Product Reviews November 11, 2011

Can a pair of ZIPP's change your life?

In short, they can. Yes. But it doesn't make for much of a review......

So I am taking a leaf out of fellow bikebritain contributor Lukey's book and providing a rounded summary based on my experience of using these (distinctive and frankly enviable) wheels....

So let me begin by saying two things. Firstly, these wheels are pretty special. They alone have changed the handling, performance, ride quality and the overall look of my bike. It looks the business now. Secondly, I attribute my recent ZIPP purchase squarely down to my RIDE24 experience in June earlier this year. This event was an unrequited celebration of all things bike-related, as well as being an opportunity to raise some money (ultimately £70,000) for Action Medical Research (AMR) .

What struck me most of all were the bikes equipped with the deep-rimmed 'aero' type wheels. When static, they looked amazing, completely altering the style and look of the bikes they were part of. On the road, well, the results were jaw dropping. I always knew when I was about to be overtaken by a bike with aero wheels because you could HEAR them approach. A steadily increasing 'Whoosh Whoosh' sound would occur as the bike got closer.......and then disappear within a few moments. It was pointless trying to pursue, though I did, of course try, on a few occasions. I am certain the overtaking wasn't all down to the wheels, but the riders looked pretty useful too. 

It wasn't as if the then current wheels we're slouches. My Easton's had served me very well and they were still capable of providing rolling speed in excess of most other wheels. They were handmade, light and lively. They were stiff too making for a firm ride but well suited to hill climbing. Over the years I had become very attached to these hoops, having provided a considerable improvement over the Mavic CXP22's that had been fitted as standard. (These hoops are also fitted to the 2012 Specialized Allez Comp).

So what of the wheels themselves? They are ZIPP's industry standard 404s, 58mm deep, carbon/aluminium rim, 16 aero bladed spokes on the front, 20 on the back. The carbon rim is dimpled much like the surface of a golf ball to aid their aerodynamic coefficient. This meticulous attention to detail helps reduce the presence of that dirty word 'drag'. Large ZIPP decals on both front and rear. The bearings are sealed units, so when they fail, they will fail. They are made in America and weigh about 1800 grams in total. The wheels come complete with valve extenders, so my considerable stash of shorter length inner tubes had not become moribund overnight. 

When they first arrived I ripped the boxes open like a child on Christmas Day. Certainly as excited as one. The mere movement of the box had caused them to start spinning, and the sound of the ratchet was like sweet music. It was loud. Tick, tick, tick it went, as the wheel spun inexorably round. This boded well. 

There was just one problem. Nothing technical, rather, logistics. My purchase, encouraged by an 'offer' by my friends at wiggle meant that the wheels had arrived in plenty of time to be used during this years Cycle Oregon adventure. Trouble was, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to take them. But, and in equal measure, I was desperate to test them! Regretfully, logic won the day. By changing the wheels over it would also result in a new rear cassette and chain (much needed), plus tyres and I wanted to squeeze another 500 miles out of all of them. I had to wait. 

Unsurprisingly, just a couple of days back from my American adventure, my bike found its way to the LBS where open wheel surgery commenced....

As already postulated, the results were amazing. It's not an over exaggeration to say its like riding a brand new bike. Comfort wise they felt strange to start with. They were a confusing mix of being stiffer than before but softer over bumps. The ride, I think, is more comfortable than before. I've put that down to the carbon to the carbon rims. Rolling speed is simply frightening. Power down, these wheels want to fly. It's as simple as that. Down hill it makes for some very exciting descents. However, overall handling provides the biggest difference. The bike is so twitching now, it's unbelievable. To some extent I've had to relearn how to handle it because it is much more responsive. With Vittoria race tyres, it's a mean combination. The deep rims can be a challenge in a cross wind as well, so you do need to be cautious in a gale. 

True enough, £1600 is alot of money to spend on wheels. I mean, it's quite alot to spend on anything. Plus having bought to this standard, there's no going back, right? I realise that these days being able to enjoy such a luxury purchase, especially with wife and child in tow, makes me lucky. You could buy a (decent), complete, bike for this sum. Are the ZIPPS 4 times better than the EA90SLX's? Probably not. With that said, I don't regret a penny of it. I have yet to shift the dirty big smile I have when I ride the Specialized now; and on that basis I think it's been worth it. Finally, I'm future proofing. At some point I will purchase what I term my 'bike for life' - titanium framed and made to measure. It's just that I have bought the wheels for that ride a little earlier than was strictly necessary! I know. I am a compulsive bike shopper......

I purchased my ZIPPs from online retailer wiggle, but they are widely available from other reputable vendors. 

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