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Face facts: you've gotten to the point in your training where the only thing that's going to make you faster in your next race is a wheel upgrade. Power matters, but cycling unabashedly favors the best equipment, and if you want to take a big step towards faster splits and saved watts, choose the 404 NSW Carbon Clincher Road Wheel. Employing a versatile 58mm depth and representing a luxurious upgrade to Zipp's Firestrike line, the 404 NSW comes complete with the Zipp Cognition hub and a significant drop in weight over the Firestrike 404.
With a 58mm rim depth, the 404 NSW stands as the last versatile rim size before you enter into finicky deep dish territory. You'll certainly feel gusty breezes when you begin a winding descent at the summit of a climb, but you won't have to worry about turning back home to swap out your wheels when the day turns out to be windier than predicted. As this is Zipp, you'll also enjoy the benefits of the firm's Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) technology, which works to reduce drag and improve the wheelset's ability to slice through the air at a huge range of angle. Whether you're leaning into corners in a circuit race or are tucked into your aerobars for a tri, the 404 NSW's were developed to be used in real-world situations, so they won't require pro-level speeds and a perfect convergence of conditions to truly shine.
As much as you'd rather maintain speeds than slow down, occasionally you'll need to, and for those times, Zipp graced the 404 NSW with its Showstopper brake track. According to Zipp, its now better than ever, employing strategic texturing and a heat-resistant surface to guarantee the kind of reliable stopping power that Zipp says exceeds that of aluminum hoops. Finally, at the heart of the entire system spin Zipp's brand new Cognition hubs, which feature two interlocking rings in the style of those found on swanky hand-built creations, with the functionality to match. Zipp's one of the first to adapt this hub design to mass-produced wheel, and when you hear the clean purr produced from a spinning wheel, you'll understand what a significant advancement this technology represents for the wheel market overall.
- Carbon fiber rim
- 58mm rim depth, 17.25mm internal rim width
- Zipp Cognition hubs
- Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) dimpling
- Showstopper brake track
- Q & A
The new Zipp 404
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I raced with the carbon/alloy Zipp 60s (the older generation 404) and was well pleased with them. But the 60s were narrow rims intended for 21mm tires. Nobody sells tires in that size anymore, and running tires too wide not only negated the aero benefits but hurt cornering as well. So I bit the bullet and figured I'd go with the best Zipp had to offer.
I only have the front wheel so far, but it's pretty amazing. It's nice and light. A 23mm tire, which is what the rim is designed for (for max aero benefit), fits flush with the brake track. I run the front tire at 90psi and oh wow it's so buttery smooth. On a long ride I have no fatigue from vibration through the front wheel--that alone is worth the price for me. The brakes work very nicely and I've ridden them in rain and not noticed any difference in stopping. The marginal aero gain over the Zipp 60 is not within the realm of detection, at least for me, but they do seem to handle quite well in crosswinds and if I can save 7 watts in a race over the Zipp 60s that's still huge. The wheel also looks the business. I also love the fact that I can get tires on and off without needing tire levers.
If there's one annoyance I have so far with the wheel is when descending fast sometimes I can feel the wheel get slightly pushed by wind. While I've never felt like I was ever going to lose control of the bike (and the effect was momentary), it was sudden and still disconcerting. But maybe I'm getting used to it--I'm getting a bit braver on the downhills, so this may just be me.
Better than the Firecrest 404? I can't say--what drew me to these over the Firecrests were (1) the wider rims and (2) the braking. They're definitely better than the Zipp 60s, though.
Zip 404 NSW wheels
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
They are a fantastic set of wheels! I've own a few sets of Zipps 404 Firecrest wheels and the new NSW wheel set is in many ways an improvement starting with the hubs to the new braking surface giving you the stopping power you need when decending.