Saw teeth, whales and flippers – can these really be cited as inspiration for a new wheel design? Zipp have just launched their latest Zipp 454 NSW wheels, whose conceptual design marks a new era for wheel building.

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At the heart of the 454 NSW wheels are their new carbon rims, which have been based on biomimicry. It’s no secret that Zipp have long focused on just making riders quicker, and their approach to the 454 NSW Clincher sees the Indianapolis-based company make a shift in what they see as a priority. As speed is nothing without control, stability became a major parameter for Zipp whilst developing this new wheelset.

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The rims are the distinguishing feature, with a marginally more aerodynamic design than the Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clincher – plus the addition of more stability and control too. Using the combination of the saw-tooth profiled rim (with variation between 53 mm and 58 mm in depth) and strategically placed aerodynamic dimples, Zipp cite the humpback whale’s flipper as an inspiration to reduce side pressure and crosswind interference. According to Zipp, this combination results in a 15% decrease in side pressure from the wind, and they claim the optimal tire width is 23/25 mm.

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On the front wheel there are 18 Sapim CX ray spokes, and 24 at the rear, which are straight-laced. Zipp state the wheel weight at 1,525 g (690 front, 835 rear).

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For riders, this means you get the ability to use a high-profile rim on a windy day without the fear of getting buffeted by crosswinds. Zipp state that the crosswind interference is the same as their 303 rim, meaning that if these rims live up to Zipp’s hype then we see these becoming your do-it-all wheel.

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Available from 24th November onwards, the new high-tech wheels will be launched exclusively in a clincher version for € 4,000.

Michael Hall, Director of Zipp Advanced Development präsentierte die neuen Zipp 454 NSW Laufräder in Schweinfurt.
Michael Hall, Director of Zipp Advanced Development präsentierte die neuen Zipp 454 NSW Laufräder in Schweinfurt.

We are excited about this rim design and its potential to bring a new form of thinking to conventional rim designs, which we believe can only make better products. It is disappointing that Zipp currently don’t have a disc version, but we’re confident that one is in the pipeline.

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Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt