I was intrigued to see the new Zipp 454 wheel set at the Rouleur Classic recently. I have admiration for Zipp pushing on with significant investment in R+D and the long time scale necessary to find marginal gains in a mature R+D sector such as wheel rim profiles. The key claim made for the Zipp 454 is a 15% reduction in steering force required in a low yaw angle crosswind (less than 10 degrees incidence) with no significant straight-line speed gain. The key to this development was inspired by the turbecles found on the trailing edge of a Humpback Whale flipper allowing them great manoeuvrability. The tubercles inspired Zipp’s engineers to develop an undulating rim shape that improves stability through improved vortex shedding. Zipp has called them Hyperfoil™.
My question is are the Zipp 454 worth the £3500 RRP? Well, Zipp has a poor history with hub failures, recalls and temperamental bearing pre-load adjusters. So the new EU made Cognition hubs have to prove durable and easier to maintain than previous generations. The Zipp 454 are 1525 grams for a pair of clinchers which is higher compared with our favourite ENVE 4.5 clincher with DT Swiss 180 hubs hand built by us in our workshop which are 55 gram lighter and £500 cheaper. Combined with a 5 year warranty offered by ENVE and ceramic bearings I think it is a tough call for the rider when how a wheel feels to a rider is such a subjective thing to measure.
Popularity and demand versus street pricing: from a retailers perspective (and we don’t sell Zipp) I think it will be interesting to see if Zipp and their parent company SRAM can tackle the price gouging that local bike shops (aka bricks and mortar) have witnessed with Zipp product over the last few years. With two distributors supplying to the UK market and a bit of grey import getting in too it has been hard to prevent Zipp wheel consumer sale prices being driven down to levels just above retailer trade cost. Now I know competition is a good thing but over supply leads to prices being driven down as retailers try to shift stagnant stock and eventually makes them give up trying to sell a product because they know they cannot match the prices being offered by online retailers.
Conclusion – if you think that this is too much to spend on a wheel set say if you are circuit or road racing where speed vs replaceability vs cost is a consideration don’t forget we offer the Corima rim as a great value alternative and we will carry on offering ENVE of course because we believe in the product and add value with quality hubs and expert wheel builds.
Do call us on 01903 214956 for a chat about you next set of wheels or use the contact form.
From the blog
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