I tested the Whyte Wessex, a carbon fibre disc-equipped endurance bike, last year and was hugely impressed. So when SRAM asked if I wanted to test a special showcase bike they had put together using the Wessex frame as a platform to show off their latest components, I didn't hesitate in replying "yes please" to the email.
Let's get one small snag out of the way; you can't actually buy this bike. You can, however, buy an eTap specced bike with different wheels and finishing kit from Whyte for £6,750. No, the real purpose of this bike is to get to spend some quality time with SRAM and Zipp's newest products, and because I've tested the Wessex before, I can at least remove the frameset from the equation when evaluating the components.
So what have we got then? There's the new eTap HRD groupset for starters, the long-awaited hydraulic disc brake version of the company's very popular wireless groupset. Mat Brett rode it at the launch event last summer but we've not yet had the chance to put in some decent miles on it, so that'll be interesting.
The Zipp 404 NSW DB wheels are brand new for 2018, part of the brand's big push to accommodate the growing disc road bike market and to cater to cyclists wanting the most advanced wheels. The NSW wheels are Zipp’s premium offering and in the move to disc brakes have new profiles and are tubeless-ready.
“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
That extends to the unique dimple pattern covering the entire rim, right to the edge, because there’s obviously no brake track to get in the way. The rims are 19mm wide and optimised to 25mm tyres. They’re not cheap, as you might imagine, these are priced a handsome £2,540 a pair.
The tyres are also from Zipp, the 25mm wide Tangente RT25, an all-new tubeless tyre that joins the company’s growing tyre range for 2018. There’s also the RT28 option as well if you need more volume. They have a 127 TPI nylon casing, a 60 ShA durometer rubber and polyamide puncture protection layer under the tread to ward off glass and thorns. Claimed weight is 292g.
We’ve previously tested the Tangente Speed clincher tyres, which we found to offer impressive race-ready performance with a low weight and fast turn of speed. It’ll be interesting to see what these new tyres are like.
The Zipp theme continues, with a Zipp branded seatpost, stem and handlebar rounding out this very special build, oh and don’t forget the Fizik Arione saddle of course. On the scales this 56cm bike weighs 7.7kg, which is a decent weight for a bike with disc brakes and deep section wheels.
So what do you think? Stay tuned for a ride report soon.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.