2017 Zipp NSW Carbon Clincher Wheels Explained

Proven Firecrest shape with increased aero advantage and braking power

Tech Wheels
Zipp 454 Pair

A lust-worthy pair of Zipp 454 carbon wheels. Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

Offer to buy a roadie any wheelset they want, and many, if not most will ask for Zipp. The Indiana-based company that’s owned by SRAM has been redefining what constitutes a high-end wheel for as long as they’ve been in business, and they show no signs of letting up in 2017.

Zipp’s new NSW Series wheels take the proven shape of Firecrest rims and increase their aerodynamic advantage, braking power, and efficiency, while dropping rim weight in the process. All this without sacrificing durability or ride quality compared to the renowned Firecrest rims. A revised carbon layup decreases weight at the outer edge of the rim for faster acceleration, and the new Cognition hubset with Axial Clutch technology lets you keep your hard-earned momentum by disengaging the freehub’s ratchet mechanism when you stop pedaling.

Additional technology seen on the NSW wheels includes the powerful Showstopper grooved brake track, ABLC SawTooth Dimpling, which creates a “wave” profile to the rim’s aerodynamic dimpling pattern, and Impress graphics, which do away with stickers that can disrupt airflow around the rims.

Zipp’s flagship wheel for 2017 is the 454 NSW. The radically-shaped rim was developed using biomimicry, which models structures commonly seen in biological shapes and processes. In this case, Zipp based the alternating-height rim profile, called SawTooth, on the fins of humpback whales. Each high point, or node, is dubbed a HyperFoil, and is covered with HexFin ABLC dimples. These hexagonal dimples are precisely arranged to work with each HyperFoil, reducing aerodynamic drag and improving stability in crosswinds.

Zipp 454

ABLC SawTooth, HydroFoil nodes, HexFin ABLC dimpling on the 454. Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

So, which Zipp NSW wheel is potentially right for you? Here’s a breakdown. The 202 is an unapologetic climber’s wheelset: light, a rapid accelerator, and stiff enough and aero enough to maintain the lead you built up as you rail the backside descent. If you like hammering the flats as much as sweating out the climbs, the 303 is a true all-around wheelset. For rolling to flat terrain, with lots of sprints, fast corners, and rough pavement/dirt/gravel/cobbles, and even criteriums, the 404 is your choice. For those who want the extra 10% that the highest-performing product bestows, the 454covers the same needs as the 404. Finally, for time trials, triathlons, and even ultra-flat road races, the 808 is as stiff and as aero as you can get without sacrificing safety and handling.

Zipp’s 202 NSW, 303 NSW, 404 NSW, and 808 NSW wheels all share the following:

  • NSW carbon layup
  • Showstopper brake track
  • ABLC SawTooth Dimpling
  • Impress graphics
  • Cognition hubset
  • Sapim CX Ray spokes, straight pull
  • 18 front spokes, radially laced
  • 24 rear spokes, two-cross laced
  • 250-pound rider weight limit

Zipp’s 454 NSW wheels feature:

  • NSW carbon layup
  • Showstopper brake track
  • ABLC SawTooth variable depth rim profile
  • HydroFoil individual nodes
  • HexFin ABLC hexagonal dimpling
  • Impress graphics
  • Cognition hubset
  • Sapim CX Ray spokes, straight pull
  • 18 front spokes, radially laced
  • 24 rear spokes, two-cross laced
  • 250-pound rider weight limit

Zipp 2017 NSW Wheels

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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