Reviews of Products
Manufacturer Profile: Zipp Speed Weaponry
Why do we carry what we carry? This is one of the best questions you could ask of any dealer. At Fit Werx, we spend a lot of time researching any product that we carry. While we lose some sales because we are not willing to always jump on the latest marketing bandwagon or just carry any brand people are interested in, we sleep well knowing that we offer our athletes products that work better, last longer and perform better.
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Location: Speedway, Indiana
Number of Employees: Approximately 30
Materials Used: Carbon and Aluminum
Point of Origin: Speedway, Indiana
Unique Attributes: One of the most experienced companies with carbon fiber fabrication in the industry, Zipp is the most aero of the aero wheel companies. Zipp offers the widest range of carbon wheel options on the market.
Web Sites: www.zipp.com
- The data almost universally supports that Zipp's rim shape is the most aerodynamic available. These wheels are fast.
- Zipp wheels are very balanced in regards to weight, rolling resistance, aerodynamics and serviceability. They are not "one hit wonders".
- More options than any other company in regards to rim depth.
- They keep improving every year.
- From the alloy 101 to the Super-9 Disc, Zipp makes a very wide range of wheels to fit just about every rider's needs and budget.
- Zipp handlebars and stems have proven to be some of the highest quality and most ergonomically friendly shapes available.
Considerations of Zipp Wheels:
- Zipp hubs use a pressed in end cap for their axles. It is possible for these to come loose and be lost while the skewers are removed from the axle.
We were familiar with Zipp long before we even started Fit Werx. From the mid-nineties onward, Zipp was not only pushing the envelope with wheel design, but frame design as well. Zipp's carbon beam bikes were arguably some of the fastest and most comfortable frames ever made and it was too bad that they stopped producing them. This being said, that gave them more time to focus on wheels and that has certainly paid off.
Few companies have established themselves as category leaders the way that Zipp has in the performance race/event wheel segment. While it may seem like much of this success was a by-product of making strong marketing decisions and having a trendy product, what we like about Zipp is that they keep pushing the envelope. Zipp never stops innovating and looking for ways to improve.
While Zipp was acquired by SRAM in late 2007, we are confident that little will change in regards to their approach. If anything, SRAM will only make their products and systems even better.
What has stood out about Zipp for years is that they are very focused on building products that excel. When it comes to performance, Zipp has no interest in coming in second or compromising. A little aero wheel history:
Zipp, along with HED, can really be credited with establishing the aero wheel category altogether in the early 1990's. Together, Zipp and HED hold the original patent on the Toroidal shape that, to-date, remains one of the most aero shape for a rim ever conceived. Zipp honestly could have sat back on the toroidal concept and nursed money out of the design for decades – it is that good. However, we like that they did not. Through the years, Zipp engineers have spent more time and money in studying how the wind relates to bicycle wheels than anyone. Every year, Zipp engineers keep working to make their rim shape and wheel offerings even better aerodynamically. The introduction of the Firecrest shape is testimony to the Company's drive to keep pushing the envelope.
While many wheel companies test their wheels in the wind tunnel, Zipp is one of the few that actually designs their wheels in the wind tunnel. What is the difference? While many wheels are designed and put on the market and then tested in the wind tunnel to see how they perform, Zipp actually uses the wind tunnel to design their wheels.
The development of the Zipp 1080 rim design in 2007 is a perfect example of this. Before even going into the wind tunnel Zipp engineers used wind and road directional data from across the nation to determine what yaw angles (basically, the angle off the front of the object) were most important in cycling. Between the rider's own speed/momentum, the direction of the road and the way the wind usually blows, the air resistance that slows us down the most tends to hit us at 10-20 degrees of Yaw angle. Based on this, Zipp decided that all of their rim designs should perform optimally in conditions with wind coming from 10-20 degrees of yaw and that is what they went into the tunnel looking to perfect. When the time to go to the wind tunnel came, Zipp brought 43 different wheels in and about a dozen of them were prototype shapes for the new 1080. All were the same 108mm deep, but subtle changes in the bulge shape and placement were tested. While Zipp engineers tested wheels at 0 Yaw (head on), they focused on the data taken from 10-20 degrees primarily and the results were intriguing. What they found was that even very small shifts in the shape and position of the rim bulge in conjunction with how and where they placed their patented Zipp ABLC dimples made a meaningful difference in aerodynamic drag even when the rim depth remained constant. When all was said and done, the design that tested best right in the middle (15 degrees of Yaw) was the end design and what became the 2008 Zipp 1080.
