Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Road Wheel - Clincher $1,497.95
The last wheel you're going to need.
So far, in the Zipp world of carbon fiber, there's only been one wheel that hasn't received the venerable Firecrest Technology. Unfortunately for us, it's a wheel that we use for everything from climbing to cyclocross. However, the tides have changed, and the new wave of carbon clinchers has arrived. The Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clincher is not only the lightest clincher in the Zipp war chest, but even as a clincher, it reigns supreme as the ultimate Zipp climbing wheel. Period. Some things are simply worth the wait.
Zipp's concept for applying the Firecrest Technology is relatively simple -- what goes up must come down. For years, the 202 has been the wheel of choice for Grand Tour ascents, but Zipp found room for improvement on the wheel's handling and stability on the way down. The natural decision was to produce a Firecrest version of the wheel, but like any engineering, unforeseen variables present themselves the further that you go under the surface. For example, Zipp found that the 202's profile was more sensitive to tire shape than deeper rim depths. However, instead of being a hindrance, Zipp adapted the Firecrest profile, and accordingly, the 202 Firecrest is at home with a vast array of tire widths. On top of this, the low and wide profile of the 202 makes it the least susceptible to side force of any Zipp wheel. Now, the 202 is ready for 'cross, hair-raising descents, and the roughest roads of Belgium — all at a low low weight of around 1380 grams. To understand all of this, let's jump into what Firecrest technology actually is.
The Firecrest is Zipp's most ambitious rim shape to date. Designed to account for differences in airflow between tubulars and clinchers, the 202 Firecrest carbon clincher maintains the traditional 202 rim depth of 32.0mm, but now it's been given a max width of 25.4mm. Using computational fluid dynamics, Zipp moved the center of pressure towards the steering axis to create the most stable, predictable, and neutral rim in its speed weaponry arsenal. Reassuringly, Zipp does nothing without reason. It found that a wider rim offers greater vertical/lateral compliance for increased control, comfort, and rigidity. As for the clincher, Zipp found that moving the hook beads further apart allowed the tire to take on a more stable shape without adding rolling resistance. For strength and rigidity, the Firecrest 202 utilizes unidirectional fibers to handle the tensile and comprehensive loading within the rim. This has been further reinforced by using woven fibers in the spoke-hole areas. Lastly, a woven silica-ceramic fabric and a woven carbon fabric encapsulate the braking and tire-mounting surfaces. The combination of fiber patterns creates the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio in Zipp production.
A number of Zipp technologies went into making the 202 Firecrest carbon clincher the most versatile wheel in the Zipp arsenal. First, the Multi-Material Co-Molding process permanently fuses a sub-200-gram aluminum hoop to a dimpled carbon structure that acts as a leaf spring for road vibration and impact. Spokes laced directly to the carbon body give you the benefit of a carbon feel and aluminum braking. Next, visco-elastic material is inserted between carbon laminate in the rim to reduce road vibration by ten percent. Lastly, the dimples of the Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) on the curved rim section work to create a slight turbulence directly above the rim surface. This creates an artificial boundary layer that forces the laminar boundary layer towards the forward part of the rim to become turbulent. This process enables airflow to remain attached over more of the rim for a longer period of time, thus providing a lower level of integrated drag. The drag that ABLC creates is called skin friction drag; although it's greatly increased, pressure drag (which is ten times higher than skin friction) is decreased to make the 202 Firecrest wheels faster than the competition in a wide range of conditions, not just the wind tunnel. While most wheels only enjoy minimum drag at rarely occurring yaw angles of five and ten degrees, the 202 Firecrest experiences it at the real-world conditions of 10 to 20 degrees.
For the build, Zipp used its proprietary 88 hub on the front and the new 188/V9 on the rear. This new hub design reports a claimed 25% increase in torsional rigidity, and it's also stiffer laterally than the last iteration of the 188. Additionally, it features larger Swiss Steel bearings that distribute load more evenly across the axle. And lastly, the hub's new lacing design allows for what Zipp calls its "virtual three-cross" lacing pattern, which delivers three-cross durability with a two-cross build. The wheels receive an 18/24 Sapim X-Ray spoke configuration, and to minimized mechanical drag, each hub rolls on Swiss Steel bearings. Even better, if you're looking to upgrade to Shimano's new Dura Ace 9000 11-speed, the 202's freehub body is willing and able.
The Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Road Wheel is available in a 700c size and is sold as an individual clincher. The rear wheel is available with either Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo compatible freehub bodies. Zipp has also provided its new Tangente Platinum Pro Evo Brake Pads. Please consult with the official Zipp website for a list of approved brake pads.
Please note that Zipp does not recommend the 202s for riders exceeding 250lb.