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Zipp strikes again.
When Zipp first introduced the 404, they were quickly adopted by the most demanding cyclists due to their exceptional aerodynamics and stable, predictable ride quality in a variety of conditions. It was, after all, the new standard for the manufacturer, standing in as its most ambitious design to date. Well, the next chapter in the 404 just gapped its older sibling, claiming the new top spot on the Zipp block. It's called the 404 Firestrike, and while it draws heavily on the Firecrest platform, it also brings a host of technological advancements all its own. Revisions to the rim itself, a refined set of hubs, and a new brake track are just part of what redefines Zipp's standard in carbon wheel development.
The Firestrike 404, like the Firecrest, is designed to bridge the gap between tubulars and clinchers. It retains the 58mm depth, but bumps the brake track width from 26.53mm (external) to 27.5mm. Zipp found that the new design creates a more stable structure, and offers greater vertical and lateral compliance with increased control, comfort, and rigidity. While the 404 benefits from these welcomed additions, to achieve the Zipp-standard of strength and rigidity, the 404 utilizes unidirectional fibers to handle the tensile and comprehensive loading within the rim, and woven fibers in the spoke-hole areas. The Multi-Material Co-Molding process permanently fuses a sub-200-gram aluminum hoop to a dimpled carbon structure that acts as a leaf spring for road vibration and impact. Next, visco-elastic material is inserted between carbon laminate in the rim to reduce road vibration by around 10 percent. Lastly, the revised dimples of the Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) on the curved rim section work to create a slight turbulence directly above the rim surface, smoothing airflow through more frequent and smaller vortices to provide exceptional control and stability — even on the windiest days.
The brake track was also an area of the new 404s that received a significant overhaul, as Zipp's engineers wanted to make the new wheels' braking as predictable in wet weather as in dry. The result is what Zipp calls its Showstopper technology, which introduces a Silicon Carbide (SiC) textured surface that boosts stopping power in wet conditions.
For the build, Zipp used a refined version of its proprietary 88 hub on the front and the new 188 on the rear, called the v10. This new hub design increases torsional rigidity, and it's also stiffer laterally than the last iteration of the 188. Additionally, it features silky-smooth ceramic bearings that distribute load more evenly across the axle. It maintains the "virtual three-cross" lacing pattern, which delivers three-cross durability with a two-cross build. Lastly, preload is now factory-set, and the wheels receive an 18/24 CX-Ray spoke configuration, with Sapim's secure-lock nipples.
The Zipp 404 Firestrike Carbon Road Wheelset - Clincher comes in the color Black with Zipp's new contrasting Impress graphics. The rear wheel is available with either Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo 11-speed compatible freehub bodies. The wheelset includes rim tape, titanium skewers, valve extensions, 700c x 23mm tubes, individual wheel bags, and Zipp's Platinum Pro Evo Brake Pads. Please note that these wheels are limited to U.S. shipping only.
- Item #ZIP001L
- Q & A
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I bought the beyond black version of this wheel set and have been riding them since December 2014. I initially tightened the wheels the same way as I normally would other skewers. I started riding up the street and as I pedaled harder, I noticed significant brake rub on the rear wheel. Surely, this was not just like the last Aero wheel set that the spokes were not strong enough to resist flexing under load. Upon inspection, I realized the provided skewers need to be overtightened to get the same leverage you would with other non lightweight skewers such as provided by DT swiss.
After that small learning curve, I can say the wheels have been nothing short of amazing and perform exactly as advertised. The stiffness of the wheels under sprinting loads is amazing, and I am not a lightweight cyclist at 235lbs and sprint at +1300 watts. I have not experienced any brake rub since. The wheels have brought me through a windy spring here in NM and the crosswind control is exceptional for a 58mm rim. You still feel the wind and have to maintain control on your bars but it by no means jerky or uncontrollable.
I have experienced only one ride in the wet however but, I can say that the showstopper brake track makes these brake better than my aluminum rims in all conditions thus far. The actually stopped when I wanted them to as opposed to other models I have experienced that you have to hope they stop at all without becoming Fred Flinstone. Modulation with the provided tangent pads is excellent and predictable every time. I have also used these wheels to descend from long climbs and have not experienced overheating enough to effect braking performance or safety.
Their aero performance is exactly like you would expect a deep carbon rim to be as far as straight-line stability and holding speed like a train. I love the fact that these wheels come standard with ceramic bearings and preset hubs that require no adjustment. I did a roll test on the front wheel new out the box with my tires and tubes installed. It rolled for 4 minutes 15 seconds before it stopped under its own mass What?!!
The last positive thing about Zipp wheels in general is their availability of decals and colors to fit any variant of paint or color scheme. You can find four main colors that Zipp sell themselves directly to the consumer, and aftermarket decals in whatever color you fancy.
The only two drawbacks of the wheels are the price and the brake pads have not lasted as long as I expected. I wore down the provided set of pads in the first 1500 miles. But that is a small price to pay to have the aero benefit of 58mm wheels with braking that is just as predictable as only other bike out there you will be riding with(discs excluded).
Hope this review helps and ride safe!
These sound interesting but when are they being released?