Frankly, Zipp could have done no wind tunnel testing on the Zipp 1080 and just stuck their name on it and said it tested well and it would have sold just fine and been one of the more aero wheels on the market. What stands out is that while Zipp could have gone that way, they did not. Zipp is a company that is concerned about every last watt and about maximizing performance without compromise. In the end, when you ride a Zipp wheel, you can rest assurred that they are not just wind tunnel tested, but are real world wind tunnel designed to work as optimally as possible across the widest array of likely real world conditions became the production design.
In 2011, Zipp introduced a new rim shape, Firecrest. Not only is Firecrest more aerodynamic than any other rim design, it improves handling in crosswinds, wheel strength and overall ride quality. Firecrest was initially used on 404's and 808's, both in tubular and carbon clincher versions. In 2012, 303 tubulars and carbob clinchers were added to the Firecrest offerings.
In the past decade, subtle shifts in rim width, the addition of a flat braking surface, dimpling, the execution of the unique patented bulge design that only Zipp offers, and now Firecrest have resulted in an even more versatile aero rim shape for all Zipp models. Today, the Zipp 303, Zipp 404 and Zipp 808 continue to be updated annually and remain the standard all wheels are judged by in regards to aerodynamic versatility while the completely redesigned lightweight and aero Zipp 202 and Zipp 303 show that ultralight and very aero do not have to exist exclusive of one another. In fact, the 32mm rim shape found on the 2008 Zipp 202 beats many 50mm or deeper wheels in terms of aerodynamics while weighing under 1100 grams a pair!
Zipp's wheel designs have always been about aerodynamics while minimizing weight. However, they also realize that a bicycle wheel is a sum of its parts and, if you want to maximize a performance, you need more than just an aero and light rim. Zipp uses high quality hubs with tight tolerances that minimize friction and rolling resistance for this reason. The angular contact steel bearings that Zipp supplies standard with most of their wheels have less rolling resistance than the vast majority of ceramic bearing equipped hubs on the market and a Zipp hub equipped with an ABEC Grade 3 or better ceramic bearing is as smooth as it gets. While a hub design this light and low rolling resistance is not going to be as impervious to water as a higher rolling resistance hub with more friction seals, it is truly superior when it comes to how fast it rolls. In the end, event/race wheels are about speed and Zipp knows all about speedy wheels.
Zipp wheels and hubs are works of minimalism. Yes, Zipp wheels are cutting edge, but they realize that even a fast event/race wheel is going to be ridden and worked on. Unlike some of their competitors, Zipp did not discard with serviceability and functionality in their pursuit of aerodynamics and light weight. We really like that Zipp does not conceal spoke nipples – concealed spoke nipples have been shown to do little to nothing aerodynamically and it sure is nice when a wheel can be trued without removing the tires. We also like that the cassette bodies are easy to change from Campagnolo to Shimano and the hubs can be taken apart with standard Allen wrenches in a matter of minutes for bearing replacement or service.
Another thing that stands out about Zipp as a dealer is that they truly want to improve and they want feedback. When Fit Werx opened in 2001, we were actually the first authorized and stocking Zipp dealer in all of New England. The first couple years resulted in our harsh New England roads eating more ultra-light carbon rims than we had hoped. The good news was that Zipp noted this too and they sent a representative out to meet and ride with us to find out what could be done. He immediately realized that our roads were a lot rougher than Indiana's and that Zipp needed to make a change in rim lay-up if they were going to nip the issue. Within three months, Fit Werx was set-up as a test account for a new more durable rim lay-up that Zipp engineers had developed. The test was a great success as the number or cracked rims we were seeing from wheels we had sold virtually disappeared. By 2006 Zipp initiated this new generation Carbon Bridge Technology rim design into all of their rims throughout the world. What impressed us was that not many companies the size of Zipp would listen or pay that close attention to a dealer in a remote area of the country. But Zipp did. Since that time, we have been happy to continue to work with Zipp to provide rider and dealer feedback to help improve their products and bring them to the next level.
In recent years, Zipp has expanded their offerings outside of wheels and we have found their handlebars, stems and aerobars to be some of the most ergonomically friendly on the market while being strong and light. To date, we have not had a single Zipp handlebar fail during normal use. We cannot say that about many other bar companies in general and they are the only carbon fiber bar manufacturer that this holds true. More impressively, Zipp's Contour bar and 145 carbon stem have been our best selling carbon stem and road bar since 2006, so the number out there is above average as well.
So, while Zipp's aggressive marketing has not hurt, it has little to do with why we carry Zipp wheels. We carry Zipp wheels because of the hard work and dedication that they have made to building the fastest aero wheels on the planet – if you are looking at aerodynamics, no one does it better than Zipp. If you are looking for a balanced wheel that addresses everything from lateral stiffness to rolling resistance and weight well, Zipp is very close to the head of the pack in all these departments as well.
