What goes up.
Cyclists of the climber species are well familiar with the old adage that "what goes up must come down," and few wheelsets on the market are suited to fulfilling both directional duties as Zipp's 202 Firecrest Disc Brake Tubular Carbon Wheelset. Multi-summit races don't care how fast you climb if poor, unreliable braking on the descent costs you the gains you suffered for in the small chainring.
By combining tubular tires and disc brakes with a carbon climbing rim that itself doesn't shirk on aerodynamics, Zipp has built what may be the perfect competition climbing wheel. It goes up, it comes down, and it's even tough (and tubular) enough to race 'cross. Hell, the only races it doesn't belong in are sanctioned events that don't yet allow disc brakes and time trials.
While Zipp is mostly known for bestowing free speed through aerodynamics, the disc brakes do something that rim-brake carbon can only dream of: surpass alloy in terms of modulation, responsiveness, and overall stopping power. These qualities are a big deal for climbing wheels, as knowing you can depend on your brakes means you can carry more speed into corners, brake later, and not worry about locking your wheels up when an unexpected obstacle—an off-leash dog at a trailhead, the inevitable sudden motorist, rubble sloughed off of a canyon wall—materializes.
It also eliminates any fear of testing carbon brake tracks on rainy descents or during muddy cyclocross conditions. Don't get us wrong, we've had positive experiences with the second generation of Zipp's Showstopper brake track that features on the 202 NSW wheels; however, when it comes to virtually perfect stopping power, disc brakes are all but impossible to match. Though adding discs means that the front wheel requires two-cross spoke lacing instead of the standard Firecrest's lighter radial lacing, the lack of a the structural features required to mount a clincher means the tubular disc model ends up weighing less than the clincher model with rim brakes.
So the braking's great, but in the end, this is still Zipp, and the brand's "speed weaponry" tagline remains its prime directive. While the 202 doesn't have the deep rim of Zipp's 303 or 404, it does feature some aerodynamic qualities. An updated version of Zipp's signature Aerodynamic Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) dimpling uses strategically placed and sized dimples across the rim surface to smooth airflow. Zipp claims that ABLC boasts aerodynamic advantages at real-world yaw angles of 10 to 20 degrees, which compares favorably to many competitors whose minimum drag numbers manifest at yaw angles of five to 10 degrees — numbers that rarely occur outside of a wind tunnel. In non-tech terms, this means these wheels should outperform the competition in the conditions you'll actually encounter on the road.
Zipp uses its 77 hub on the front and its 177 hub on the rear, both of which enjoy improved durability and stiffness compared to their predecessors. Featuring a new platform and graphics for 2016, these hubs boast increased bearing protection over their previous versions and are ready to roll without any pre-load adjustment. The rear hub is compatible with a separately sold XD driver body to allow for a wider cassette range of up to a 10-42t if needed, and driver bodies can be swapped out without having to re-dish the wheel. Each wheel includes an updated quick-release skewer with a widened handle that provides leverage when installing the wheel and clean lines as it sits close to the frame when closed.
In a final nod to cyclocross abuse, the 202 Firecrest Disc model ships with thru-axle conversion end caps for 12 or 15 x 100mm up front and 12 x 135 or 12 x 142mm in the back. The wheels also include quick-releases, so regardless of your gravel, 'cross, or road axle standards, you should be covered.
- A lightweight wheelset that descends as eagerly as it claims KOMs
- Aerodynamic, lightweight rim spins up fast for 'cross or climbing
- Disc brakes add confidence to braking in all conditions
- Includes quick-release skewers and thru-axle adapter end caps
- Zipp is one of the earliest adapters of all the aerodynamic technology shaping the industry today