Zipp Team CSC Clincher Wheelset
We have some set ideas about training wheelsets. First, they must have at least 28 spokes. This is so the wheels can be ridden if a spoke breaks and they can be trued, even rebuilt at home. The rims should resemble a box-section design. We want a rim that is sturdy, not too heavy, easy to fix if necessary. We also like box-sections rims because they ride well at low speeds. We're not going to be spending the majority of our rides over 20mph, will spend lots of time going uphill, and we will have to deal with stoplights. The shallower section accelerates better and might even climb better at the lower speeds. The wheels must have training tires and heavy tubes so we minimize the chances of flatting. We also like a 12-25-ish cassette because there will be steep climbing, we like closer-spaced ratios, and because spinning out a 12 in training is rare.
Yet, here we're testing out the Zipp CSC Wheelset, possibly the highest-tech training wheelset on the market. The wheels, with DT-made rims, are shod with Continental GP 4000s tires and latex tubes. There's a Campy 12-25 cassette and Zipp skewers rounding out the package.
Since we have wheels we're pretty happy with, we haven't felt a great need to test out wheels via our Demo program, especially a training wheelset. Our own predilection is to try some of the higher-tech offerings, which we will do in the coming months. But, taking what is supposed to be the ultimate training wheelset out for a spell does have a certain appeal. It helps us to revisit our notions of what is appropriate for training.
We won't bother reiterating what is in our catalogue write-up. The idea behind the wheelset is a high-tech training wheel, with every aspect of the wheel considered and the Zipp designers went for smoothest-rolling, highest-strength, lightest-weight solution in a traditional package. Zipp says these are sturdy for everyday pounding but light and fast enough for racing. The single-eyelets give a sense of how they're designing; double-eyelets are unnecessarily heavy while no eyelets are unnecessarily weak. Singles mean the nipple won't rip through but you don't have to carry the extra weight of the eyelet extending from the outside of the outer will past the inside of the inner wall.
The CSCs are a marked contrast to our training wheels. While we run 28-spoke wheels, we use straight-gauge spokes and brass nipples, old, heavy rims, heavy hubs, Conti' Gatorskin tires. We take it as a point of pride that our Campagnolo front hub was made no later than 1985. Here, the 108g/208gsealed-bearing hubs (the same quality shell, bearings, and cassette as you'll find on their carbon-rim wheelsets) run 28/32, 2x in front, 3x in back. They are laced with 16g bladed spokes. Aluminum nipples thread into the single-eyeleted aluminum rims. The tires, GP 4000s, are race tires.
Two interesting features of the wheels. One is unequivocally a great idea. Zipp has put black-anodized dimples in the braking surface -- they put in the dimples, anodize the rim and then mill the braking surface, leaving the dimples. When the dimples wear off, the rim sidewalls are too thin and it's time to replace. You'd rather not ride too-thin rim sidewalls; we've worn out a few rims and the sudden cracking is rather disconcerting. The other feature we're still mulling. There are carbon-fiber dust covers over the sealed bearings on both sides of the front hub and the left side of the rear. Staring at them from the vantage point of the saddle, you can see that the caps don't sit snug against the hub bodies. They don't sit snug so there's less drag, but of course, that they're not snug also lets in more water and grit. Zipp admits that there is an aesthetic element to the caps, but they claim the caps are really designed for preventing people from blasting the bearings with a high-pressure hose, and the bearing seals are what keep grit out.
We weighed both wheelsets. Our training wheels are 1340g in front and 1700g in the rear. The Zipps weigh in at 1072g and 1439g. The naked Zipp wheels, that is, w/o tires, tubes, skewers, and cassette, weigh in at 690g front and 820g rear -- including cotton rim strips. Advertised weights for the wheels are 704g front, 794g rear.
The wheels, not surprisingly, feel fast. Out the door, at low speed, we noticed it right away. On the hills, they felt faster, too. But feel can do with any number of factors, including noise. Feel can be misleading as well. Where the wheels surprised us, was when we did time trials on a 10k training loop. The loop is rolling, with no stops and little traffic. We timed the loop while riding our own training wheels one week and then on the CSC wheels a few weeks later. At the same power -- we were riding at a tempo power for us -- we saw a 30-second time reduction on the CSC wheels. 30s in 10k is significant. It wasn't any one thing. It was every thing. The tubes and tires have less drag, the rims are lighter, the nipples are lighter, the spokes slice through the air better, the hubs are lighter and smoother. Both days were windy, but it is an oval loop, so we should have hit the wind in all directions. The CSC day was 10-15 degrees warmer, but we don't think those two things accounted for all of the difference.
The wheels felt great; they certainly are faster than what we're used to training on. Our own wheels didn't feel like they were sticking to the road until we put on these hoops. But now, we have an idea of how drastically different even a quotidian wheelset can be. .
At one time, we were of the mind that we should have one wheelset for everything. Simpler, cheaper, less to think about, less to maintain. While all wheelsets are a compromise, the idea of one for everything seemed to be too much of a compromise. The gram-shaving for racing is fine, but durability goes down. To have one set, we'd want something that is too heavy for racing to meet our longevity criteria. Worrying about potholes and replacing race tires every month or two, is no way to live and the two wheelsets could end up being a good deal cheaper as each would last a long, long time. Having to replace the single wheelset more frequently would be a greater financial burden. We ultimately decided for the multiple wheelset approach. Weigh down the wheels for everyday use and lighten up the race wheels. While this is more to maintain than the single wheelset, we split the difference. A wheelset we don't need to think about for most of the week and a wheelset that we do need to think about but gets little use for race days.
We really enjoyed riding them and they seem sturdy enough that we needn't worry about them in the worst conditions. We're debating the wisdom of racing on them, as our sense of aerodynamics are that there are too many spokes to be fast, so they can't be that perfect all-condition wheelset.
But is enjoyment all it's cracked up to be? The big thing is we feel faster on these wheels. And faster is good. But that faster is relative to our other training wheels. We love putting on the race wheels and feeling much, much faster. The same faster relative to our race wheels means that the differential between our training wheels and our race wheels isn't as great.
Still, we might be open to changing our mind.