Zipp 404 NSW clinchers review

All new Zipps set a fresh benchmark

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

Zipp's Indianapolis HQ contains a windowless facility it calls 'the Nest'. The debut product of this lab – the Zipp 808 NSW wheelset – took victories last year in the UCI women's team time trial and World Ironman.

While the 808 is very much a TT special, the 404 NSW, with its 58mm deep rim, is more of an all-rounder wheel. Zipp claims the 404 NSW is less affected by sidewinds than previous 404s, which it has achieved by reworking its dimpled rim into what it calls an 'ABLC [Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control] SawTooth' pattern. It looks pretty similar, but is designed to reduce the build-up of sideways pressure, the release of which – 'shearing' – causes a bicycle wheel to suddenly jerk to the side in a crosswind.

  • Highs: Impressive up and down, and especially in windy conditions
  • Lows: Big gains mean a big investment
  • Buy if: You want a truly standard-raising pair of all-rounder carbon clinchers

Zipp has also replaced stick-on decals with more aero-friendly printed logos and designed new, lighter 'Cognition' hubs. The 'Axial Clutch' rear hub disengages the ratchet completely when coasting, reducing friction and allowing you to hold speed longer. The magnet-based system requires no lubrication or maintenance, and its low profile also makes it compatible with SRAM's 1x single-chainring setups.

But what do all these things mean when we're riding? Well, it's hard to measure the rear hub's gains, but we did find that we could maintain more speed through corners. However, it's in the wind that these really shine. You feel disruption from crosswinds much, much less than before – lending credence to Zipp's 34% reduction claim.

The wide rims – 27.8mm maximum external width – also provide the ideal profile to shape wide tyres for increased suppleness and traction. We found that they worked best with 25mm rubber, though with 28s you will get the ultimate in cushioning. In spite of this extra width, they're better climbers than we expected and those new hubs do roll extremely smoothly. At 1550g the NSWs are also a significant 140g lighter than the Firecrest 404s.

Zipp has once again upped the ante with the new incarnation of its 404s, their lower weight and better bearing adjustment addressing the issues we had with earlier models. The NSWs are also laterally stiffer, with little discernible flex even when sprinting hard, they have the same excellent ride quality and their braking is up there with the very best when it comes to a carbon braking track.

The price includes wheel bags, valve extenders, titanium skewers, brake pads and a pair of tubes.

  • Front: £950 / US$1350 / AU$ TBC
  • Rear: £1200 / US$1750 / AU$ TBC 

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