About a year or so ago Zipp made a huge discovery about the shape of their wheels. It was so revolutionary that they decided to scrap there lastest and greatest design that had only been out for a year maybe and re-tool for the new wheel. The Fire Crest is a compete shift from what people always thought was aerodynamic, creating more of a bulbous shape. They claim that they had created a leading and trailing edge that funneled the wind in such a way around the wheel that wind would no longer push you wheel around in a strong cross wind. From what I have experienced so far, that is not true. In the last two road races I have done there have been major amounts of cross winds and I am spending a lot of mental energy trying to not get blown around by a surprise gust of wind. I would say this is the ONLY drawback of the wheel, and of any deep section wheel. The Zipp might do it better than most but it is still there, and you will for sure still get pushed around.
My first impression when I got on the bike though was that it just rolled, and rolled, and rolled. And I was going into a headwind. The pedals seemed to be easier to push, and I felt like I was not having to use as many watts to make the same speed. This compared to my heavy training wheels though, and not compared to anything comparable. So how is this a good opinion about the wheels? Because I never thought that about the previous version of the 404s. They felt good but compared to my China carbon wheels the only thing I noticed was that they were stiffer when I stepped on the gas. Other than that I couldn't really tell a difference. I would think that would be a pretty bad thing for a wheel that is supposed to cost 6 times the amount as the Chinese carbon.
The Fire Crest is worth the cost!
I decided to go with the clincher wheel as well. My last couple years with tubulars I never really got why they were any better than a clincher. The tires were really expensive, and I never used then till they were spent. They either got a tiny leak, or once I hit a pinch flat. Every time it cost me over $100 to replace a perfectly good tire. It also cost me a few hours to get the new tire ready, with glue, stretching, and mounting. I feel it was not worth it at all. So why go with the clinchers? All I have to do is replace a cheep inner tube! I can by tires that are better for racing and I know that I can use them till they are spent. Now I know there is a possibility that I slice a tire open, but that has only happened to me a couple times in the 40,000 or so miles I have done in the last 5 years. So I'm not worried. There has been a lot of data shown as well that clinchers role faster than tubulars, I am not sure why, but I'll just throw that out there.
Over that last year or so wheel builders have improved their techniques in laying up their carbon wheels for clincher wheels. It was often feared that the carbon would not be able to hold the pressure on the side walls of the wheel while also taking the heat caused by braking hard into corners. With time, a lot of money, and trials, they have come up with a strong light weight wheel, with great braking.
When I was looking into buying the new 404s everyone said that they were better than the last generation of 808s. I would have to agree! I have talked with some friends about buying some 808s at some point, at which point someone always has an old set of 808s to sell me. But why now would you ever buy a set of old 808s? If they are not as good as new 404s you are just buying something heavier and as expensive. Sorry Zipp but you just out did your self. What I will do in the near future though is buy some 808s. Why? Because they would be AWESOME! If the Fire Crest 404s are this good, I can't imagine the 808s, hell the 1080s would have to just be about illegal, like having an engine on your bike or something. The great thing about riding on 808s is the noise, it is like a freight train rolling up on you. Might not be a good thing if you are a sneaky racer, but if you are a power house (I wish) you might like the idea. I liked it when I was racing the rev3 tri bike leg last year, powering past hundreds of racers with the roar of these wheels announcing I was coming.
In conclusion, BUY THESE WHEELS!!! After a power meter, I would say this is the best investment you will ever make in your racing. Yes money does buy speed, and at least in my case, when I know I am riding on the best I have nothing to blame on my loss except myself. And in my mind that makes all the difference.
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