Zipp has today announced an overhaul of its deepest and most aero road bike wheels, the Zipp 808 and 858 NSW. Like most new cycling products, today’s launch is accompanied by claims of improvement, but surprisingly for an aero wheelset the primary focus centres not around aerodynamics, but weight.
In fact, the launch echoes many of the storylines from two of its previous launches – the 303 Firecrest and 353 NSW, and the 404 Firecrest and 454 NSW – and that’s primarily due to the brand’s adoption, and continued rollout, of specific technologies. These include a continued commitment to disc brakes, the use of a hookless bead, wider internal rim beds, adapted manufacturing processes, new Cognition V2 hubs and more.
The result is a similar list of improvements over their predecessors, including weight savings, competitive pricing, crosswind stability and at least the same aerodynamic performance.
For the 858 NSW, the one-watt increase in aerodynamic performance is, in SRAM’s words, unimportant. According to SRAM’s product manager, Nathan Schickel, the aim was more about achieving aerodynamic parity with the outgoing model so engineers could focus their attentions elsewhere. That ‘elsewhere’ is where the main talking point here lies; the vast 243g drop in weight, bringing this 85mm wheelset down to a claimed weight of 1530g. That’s lighter than many mid-section wheels from competitor brands in our list of the best road bike wheels, and lighter than Zipp’s own (admittedly much cheaper) 303 S, which at 45mm deep, tipped the scales at 1610g when we reviewed them.
Explaining how it achieved these results, Zipp cites the use of CiR (Carbon internal Reinforcement) laminate for the rims, which essentially saw SRAM analysing the spoke load to see which areas needed to be reinforced, and which could do without. By reducing carbon where it wasn’t needed, Zipp brought the rim weight down by 10%. This is in addition to the switch to a hookless bead, which saves weight due to reduced material and better resin distribution.
Zipp also claims the switch to a hookless bead improves the strength of the rim, due to the shape and tighter tolerances it allows when manufacturing. It also means the manufacturing process is vastly simplified, so Zipp can reuse its moulds. That helps to reduce waste, and therefore cost. The result of those cost savings is that the new 858NSW is marketed at the same price as its predecessor, at £3570.00 per pair ($4400.00 / €4000.00).
The lower-spec 808 Firecrest is arguably the bigger story here. The wheelset’s 1635g weight may still be deemed too heavy to compare with mid-depth wheels for those looking to buy an everyday fast wheelset, but their comparison to their predecessors certainly makes for impressive reading.
The weight drop is even greater at 265g, helped by that same switch to hookless, as well as by a small reduction in rim depth which drops from 82mm to 80mm. The price comes down too, from £2572.00 to £2345.00 for a pair, with similar differences found in international pricing. Aerodynamic performance is claimed to be on par, while crosswind stability is said to have improved. Once again, the 808 Firecrest gets an internal rim width of 23mm, so is also best paired with a 28mm tyre. They spin on Zipp’s ZR1 hubs.
The 808 Firecrest will be priced at £2235.00 ($2300.00 / €2500.00).
Both wheelsets will be available soon after launch through local dealerships and online.
And one final point that we couldn’t ignore, with all the newly acquired companies to join SRAM headquarters, Zipp is seemingly taking up the role of the dad of the bunch. How do we know? There’s no better dad joke move than launching the 808 and 858 wheels at 8:58AM (CST) on the 8th of August. More of this please, bike industry.
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