, some people have touted a softer ride on carbon wheels, which they attribute to the ovalized shape of the rim acting as a leaf spring.
Overall, premium wheels have tighter tolerances and are built to exacting measures, so they should feel better. Another area where these wheels shine is cornering. The wide profile of the 404 rim and the stiffness that comes along with it provide a very confident cornering experience. Lean the bike over and enjoy the feeling known as carving. Wheels with more flex do not feel as planted when leaned over. And if you miscalculate entry speed, then you'll have an easier time correcting your line mid corner. Tires play a significant role in what you can get away with as far as limits of traction, so you'd be doing a disservice to these wheels by mounting wire bead tires with 60 TPI or lower. Wheels like this deserve tires such as the Continental GP 4000, Vittoria Corsa, or Bontrager R4.
There's a reason why these wheels are "Handmade in Speedway, Indiana". ZIPP knows speed. And once you ride their wheels, so will you.