Aero brand commits fully to disc brakes and tubeless tyre technology

Zipp has announced a total of eight – count ’em – new wheelsets, all of them disc brake-specific and compatible with tubeless tyres. Let’s go through them…

Why all the new wheels? It’s essentially down to the definition of ‘road bike’ getting wider these days and the influence of gravel. Zipp wants to offer aero options to those who aren’t simply riding on asphalt and using rim brakes.

First up, Zipp is expanding its premium NSW lineup to include disc brake clinchers featuring a new rim shape and tubeless compatibility. NSW is the name that Zipp gives to the range that boasts all of its top-end features. The poshest wheels it makes, essentially.

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The US brand has given the disc brake/tubeless treatment to existing models, changing the rim shape and altering the layup, although rim depths remain unaltered:

• 202 NSW Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc brake (32mm deep) £1,100 (f) £1,440 (r)
• 303 NSW Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc brake (45mm deep) £1,100 (f) £1,440 (r)
• 404 NSW Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc brake (58mm deep) £1,100 (f) £1,440 (r)
• 808 NSW Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc brake (82mm deep) £1,185 (f) £1,525 (r)

“Without the constraints of rim brake calliper compatibility or brake-track requirements, our engineers were free to modify the NSW rim design to be disc-brake specific as well as to be more aerodynamically efficient and stable at the most common wind angles,” says Zipp.

Zipp is able to extend the ABLC Sawtooth dimples all the way to the rim’s edge, rather than needing to stop short in order to accommodate a brake track. The Sawtooth is designed to produce higher frequency vortex shedding for stability in crosswinds. 

Zipp says that the 202 NSW and 303 NSW have a 21mm internal width because its engineers found that to be the most aerodynamically efficient option, while the 404 NSW and 808 NSW have a narrower 19mm width because that tested faster in those depths. 

Zipp believes that the 202 NSW and 303 NSW are well suited to rough roads and perform fastest with 28mm tyres at the majority of wind angles. The 404 NSW and 808 NSW, more likely to be used on asphalt roads, are aerodynamically optimised for 25mm tyres.

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All of the NSW disc brake wheels are tubeless compatible and have a rim bed made with internal ridges to lock the tyre’s bead in place. They also boast features of Zipp’s existing NSW range, including ImPress graphics printed directly onto the rim (as opposed to using decals), said to allow the dimples to do their vortex-shedding job, and Zipp’s Cognition hubset tech that’s designed to cut drag when you’re coasting.

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The NSW wheels are Zipp’s lightest carbon clinchers at each rim depth. The 404 NSWs for example, have a claimed weight of 760g (f) and 840g (r). They’re all centre lock and will be available from September/October.

Next up, Zipp is releasing four new Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake wheelsets (crikey! That’s a mouthful) to go alongside its existing 303 Firecrest one.

These new models are:

• 202 Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake (32mm deep) £1,015 (f) £1,185 (r)
• 303 650b Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake (45mm deep)  £1,015 (f) £1,185 (r)
• 404 Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake (58mm deep) £1,015 (f) £1,185 (r)
- 808 Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake (82mm deep) £1,145 (f) £1,315 (r)

The Firecrest models don’t get the ABLC Sawtooth dimples of the NSW wheels (above) but they do get their own ABLC dimples which, without the need for a brake track, extend right to the outer edge of the disc-specific rims. 

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As with the NSW wheels (above), the 202 and 303 (pictured) models have a 21mm internal width and are said to  be aerodynamically optimised for use with 28mm tyres, while the 404 and 808 models have an internal width of 19mm and are aerodynamically optimised for use with 25mm tyres. 

The 303 650b model is an interesting one in that a 650b wheel has a 584mm bead seat diameter rim compared with the 622mm diameter of a standard 700c road rim (don’t confuse it with a 650c wheel which has a rim diameter of 571mm).

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Who would want this? Zipp’s thinking is that you’re likely to put bigger tyres on a bike you’re riding on anything but asphalt, and the overall diameter of a 650b wheel plus a chunky tyre is similar that of a 700c wheel with a smaller road tyre. 

This wheel might also get used on the road by smaller riders.

All of these Firecrest carbon clincher tubeless disc brake wheels are six-bolt and will be available in October.

The hubs of all eight of these wheels mentioned here come with swappable end caps to work with QRs and thru-axles, including 12x100mm and 15x100mm front thru-axles as well as 12x142mm rear thru-axles. 

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One more new product from Zipp is the SL-70 Ergo carbon handlebar that comes with the flattened upper shape of the Contour SL bar, a 70mm reach and short 128mm drop. Everyone’s on short drop bars these days.

The drop section has a variable radius, the idea being to allow for multiple hand positions when you’re down there, and the tops have a 3° backsweep that’s designed to keep your wrists comfortable.

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The SL-70 Ergo carbon bar has a claimed weight of 205g (42cm) and will be available in 40cm, 42cm and 44cm widths from November, priced £259.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.