Zipp announced the introduction of a sort of “skunk works” project they have been working on over the past few years today with the introduction of the Zipp 454 NSW. We saw one of the first pairs in our NJ location today and received an overview of what the wheels offer. The highlights of what may soon be known as the “whale wheel” (see below) are as follows:
Zipp 454 NSW ‘Saw Tooth’ Rim Profile:
The new Zipp 454 NSW features a ‘saw tooth’ rim profile that Zipp claims to be substantially improve stability in cross winds.
Zipp 454 NSW Reduces Drag 5-10 Watts in the Wind Tunnel:
Zipp claims that the overall profile of the Zipp 454 reduces aerodynamic drag in a wind tunnel from previous benchmark wheels in the range of 5 to 10 watt (depending on Yaw angle).
Zipp 454 NSW Stability Improvement Claims to Double Drag Reduction:
Based on field testing, because the Zipp 454 are significantly more stable in cross winds, the rider can stay in a more constant position. Zipp estimates that this can translate to a savings in the 20+ watt range for some riders. While its more difficult to quantify, there is an additional aero and power advantages to being able to generate higher and more constant levels of cycling output by being better able to hold a line. There are also potentially reductions in fatigue as well as some athletes burn a lot of energy just trying to maintain a line.
The Zipp 454 is designed inspired by patterns observed in nature, specifically the tubercles found on whale fins that trap streamline planar flow in low pressure pockets created by those tubercles. The saw tooth pattern found on the Zipp 454 provides the same effect as the tubercles and is combined with a dimpled patterning on the rim that uses hexagonal shapes instead of rounded shapes with a very specific placement in relation to each saw tooth. This is designed to smooth airflow in the low pressure pockets that each tooth creates.
The unique, non-rounded pattern in the rim reduces weight versus a traditional NSW rim (10 to 15 grams) and marginally increases lateral stiffness. Zipp has quietly spent four years testing this design and the 404 depth (58mm) is the first to launch but this wheel will be available in other depth options in the future. The depth is actually 58mm at its deepest points and 53mm at its lowest.
Other features, like the stellar “Showstopper” braking surface, from the 404 NSW are preserved on the 454.
The Zipp 454 is a very complex wheel design. Each rim involves over twelve man hours to manufacture and the price is set at $4000 a pair. At the moment, Zipp has 75 sets produced and ready to ship starting today in North America with another 75 earmarked for European markets. Supply is limited for the moment so pre-order now to participate but broader production of this wheel is underway and there should be better availability heading into the spring of 2017.
Contact us today if you want to reserve a pair or pre-order.