Zipp 2018 Firecrest Carbon Clincher – First Look

We recently shared the latest updates to Zipp’s NSW lineup. But Zipp hasn’t just been working on its top-of-the-line wheel sets. They have also been focusing on their bread-and-butter wheels – the Firecrests – as well. To update these wheels, Zipp had to ask themselves, “how do we take on the challenge of enhancing the gold standard?” Do you take an evolutionary approach and refine what’s already great? Or do you start from scratch and create something revolutionary?

Zipp Firecrest Carbon Clincher

There is little doubt that more than seven years after its introduction, the Firecrest line (the 303, 404, and 808 wheels) is still the industry standard. And as such, an evolutionary approach was called for. Take what makes the 808 great, and then look for subtle but effective updates that will bring the 808 to another level. Over the last seven years, Zipp had also introduced its newest NSW line of wheels that have served as a test bed for a variety of new technologies that could easily be applied to a down range set of wheels (trickle-down technology at its best). And thus, the updated Firecrest was born by taking the rim of the original NSW wheels combined with the 77/177 hubs of the current Firecrests.

The updated Firecrest starts with ABLC Sawtooth Technology (We are going to crib from this morning’s NSW article here on the technologies…), The ABLC (Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control) Sawtooth dimple design consists of 12 nodes that are specifically clocked to start aerodynamic shearing at a rate of 50hz at a rider speed of 20mph. Sawtooth accomplishes this by inducing small sheet vortices that shed at a low magnitude, but at a higher natural frequency, thus decreasing the laminar bubble effect on the aerodynamically shielded side of the rim’s profile to further reduce high yaw drag and improve crosswind stability.

To provide serious braking power, there is the Showstopper brake track. Showstopper’s secret resides in directional, molded-in, texture paired with silicon carbide (SiC) particles suspended in the surface resin. SiC is nearly three-times harder than hardened steel, which helps ensure a strong and consistent braking experience. The grooves on the wheel also help to wipe water away and act as cooling vanes. Zipp claims that the net results of its Showstopper technology is a braking force in wet conditions equal to that of industry leading aluminum rims.

At the center of these wheels is the pro-proven 77/177 hub set (versus the NSWs Cognition hub). The 177 rear hub is also XDR driver body compatible for use with SRAM 10-42 cassettes. Unlike the recently updated NSWs, the Firecrests get Sapim CX-Spring spokes versus the CX-Ray spokes.

The wheels are available with either matte black or white decals – ImPress is saved for NSW.

The final result is a wheel both faster and lighter than its predecessor. And one that shares much from the NSW line at a price roughly 30% cheaper.

The Wheels

The revised Firecrest is available in the 303, 404, and 808 depths and will be available at your local bike shop this June. The 303 has a depth of 45mm and weighs in at 1,480g (645/835). You can get the front wheel for $1,000 (€1,000, £907) and the rear wheel at $1,200 (€1,200, £1,079).

The 404 Firecrest has a depth of 58mm and weighs in at 1,615g (710,905). Like the 303, the 404 will set you back for the front wheel $1,000 (€1,000, £907) and the rear wheel at $1,200 (€1,200, £1,079).

The 808 Firecrest has a depth of 82 mm and weighs in at 1,830g (830,1000). The 808 being the deepest also hits the wallet the hardest with the front wheel setting you back $1,150 (€1,200, £1,071) and the rear wheel at $1,350 (€1,400, £1,250).

Our Thoughts

For us there are two things to consider – the new Firecrest vs the older model. And the new Firecrest vs the new NSW. Let’s start with the new hotness vs the original. For a similar price you are now getting the showstopper brake track and ABLC in a lighter package. That’s a pretty significant upgrade in our opinion, and one we welcome. If you already have the original Firecrest it may not be enough to upgrade, but for those looking to move to a new set of Carbon Clinchers, it should definitely be something to consider. What is trickier (or maybe easier) is the Firecrest vs the NSW. Both now share Showstopper and ABLC. But with the NSW you also get Cognition, tubeless ready, ImPress, and a rim designed for wider tires. For those looking for the best of the best, those small differences that mean the difference between the podium and a long ride home, that will be more than enough. For others, the price difference of $1,000 won’t justify the worth – and both of these camps are correct. The good news is that we are already setting up our own comparison of the two new wheels. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the new wheels to arrive!

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