ABLC – "Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control": You need skin friction drag to minimize much more energy consuming pressure drag. ABLC is the combination of a precise bulged toroidal rim shape in combination with surface variations (like rim dimpling) to create as thin and consistent a layer of skin friction drag as possible against the wheel. This skin friction layer helps keep the air around the wheel calmer and less turbulent and thus minimizes pressure drag. Much like a golf ball, ABLC minimizes turbulence and wind resistance at a variety of yaw (wind) angles through the use of shape and surface structure. To learn more about how aerodynamic drag works on bicycles, visit our pages on aerodynamics.
Carbon Bridge Technology: The 'capstone' on Zipp's full carbon tubular rims that is created by combining bundles of extra strong Kevlar to the outside of the carbon rim surface. This Kevlar embedded composite structure increases the rims impact resistance without hampering stiffiness at the surface of the rim. Kevlar is not as stiff as carbon, but it is more forgiving while being significantly stronger than steel. Thus, it makes a great material for localized high impact areas (like the contact edge of a bicycle rim) that are under a lot of load and that need to be both strong and forgiving simultaneously. Carbon Bridge Technology allows Zipp to minimize material and weight in-between the two rim sidewalls while making sure that the highest load areas on the rim (at the edges) can absorb impact effectively. The current generation of Carbon Bridge Technology has helped Zipp overcome almost all of the cracking concerns that some of their earlier generation ultralight carbon rims experienced while still maintaining an ultralight design.
Firecrest – Zipp's latest generation rim profile that uses an almost constant width rim from the spoke bed to the braking track in order to help control air around the back half of the wheel and thus improve aerodynamics while reducing negative handling imbalances placed on the rim from sidewind.
ICT – "Inversion Composites Technology": Zipp's carbon structural rim lay-up process. ICT combines multi-modulus carbon and other composites with a very precise lay-up schedule. Zipp rims combine a monocoque molded radial carbon structure (lightweight and shaped) with unidirectional composite fibers (stiffness and strength) to maximize rim torsional stiffness while simultaneoulsly minimizing weight and maintaining durability.
M2CM – "Multi-Material Co-Molding": Zipp's proprietary process of joining carbon fiber rims and aluminum braking surfaces on their clincher wheelsets. The co-molding process is designed to allow for heat dissipation under braking and to allow for a strong mold that is not structurally compromised under heavy braking stress. M2CM was only used on clincher rims with alloy braking tracks.
VCLC – "Viso-Elastic Constrained Layer Control": Layers of vibration damping materials added into Zipp carbon rim structures that are designed to enhance high frequency vibration damping qualities without compromising stiffness and responsiveness.
SHIFT – "Spoke Hole Impact Forming Technology": A focused forging process at the spoke hole designed to minimize stress risers around the spoke hole while aligning the grain structure of the alloy to further maximize strength. Instead of removing material like machining, SHIFT is based on a forging material that compresses and aligns the material. This allows for the minimal weight that makes machining attractive while gaining the stength and durability found in forging to be achieved simultaneously.
Performance bicycle wheels should not be treated like a commodity and you get more than just a wheel when you buy from Fit Werx. The Fit Werx Wheel Rewards program offers you value that is well beyond just a competitive price.
The Wheel Protection Program offers you the following security and protection:
- Advice. Fit Werx is nationally known for asking the right questions and then providing you with real answers that apply to your individual needs and allow you to choose the optimal wheel for your needs. Not everyone should be on the same wheel…
- Competitive pricing. Our regular pricing on wheels is very competitive and we will always work to meet or beat a price quote from an authorized dealer of a product.
- Wheel Protection Program (WPP). Every Fit Werx Event/Race wheel protects its owner against down time due to repairs or warranty work. For two years from purchase, if your Fit Werx event/race wheels are out of service due to a warranty or repair situation at a time when really need them for an event or race, we will provide you with a pair of demo event/race wheels for up to two weeks of time at no charge to you (beyond shipping).
- Free Tire Mounting. Even on tubulars. Our skilled technicians take the time to install your tires properly and your initial install costs nothing extra. A $40-$60 value on a pair of tubulars.
- Full Wheel Tolerance & Tension Check. We do not rely on the factories to do final detail work. Our technicians are some of the most detail oriented in the business and every wheel we sell is hand inspected and adjusted to make sure it meets our standards.
- Warranty. Fit Werx is an authorized dealer of every product we carry. Unlike many internet sites and auctions (where many products are even stolen), anything you purchase from Fit Werx is new and has a full warranty
Call or email for more information on Zipp products or to order!
Visit the Tech Center for more articles on a wide variety of bike technology and fitting subjects. If you have questions or are interested in a product, don't hesitate to stop in, call, or e-mail one of our locations. We continue to build our inventory and have one of the best selections of in-stock products anywhere in the northeast. We are always here to answer questions and we ship daily if you need anything.